THE Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has announced that it will set up its own programme to steer young people away from radicalisation, in opposition to the Government’s counter-terrorism Prevent strategy.
The MCB, Britain’s largest Muslim body, which has more than 500 affiliated mosques, charities, and schools, began a national grassroots consultation last year. Although the consultation has not concluded, it has published a mid-term report on the consultation so far.
Its report says that its affiliates “realise that real challenges exist, as we see with Muslim families broken up as a number of children, mothers, and fathers leave to travel to Syria”. But the response to this threat should come from the grass roots, with mosques at the heart of the new programme, the MCB said. The current Prevent strategy was “discriminatory”, and served only to reinforce the terrorists’ argument, it said.
“Halfway through this process, we can report that our communities overwhelmingly believe that the best way to tackle violent extremists is to demonstrate that British Muslims are part and parcel of British life. At forums across the country, there has been a widespread concern that Muslims are singled out as potential extremists.
“Having Muslims pass subjective and discriminatory counter-extremism litmus tests, as a condition of engagement, only reinforces the terrorists’ narrative.
“The Prevent strategy exacerbates this problem, and it is quite clear that it does not currently have the support of many within British Muslim communities across the UK, and has been widely criticised by academics and practitioners; yet the threat of terrorism is real and severe. Many ideas have been put forward about what communities and government should do together to confront and pre-empt terrorism. These we hope to detail in our final report.”
Ultimate responsibility for keeping people safe in the UK must lie with the security services and police, the MCB said. They warned that their work must focus on the “real threats, such as support for terrorism, or travel to aid terrorists abroad”.
The Prevent strategy seeks to identify and work with those at risk of being radicalised, through mentoring and other schemes. It also works with schools to identify those at risk. In the 12 months to April 2016, a record 8000 people were referred to Prevent, but it has faced widespread criticism.
A study by the United States-based Open Society Justice Initiative, published earlier this month, said that the strategy was flawed, and risked breaching human rights. They cited examples of the gathering of information from Muslim primary-school children without their parents’ consent, and the case of a 17-year-old who was referred to the police by his college because he had become more religious.