EMPOWERING LOCAL PARTNERS TO PREVENT VIOLENT EXTREMISM IN THE UNITED STATES.
WASHINGTON — Rolling out a new strategy for combating radicalization, White House officials on Wednesday warned that casting broad suspicion on Muslim Americans is counterproductive and could backfire by alienating a religious minority and fueling extremism.
The administration also promised to identify accurate educational materials about Islam for law enforcement officers, providing an alternative to biased and ill-informed literature in use in recent years, including by the F.B.I. Denis R. McDonough, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters that Al Qaeda and those it inspired remained the biggest terrorist threat inside the United States. But he said the bombing and shootings in Norway last month, carried out by a right-wing, anti-Muslim extremist, were a reminder that the government could not focus exclusively on any single brand of radicalism.
Islamic extremists affiliated to the Muslims Against Crusades (MAC) group, which was set up in 2010, called on British Muslims to establish three independent states with sharia law within the UK. They named Bradford, Dewsbury and Tower Hamlets as “testbeds for blanket sharia law”, which would operate entirely outside British law, the Daily Mail reports. The Daily Mail also reports that the call is “likely to cause anger among moderate Muslims and community leaders in the areas concerned”. MAC’s call is part of their response to the government’s recent publication of the revised Prevent strategy to fight Islamic extremism. According to the Daily Mail, in addition to the introduction of sharia law, the MAC also called for an end to CCTV cameras in and around mosques, demanded “the release of all Muslim prisoners, a ban on Muslims joining the police or armed forces and a rejection of British democracy”.
On Tuesday, the coalition government published their updated version of the Prevent Strategy, the Labour government’s counter-extremism and de-radicalization strategy. This update was announced by David Cameron in his speech in Munich earlier this year.
As the Guardian reports, the ‘strategy is based on the so-called “conveyor belt” theory of radicalisation. Developed inside neocon thinktanks in the US, it contends that individuals start off disillusioned and angry, gradually become more religious and politicised, and then turn to violence and terror’. However, according to various studies, this is not necessarily the case, and a leaked memo by government officials confirmed that the government is aware of this misperception. Yet, the new Prevent document does not offer much clarification on the links between marginalization, disillusionment, extremism, and radicalization. Furthermore, despite evidence by the former head of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller, who ‘said that the invasion of Iraq had radicalised a new generation of young British Muslim’ (The Guardian), links between Islamist extremism and foreign policy are not discussed in any detail. The Guardian claims that ‘combating extremism and terrorism requires a nuanced, less confrontational approach’ than Prevent. Similarly, the BBC questions the success of this policy.
In the past, Prevent had been criticized for losing its focus on counter-terrorism. Instead, Prevent programmes (and funding available for preventing extremism) were mixed up with more general integration and cohesion programmes. Therefore, the new strategy separates de-radicalisation from community cohesion programmes. Previously, strong criticism was voiced by several Muslim communities who felt they could only receive funding for local projects if they were attached to the idea of Muslims being terrorists. Through this, they felt they were constructed as a “suspect community”. The new policy made some changes to the funding scheme, which does not base the funding on the size of the Muslim population any more, but the willingness to subscribe to “British values”; decisions then have to be made by local councils and liberal-democratic ministers.
Just ahead of (and in preparation for) the publication of the updated Prevent Strategy, Home Secretary Theresa May criticized British universities for not taking the issue of radicalization amongst students seriously enough. Without sufficient willingness on the side of university officials to tackle radicalization, Muslim extremists could easily form groups on campus that support extremism, May argues. She called for universities to challenge extremist ideologies more actively and send clear messages to those that support extremism on university campuses.
11 April 2011
A study by the Universities Police Science Institute of Cardiff University has found that counterterrorism strategies have shown positive effects. In particular, it is reported that 1,000 young Muslims, who were at risk of being wooed by al-Qaida, have been monitored under a deradicalisation programme, the “Channel Programme”, which caused the number to decline by 50 per cent. The study also highlights that “Muslim communities have a higher level of trust and confidence in the police than the general population”, and paints a positive picture of the counterterrorism Prevent strategy.
The views of leading UK Muslims on some of the most contentious issues affecting Muslims in Britain are to be compiled and published online in the second phase of a groundbreaking project.
The initiative, called “Contextualising Islam in Britain”, first ran in 2009 and will bring together about 30 Muslim scholars, academics and activists to address a range of topics. These include, among others, Islamic faith schools, Islam and gender equality, the relationship between the individual and the community, and political participation.
It will be hosted by the University of Cambridge, working in association with the Universities of Westminster and Exeter. The group’s findings will be released to the public in a full report which it is expected will be published online and made available for free download in June.
The project is the second phase of an initiative originally conceived and funded by the last Government as part of the “Prevent” strategy, which is currently under review, to combat extremism. It will, however, be fully independent of both the Government and of the Universities involved.
Five years after the terrorist attacks on the London underground, the papers review what has changed since then in terms of security, anti-terrorism laws and the situation for British Muslims.
The Guardian features a comment on the lost narrative of British Muslims, who have been “stigmatised en masse” by some media and government policies. Another Guardian article talks of the flaws of neo-liberal government policies towards terrorism that have only increased the risk of new attacks, which another comment in the same paper supports, claiming that the government’s “Prevent strategy” has not made anyone any wiser and urging the government to learn how to work with “ordinary Muslims”. A commentator of The New Statesman describes how his life, being a commuter and a Muslim living in Britain, changed on 7/7 2005. The London Daily News commemorates the victims and lists the names of those deceased in the attacks, while The Independent talked to those who witnessed the bombings but survived them, and gives an insight into how they cope with the experience today.
As delivered so far, the Prevent program has stigmatized and alienated those it is most important to engage, and tainted many positive community cohesion projects, says a cross-party committee of MPs. Moreover, the government’s strategy to limit the development of violent extremism in the UK sits poorly within a counter-terrorism strategy.
The British anti-radicalization strategy called Prevent aimed at Muslim communities to detect and prevent early signs of radicalization, among youths and others. But Security officials are struggling to stem a tide of unease among Muslim communities about the program, which seeks among other things to identify people most vulnerable to recruitment by al Qaeda-aligned groups and wean them away from extremism.
“People fear Prevent. They misinterpret it. They think it’s spying on us,” said Owais Rajput, a researcher at Bradford University in West Yorkshire, the home area of three of the four men who killed 52 people in suicide attacks in London in 2005. Jahan Mahmoud, a community worker and academic in the Midlands city of Birmingham, said there were large segments of the community that felt Prevent, led by the Home Office, was prying into their lives.
Prevent Director Debbie Gupta thinks there was “great confusion” about Prevent’s link to wider efforts to strengthen Muslim communities. Prevent spying was a myth, she said. “Prevent is focused on Muslims because that is where al Qaeda’s focus is. They deploy their distorted version of Islam onto Muslims.” She said one solution might be to reduce the role of the police and boost that of community organizations.
British values are under threat because the government’s attempt to combat terrorism has left whole communities “stigmatized”, the National Association of Muslim Police has told MPs.
The Prevent strategy, designed to stop radicalization, focuses too much on Islamic extremism rather than the threat posed by the far right, claims the association, which represents more than 2,000 police officers.
“Never before has a community been mapped in a manner and nor will it be,” the association said in evidence to a Commons select committee on the strategy, known as Preventing Violent Extremism. “It is frustrating to see this in a country that is a real pillar and example of freedom of expression and choice.”