British government anti-terrorism strategy “spies” on innocent Muslims

The government program aimed at preventing Muslims from being lured into violent extremism is being used to gather intelligence about innocent people who are not suspected of involvement in terrorism. The information the authorities are trying to find out includes political and religious views, information on mental health, sexual activity and associates, and other sensitive information. Other documents reveal that the intelligence and information can be stored until the people concerned reach the age of 100. This has been published in a report of the Institute for Race Relations (IRR) by Arun Kundnani, entitled “Spooked: How not to prevent violent extremism”.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, branded it the biggest spying program in Britain in modern times and an affront to civil liberties. The intelligence is being gathered as part of the strategy Preventing Violent Extremism — ‘Prevent’ for short. It was launched three years ago to stop people being lured to al-Qaeda ideology and committing acts of terrorism.

The government and police have repeatedly denied that the £140m program is a cover for spying on Muslims in Britain. But sources directly involved in running Prevent programs say it involves gathering intelligence about the thoughts and beliefs of Muslims who are not involved in criminal activity.

Spooked: How Not to Prevent Violent Extremism

This report discusses Britain’s “Prevent” program, a government anti-terror initiative that allegedly spies on innocent Muslims. In violation of civil liberties, the program allegedly collects data on thoughts, political views, information on mental health, sexual activity and associates, and other sensitive information. All information can be stored until Muslims concerned reach age 100. It has been dubbed Britain’s largest spying program in modern times.

Government seeks to recast relations with British Muslims

The communities secretary, John Denham, is to attempt a fresh start in the government’s relationship with British Muslims after acknowledging that mistakes have been made in the drive against violent extremism in the UK.

Denham said he wanted to see a clear policy shift away from defining the government’s relationship with Muslim communities entirely in terms of tackling extremism. New, revised guidance on the operation of the £45m Prevent strategy, which is intended to challenge violent extremist ideology and disrupt those who promote it, is to be drawn up this summer.

The new approach is expected to ensure that funding goes to a wider range of organisations, while a more explicit strategy to resist white racist extremism is also being developed.