The British Government’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy which labels Muslims with beards as terrorists is part of the Home Office’s program in the UK’s post 9/11 counter-terrorism strategy known as Contest. The 4 elements of the program are: PREPARE for attacks; PROTECT the public; PURSUE the attacker; PREVENT their radicalization in the first place.
Independent Of these, Prevent is the most controversial as it is regarded as anti-Muslim because it targets people based on their religious faith. Wide-ranging powers brought in this month under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act force teachers, social workers, prison officers and NHS managers to report signs of Islamic radicalization.
Prevent was introduced by Labour in the wake of 9/11 and remains the frontline policy for combating radicalization. So, growing a beard, wearing a hijab or mixing with those who believe Islam has a comprehensive political philosophy are key markers used to identify ‘potential’ terrorism.
This serves to reinforce a prejudicial world view which perceives Islam to be a retrograde and oppressive religion that threatens the West. Prevent reinforces an ‘us’ and ‘them’ view of the world, divides communities, and sows mistrust of Muslims.
Last month David Cameron said the Government would provide “a full spectrum” response to counter-terrorism, to include the vetting of external speakers at universities and banning those with extremist views. There are also plans to vet broadcast programmes for extremist content.
But the academics state: “Prevent will have a chilling effect on open debate, free speech and political dissent. Notorious Muslim apologist Karen Armstrong said: “The Government’s emphasis on religious ideology as the chief driving force for extremism is both dangerous and ill-informed… It ignores the fact that influential Muslim leaders – Sunni and Shi’i, Salafi and liberal alike – have roundly condemned the policies of [ISIS] as un-Islamic. (Which, as everyone knows, is a damn lie)
Ibrahim Mohamoud, a spokesman for the Muslim advocacy group Cage, said: “The Prevent strategy has no peer-reviewed evidentiary basis, showing a link between violence and ideology… The Prevent policy has facilitated an atmosphere in which Muslims are incriminated within a pre-crime space for nothing more than holding opinions that run contrary to those take by government.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “It is simplistic and wrong to claim Prevent focuses ‘on religious interaction and Islamic symbolism to assess radicalization’. There is no single cause of radicalization. (That’s right, there are thousands of reasons for radicalization and the easiest way to find them is to look in any mosque or in any quran)