‘One Nation Counter-Extremism Strategy’ Risks Further Undermining Fight Against Terrorism

19 October 2015

* Government strategy based on flawed analysis says Britain’s largest Muslim organisation
* Could be counter-productive and risks alienating Muslim communities
* Calls for transparency as public funds go to questionable counter-extremism initiatives
* Conference next month to examine community led responses to challenge of terrorism

Following the government’s announcement of a new ‘Counter-Extremism Strategy’, the latest government initiative to tackle radicalisation, the Muslim Council of Britain’s Secretary General, Dr Shuja Shafi, issued the following statement:

“British Muslims have stood up and been counted in their opposition to terrorism. That is why we welcome effective and evidence-based initiatives to counter terrorism. The threat of terrorism is real and serious. Facing this challenge requires engagement with all sections of society particularly the diversity of British Muslim communities in an open and frank dialogue. Yet, today’s ‘one nation’ counter-extremism strategy continues down a flawed path, focusing on Muslims in particular, and are based on fuzzy conceptions of British values. It risks being counter-productive by alienating the very people needed to confront Al-Qaeda or Daesh-related terrorism: British Muslim communities.
For over 10 years we have had to contend with a misguided “conveyor-belt theory” analysis that conflates terrorism with subjective notions of extremism and Islamic practices.

Whether it is in mosques, education or charities, the strategy will reinforce perceptions that all aspects of Muslim life must undergo a ‘compliance’ test to prove our loyalty to this country. These measures could be seen more as a means to address the anxieties a minority of people may have against Muslims and their religious life, rather than the scourge of terrorism itself.

For example, we understand that the Counter-Extremism Strategy will single out and ‘close mosques where extremist meetings have taken place’. Do such mosques really exist and by whose definition are they deemed to be extremist? We cannot help also detect the McCarthyist undertones in the proposal to create blacklists and exclude and ban people deemed to be extremist. If we are to have such lists at all, they should be determined through a transparent process and subject to judicial oversight to prevent any discrimination and political interference based on pressure from foreign governments.

The Strategy also comes with additional public funds divested towards countering extremism. We hope they are distributed in a transparent way with clear measurable goals to tackle all forms of extremism and will support all groups who are working towards building a more cohesive society.

Past mistakes should be avoided where monies were and continue to be doled out to organisations or individuals whose main or primary qualification is to serve as echo-chambers for what Government wishes to hear. In the Muslim Council of Britain’s view, there needs to be clarity of purpose: is this new policy initiative about tackling alienation, or seeking more securitisation? The former requires long-term capacity building and empowerment of Muslim civil society organisations and addressing structural socio-economic imbalances; the latter is about preventing criminality and enforcing the law. To lump both in one programme of action is not logical..

The terrorism we are witnessing today is something we all want to confront. Too many Muslim parents are anxious about the allure the likes of Daesh have on young people. That is why we welcome a counter-extremism strategy that will challenge online radicalisation. However, these initiatives will not be successful if they perpetuate further alienation of the community and are used to restrict freedom of thought and expression, or to conflate conservative views with violent extremism without any evidence base.

The Muslim Council of Britain will be doing its part to explore the issue. While the MCB has not taken government funds towards this, it has consistently spoken out against terrorism. Next month, the MCB will be organising a special conference with grassroots Muslim community groups and leaders to facilitate a community response to the problem of terrorism.


Notes to Editors:

The Muslim Council of Britain is the UK’s largest Muslim umbrella body with over
500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques,
charities and schools.For further information please contact:
The Muslim Council of Britain
PO Box 57330
E1 2WJ
Tel: 0845 26 26 786
Fax: 0207 247 7079
[email protected]

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