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Independent Reviewer says British Muslims see Prevent as “spying”

Independent Reviewer says British Muslims see Prevent as “spying”

Categories: Latest News

Thursday October 06 2016

The Daily Mail reports on the interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning with the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, in which he repeated his argument that the Government’s Prevent strategy is “fuelling distrust” among Muslim communities.

The Independent Reviewer has previously called for greater transparency about the Prevent strategy and a full independent review of the strategy. In evidence submitted to the Home Affairs select committee inquiry on Countering Extremism, Mr Anderson told the committee Prevent was a “significant source of grievance” among British Muslims and the lack of transparency over the programme enabled “mistrust to spread and to fester”.

On Radio 4 this morning the Independent Reviewer said: “That means the Government has to be more open about what it is doing and it has to subject itself to some kind of independent scrutiny that can judge whether it is effective or whether it isn’t.”

He echoed sentiments expressed by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance by arguing the Government needed to engage more widely with Muslim communities saying its refusal to engage with the Muslim Council of Britain was “extraordinary”.

Anderson called for “three big changes” saying what was needed was “much more transparency in terms of data, in terms of the underlying research, in terms of results and some metric for gauging success. Secondly, we need somebody or some group of people completely independent of the programme who can get in there, read the secrets, talk to everybody and report to parliament and to the public on how it’s working. Then I think the third thing we need is better engagement from government including at national level with the range of Muslim communities in this country.”

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in a report published this week called on the British Government to establish “a real dialogue with Muslims” and to “consult them on all policies which could affect Muslims.”

The human rights body also referred to the Government’s Prevent strategy in its monitoring report on the UK stating: “[There] are a number of policies which may have the effect of further stereotyping Muslims, albeit indirectly. One of these is the Prevent Strategy, which is part of the United Kingdom Government’s counter-terrorism strategy.”

The Prevent strategy has faced resounding criticism in recent months over the poor evidence base on which it is premised, its discriminatory impact of Muslim communities, the failure to disclose the civil society groups engaged by Government as delivery partners and the covert deception deployed by the Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU) in Prevent programme delivery by using Muslim civil society organisations as a conduit without disclosing the counter-terrorism origins of the work.

A report published by CAGE earlier this year, found that civil society groups fronting RICU campaigns were passing themselves off as “independent” groups when their dissemination of Government propaganda suggested quite the opposite. The report stated: “The evidence we have gathered suggests…the government is attempting to engineer the contours of debate around the legitimacy of Muslim life in the UK by promoting certain organisations and views, and that the veil of secrecy [under the Official Secrets Act] is there to allow organisations to present themselves as independent and based within the grassroots of their communities.”

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, in his country report on the UK said the Government’s Prevent programme risked “promoting extremism, rather than countering it” by “creat[ing] unease and uncertainty around what can be legitimately discussed in public.”

He said: “The spectre of Big Brother is so large, in fact, that I was informed that some families are afraid of discussing the negative effects of terrorism in their own homes, fearing their children would talk about it at school and have their intentions misconstrued.

“By dividing, stigmatising and alienating segments of the population, Prevent could end up promoting extremism, rather than countering it,” he added.

At a time when the Prime Minister has been distancing herself from the previous Government by plotting a new course for the Conservatives and speaking about using the “power of the state” as a “force for good,” a full scale review of the Prevent strategy should be top among her priorities.


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