28 December 2015 – The Times has published a shortened version of a letter sent by the Muslim Council of Britain. The letter responded to the newspaper’s incendiary frontage headline which stated that Muslims were ‘Silent on Terror’. The Times made this claim because of reports of low referrals by Muslim communities to the government’s controversial Prevent programme, and a resolve by some Muslim groups and mosques to boycott the programme. Yet, Prevent is now a statutory anti-radicalisation programme incumbent on public services not a report instrument for the general public. Reporting potential threats of terrorism by the public is done via the police and the national anti-terror hotline and we as well as many Muslims across the country have encouraged this. The article gives the false impression that not engaging with Prevent means Muslims are not reporting potential acts of terrorism.
Here is the letter in full:
The headline of your front page ‘Muslims “Silent on Terror”‘ (26 December 2015) is wrong, misleading and above all incendiary. It has no bearing on the rest of the article which speaks of the very real concerns Muslims and people of other faiths have on the government’s Prevent programme. To translate this as silence on terrorism on the part of Muslim communities is completely misleading and untrue.
Only last month, the Muslim Council of Britain took our an advert in the name of hundreds of Muslim groups unequivocally condemning terror. The same was done by dozens of scholars in your paper (24 Nov). Terrorism affects us all, irrespective of faith. We have all encouraged community efforts to report criminal activities and cooperate with the police. The Muslim Council of Britain itself has also initiated a national process to explore grassroots responses to terrorism.
Yes, many Muslims do have serious concerns about the government’s Prevent programme, and many of us want a successful counter-terrorism policy that works far more closely with Muslim communities. Our democratic and pluralist traditions should surely mean that such concerns ought not be shut down with accusations of acquiescence to terrorism or disloyalty to our country. Today’s front page headline only serves to further heighten attitudes against Muslims.
Dr Shuja Shafi, Muslim Council of Britain