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.”
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.
Prominent Muslim organisations in Reading have condemned an Islamic group which has been set up in opposition to the Government’s Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) initiative. Reading Borough Council and Thames Valley Police are implementing a Home Office initiative designed to tackle violent extremism by working with Muslim communities.
The Evening Post reported on Friday that Reading PVE Crisis Group has been set up with the support of more than 1,000 Muslims who feel the Government initiative is unfairly targeting the Muslim community. But a statement from Reading Council for Racial Equality in response to the crisis group said: “We do not recognise the Reading PVE Crisis Group and condemn the way in which they have used the names of legitimate local Muslim organisations in order to justify their own political views.” The contents of the letter issued by the group do not carry the endorsement of many of the organisations listed.
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