The Guardian, UK
Tuesday, 10 March 2015
UK Anti-Radicalisation 'Prevent Strategy' A ‘Toxic Brand’
The British government’s flagship anti-radicalisation strategy, Prevent, has become a toxic brand and is widely mistrusted, a former senior Muslim police officer has said.
Dal Babu, who was a chief superintendent with the Metropolitan police before he retired two years ago, said most Muslims were suspicious of the scheme and see it as a tool for spying on them.
Babu told the BBC that the £40m Prevent programme started off as a good idea but had become less and less trusted.
“We’ve had situations where cameras have been implemented without the community understanding in Birmingham,” he said. “A huge amount of money has been spent on this. At a time when we have limited resources we really need to make sure that we measure it.”
Prevent was introduced as part of the government’s post-9/11 counter-terrorism strategy, aimed at stopping people becoming terrorists.
However, the strategy remains deeply controversial. Critics believe Prevent is counter-productive and discriminates against Muslims, while others have said there is no clear way to measure its effectiveness.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Babu said counter-extremism officials “should not be putting Muslim community in a separate box when it comes to safeguarding vulnerable young people”.
He said there was a “spectacular lack of diversity” in local safeguarding services and police forces that meant many of those involved in Prevent did not understand the communities they serve, particularly in cities such as London and Birmingham.
Babu – who has been involved with the National Association of Muslim Police and was chairman of the Association of Muslim Officers within the Met – added that Prevent money had been given to organisations such as the counter-extremism thinktank Quilliam Foundation, which he said was viewed with deep suspicion in the Muslim community.
“People had an open mind when [Prevent] first came in,” he said. “Over the years you’ve had the issue about cameras that caused a huge level of mistrust. But actually the organisations that the government have been prepared to talk to have been very, very challenging.”
Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, Sir Peter Fahy, accepted that Prevent was hampered in its early days by concerns in the Muslim community about the Iraq war. Overall, however, he said the programme had been very successful.
“What you’ve got to do is make sure this is about safeguarding more in general. There is a danger in saying this is just about the Muslim community because I think all parents agonise about how you get the right balance between allowing your children some freedom and trying to protect them, particularly when you’ve got all this material on social media,” he said.
“But I’ve got to be really clear here: the prime responsibility for stopping young people going to Syria and being attracted by Isis has to lie with parents. If there’s one thing possibly we have made a mistake in Prevent is if we have created the impression that that somehow it is the job of the police.”
Asid Sadiq, president of of the National Association of Muslim Police, said he disagreed with Babu’s criticism’s of Prevent.
He told the Guardian: “Prevent has moved on a lot. Initially there were some teething problems but it is now moving in the right direction. I think Prevent is working quite well. It has made a difference. Del is entitled to his opinion, we’ve made a lot of progress.”
Sadiq diagreed that Prevent was a “toxic brand” or seen as a spy program: “People do understand the importance of it,” he said.
The Guardian, UK
The Guardian, UK