IFE vs. Andrew Gilligan and ‘Prevent’

8 04 2010

A few weeks ago I wrote about Andrew Gilligan’s programme for Channel 4’s Dispatches programme about the organisation Islamic Forum in Europe.

Since the programme, Gilligan and islamic Forum in europe have been regularly trading blows in the press. IFE issued a press release to deny the allegations that Gilligan made.

Gilligan accused the BBC of ‘airing Islamist propaganda’ by having their ‘Any Questions’ programme based in the East London Mosque where the IFE is based, using the stage where Gilligan alledges that 18 ‘hate, extremist and fundamentalist speakers’ have spoken in the last year.

Islamic Forum in Europe has also issued a press release welcoming the Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on the Government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy. Neo Labour’s fiasco department have been at it again: 

The ‘Prevent Strategy’ is part of the UK counter Terrorism Stragtegy, along with: ‘Pursue, Protect and Prepare’ 

This aim of the Prevent part of our counter-terrorism strategy is to prevent people from becoming terrorists or supporting violent extremism. Increasing our resilience to attacks and successfully disrupting terrorist plots will not alone stop terrorism. We need to prevent people supporting violent extremism or becoming terrorists in the first place.

Protecting vulnerable individuals who might be attracted to the ideology of violence is not just a job for the police, but also for local government, schools, universities and local communities. Our effectiveness relies on all of us providing effective support to those who are at risk of advocating violence, or have already been recruited by violent extremists.

Part of this work involves challenging those who support violence. But we also want to actively promote values such as, for example, democracy and the rule of law on which the strength of our society and the cohesion of our communities depend.

We work directly with people in their communities to:

  • challenge the ideology behind violent extremism and support mainstream voices
  • disrupt those who promote violent extremism and support the places where they operate
  • support individuals who are vulnerable to recruitment, or have already been recruited by violent extremists
  • increase the resilience of communities to violent extremism
  • address the grievances being exploited by ideologues

The recent report from the Communities and Local Government Select Committee found however that the £45 million  Prevent Strategy has not quite had the expected results. Instead of promoting ‘community cohesion’, the strategy has stigmatised and alienated British Muslims and been widely percieved as having been used for spying. The Guardian has coverage here, the full report is here,  Inayat Bunglawala pre-empted much of this in August 2009, He based much of his article on the New Local Government Network’s report in the same month which covers much of the same ground as the Select Committee’s report. It’s almost like the weapons of mass destruction fiasco, where the last people on earth to realise the blindingly obvious are the people who run our country:

a spokesman for the Communities and Local Government department said it was “disappointed” the report did not reflect changes made in the last year in response to criticisms of Prevent. In recent months ministers have pointed to the increased role the scheme plays in targeting other forms of radicalism, such as far-right Neo-Nazi groups.

He said: “All Prevent activities are designed to support Muslim communities in resisting those who target their young people,” adding that there was no “substantiated evidence” that Prevent programmes were keeping Muslim communities under surveillance.

The summary of the report states:

‘The single focus on Muslims in Prevent has been unhelpful. We conclude that any programme which focuses solely on one section of a community is stigmatising, potentially alienating, and fails to address the fact that that no section of a population exists in isolation from others. The need to address extremism of all kinds on a cross-community basis, dependent on assessed local risk, is paramount.’

‘We remain concerned by the number of our witnesses who felt that Prevent had been used to ‘spy’ on Muslim communities. Our evidence suggests that differing interpretations of terminology relating to concepts such as ‘intelligence gathering’, ‘spying’ and ‘surveillance’ are posing major challenges to the Prevent agenda. Information collected for the purposes of project monitoring and community mapping—both of which are to be encouraged—are sometimes being confused with the kind of intelligence gathering and surveillance undertaken by the police and security services to combat crime and actively pursue suspects. However, despite rebuttals, the allegations of spying retain widespread credibility within certain sections of the Muslim community. If the Government wants to improve confidence in the Prevent programme, it should commission an independent investigation into the allegations made.

‘Regarding the Government’s analysis of the factors which lead people to become involved in violent extremism, we conclude that there has been a pre-occupation with the theological basis of radicalisation, when the evidence seems to indicate that politics, policy and socio-economics may be more important factors in the process. Consequently, we suggest that attempts to find solutions and engagement with preventative work should primarily address the political challenges.

‘There is a sense that Government has sought to engineer a ‘moderate’ form of Islam, promoting and funding only those groups which conform to this model. We do not think it is the job of Government to intervene in theological matters…’

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20 04 2010
The general election in Tower Hamlets « FiLo – The Fieldwork in London Network

[…] The furore over politics in Tower Hamlets which I have discussed here in previous posts (here and here) is continuing into the general election campaign for the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency. […]

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