Source: The Guardian
By Sayeeda Warsi; Lady Warsi is the former co-chairman of the Conservative party
We need to think afresh about the Prevent strategy: the Muslim community wants it, and Theresa May’s four-point plan is a step in the right direction
Malign voices have been heard in the past 48 hours – blaming a community of 3 million for the indiscriminate violence of three men. Calls for internment, Muslim bans, treason charges and even an end to Islam in Britain. Commentators on the extreme fringe have used the emotional state of the nation to peddle hateful agendas.
As news of the London Bridge atrocity filtered through, I was at St James’s Church in Piccadilly, central London, at an interfaith event to celebrate Ramadan and our shared values, and what struck me most was the raging anger of the young Muslims there. As one simply put it: “I despise these men who kill our fellow citizens in the name of my faith.”
British Muslims face what I call the double whammy of terrorism. They are as likely to be victims or terrorism, because these attacks are indiscriminate but they also face the inevitable backlash. A sentiment which further feeds the hate. And it’s this vicious cycle of violence feeding violence and hate feeding hate that the next government must address.As the investigations of the Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge attacks unfold we are seeing some common features. The perpetrators were people of interest – known to the security services or police as people who had been radicalised. And at least three of the five had been reported to the authorities by their families, friends and communities. I take some comfort from that. We knew who they were, we knew they were a problem, and the community reported them. So the desire from communities to work together is there. That’s what we need to build on. Out of the horror of this weekend, we have a unique opportunity to get this right.
Theresa May has set out her four-point plan to tackle terrorism. I agree with much of it. We need to close down the space online and offline for terrorists to recruit and radicalise, and we must challenge the ideology that preachers of hate use to justify violence. I welcome the prime minister’s call for a review of the counter-terrorism strategy, Contest. But most of all we must think afresh about the Prevent programme.
Prevent is a fantastic idea. But its implementation has had huge flaws
For many years, I have said that the concept of Prevent – upstream intervention led and trusted by communities – is a fantastic idea. But the implementation has had huge flaws. The only definition of extremism that exists in government is Islamist extremism, even though over a third of the referrals to the Prevent or Channel programmes relate to far-right extremists. The definition is a symptom of a longstanding problem in counter-terrorism where policy has been made not on the basis of evidence or expert opinion but on the ideological whims of individual politicians. And if we think the definition we have now is bad, you should have seen the one that was proposed.