London | Thursday 12 October 2014 1100-1700
Exploring the issues of extremism and examine credible responses to the issues of terrorism.
Muslim activists and leaders gathered in London on 12 November in a special conference convened by the Muslim Council of Britain. It included a wide range of diverse voices from different parts of the British Muslim community.
Audience participation demonstrated a desire to keep our country safe but a concern of the impact of terrorism on Muslim communities and the counter-productive strategies aimed at tackling terrorism. The conference heard consistent concerns about the government’s Prevent strategy and their proposed counter-extremism strategies. Echoing this, keynote speaker David Anderson QC revealed how he had received ‘more complaints about PREVENT than I do about all the coercive powers under PURSUE.’ He added ‘I hope (the government) really does engage widely, including with bodies like the MCB which undoubtedly represent significant strands of opinion in this country.’
Shelly Asquith of the National Union of Students also highlighted the many cases in campus where students were referred to Prevent officers on the flimsiest of grounds.
Meanwhile, Keith Vaz MP, the Chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, challenged Muslim communities to not only speak out against existing strategies but also offer alternative solutions. He also urged the government to engage and listen to all sections of the Muslim community in the fight against extremism and terrorism. “This is a defining moment for British Muslim community. Don’t let people challenge your legitimacy.”
This conference kick-starts an independent national consultation facilitated by the Muslim Council of Britain where British Muslims will be at the driving seat in setting the agenda. Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain said: ‘For over ten years now we have seen successive policies that have come and gone to tackle terrorism, each and every one of them struggling to involve Muslim communities. In initiating this process, we do not pretend to hold a magic wand to make the problem of terrorism go away. But we do know that for any policy to succeed, it needs to involve Muslim communities as part of the solution, and not merely as part of the problem.’
The conferences ended with workshops where conference participants explored further the impact of terrorism and extremism on families, mosques, young people and schools. Details of these workshops will feed into the consultation process, as will the following resolutions which were issued by conference participants.
Resolutions from ‘Terrorism and Extremism: How Should British Muslims Respond?’ conference 12 November 2015 –
- British Muslims — like the vast majority of Muslims everywhere — abhor and condemn terrorism. We have, and will continue to speak out against the terrorism that is carried out wrongly in our name.
- As parents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, we are concerned that a minority of our young people are susceptible to poisonous propaganda, primarily from social media and the internet, that will lead them astray and into the arms of terrorists. We therefore support reasonable and proportionate evidence-based policies to combat the real scourge of terrorism.
- There are many pathways to lead someone to becoming a terrorist, they include alienation, socio-economic drivers, objection to foreign policy and a warped grasp of ideology. We believe that the small minority of young people who are radicalised, is outside the mosque, and on the fringes of society. We must tackle youth alienation and give our young people a stake in society, not treat them or their faith as pariahs.
- Religious belief or practice should not be considered a sign of radicalisation. There is no evidence to suggest that our religious institutions, be they mosques or madrassas, foster extremism. We are concerned that the faith institutions of British Muslims are being unfairly targeted.
- We are extremely concerned that subjective notions of extremism as expressed by anti-Muslim ideologues are being adopted into government policy.
- We recognise that there is much to be done in our own communities and by ourselves to confront this threat, including articulating more clearly and loudly the normative understanding of Islam which unequivocally rejects the violence of the likes of Al-Qaeda and Daesh. These true values of Islam include that of upholding ‘the middle path’.
- There is enough adequate legislation to prosecute people who promote hatred and actually incite violence. Additional retrospective laws to tackle people through subjective notions of extremism will only drive the debate underground, and increase a sense of alienation.
- We support further positive steps by Muslim communities to improve community cohesion and to encourage participation in society in spite of the challenges faced – but believe this is very different to the measures that must be taken to tackle terrorism
- To effectively tackle terrorism, and to understand properly extremism, we believe the government needs to engage with all sections of the British Muslim community.
11am Introduction: Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain
11.15am Session 1: ‘Terrorism and Extremism – Today’s Context’, Chaired by Ifath Nawaz
- Islamic Perspective on Extremism – Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Assistant Secretary General, MCB
- The development of government legislation and the key critiques from Muslim communities – Miqdaad Versi, Assistant Secretary General, MCB
- Perspective on Families and Prisons – Sofia Buncy, Khidmat Centre
- Keynote Speech – David Anderson QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation
- Q&A: 30 minutes
12.30-13.20: Lunch (including prayers)
13.20 Session 2: ‘Impact of terrorism, extremism and government legislation on UK society’, Chaired by Yasmine Ahmed, Director of Rights Watch UK
- Keynote Speech – Keith Vaz, Chairman of Home Affairs Select Committee
- Use of Social Media in Driving and Tackling Extremism – James Ball, Pulitzer prize winning journalist from Buzzfeed
- Impact on Faiths – Catriona Robertson, Convenor of London Boroughs Faith Network
- Impact on Education – Shelly Asquith, Vice President of NUS
- Impact on Policing – Dal Babu, Former Chief Superintendent
- Q&A: 30 minutes14.55-15.15: Break
15.15 Session 3: The Muslim Community Perspective, Chaired by Abdul Karim Vakil
- Introduction session
- Break out for Workshops-
- Plenary session: Summary of each workshop
16.45-17.00: Concluding Remarks and Resolutions