James Kirkup and Tom Whitehead, Telegraph (London), August 10, 2009
Shahid Malik, the communities minister, said that the “Prevent” strategy is being reformed and partially renamed to avoid alienating British Muslims.
Prevent was launched in 2006 as part of the Government’s four “Ps” anti-terror agenda–Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare.
It aims to combat extremism by promoting “community cohesion” among all sections of society, but is widely seen as focusing predominantly on British Muslims.
Scotland Yard warned last month that such groups could be planning a terrorist “spectacular” to stoke up racial tensions amid the economic downturn.
The Met’s counter-terrorism command has increased the number of officers in a special unit monitoring Right-wing extremists because of the threat.
Mr Malik said: “We are broadening our approach to involve all communities in developing shared values to strengthen cohesion.
“This includes putting a renewed focus on resisting right-wing, racist extremism, based on strengthening communities to help keep everyone safe.”
Mr Malik said that aspects of the Government’s approach to extremism have alienated some British Muslims.
He told Sky News: “You speak to any Muslim on the street anywhere in this country and they will say they are as opposed as you and I are to extremism, to terrorism, but the frustration is that they are constantly linked with terrorism as a community as a whole.”
He went on: “It is not just about the Muslim, it is actually about everybody in our society having a role to play and we cannot dismiss or underestimate the threat from the far right.
“There are white areas which are severely neglected. What we want to do is engage in those white communities to make sure that they are listened to, they feel they are respected, they are part of our community and in that sense they don’t feel there is some unfairness in how government operates, in how public authorities operate.”
“What we want to do is to liberate and to empower Muslims, and people who live in white neighbourhoods as well, to stand up to extremist voices. They are in all communities; it is not just a problem of one religion.”
In 2007, the Government launched “Preventing Violent Extremism,” an action plan for Muslim communities.
Mr Malik yesterday said that the title had offended some Muslims and would no longer be used.
“The label preventing violent extremism for the funding is said to be a problem because it’s said to stigmatise and perhaps criminalise a whole community, in this case the Muslim community,” he said. “That’s not something we seek to do, that label has now disappeared.”
Mr Malik spoke after a think tank said that the Prevent strategy focuses too much on Islamic fanatics.
The Prevent strategy is alienating the Muslim community and should be widened to tackle all extremists, including the Far Right, according to the New Local Government Network. (NLGN)
Its report, Reassessing Prevent, highlights the recent election of two BNP representatives to the European Parliament as well as 55 local councillors around the country “underlines the fact that racial hatred and extremist ideology is not limited to any one faith or community”.
Anna Turley, author of the report, said: “While Islamist extremism remains a very serious threat to our security, this kind of extremism is not the only threat to the stability and security of our communities.”