LONDON – A leading British Muslim umbrella organization has launched a new counterterrorism initiative from inside its mosques, encouraging more dialogue in the community.
“The next spring will see the start of this new plan with a focus on conversation with the UK Muslim communities,” Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, stated, Anadolu Agency reported Sunday.
The MCB contains over 500 affiliated national, regional, and local organizations, mosques, charities, and schools”.
Its initiative, announced by Khan, is one of the key issues covered in the first “Our Mosques, Our Future” conference held at Friends House in Euston, North London.
“This year, we’ve launched a project, it’s a national listening exercise and we will be holding in ten different cities across the UK,” Khan said.
“We’ll be holding events listening to communities about the impact of the government’s counter-terrorism legislation, including the Prevent…the impact it’s having on our communities, but also taking feedback from them on what is actually working,” he added.
“Prevent” is a UK governmental strategy which makes the educators in British schools responsible for reporting any suspected extremist activities.
It officially defines itself as “an aim to stop people [from] becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.”
British Muslims have constantly criticized it because, according to them, in most of the cases, people with no extremism links are questioned by authorities.
Khan clarified that they “have a duty as members of the society to keep our country safe as well as the security services; they have to keep us safe, but the way the policies are set out at the moment, it’s not been effective and we’re hearing a lot of that.”
The group plans by early 2019 to present their findings.
“What we are looking for really is a community informed and evidence-based strategy where its bottom-up, whereas up until now that’s strategy has been all top-down,” he said, noting that Prevent is “not evidence-based and this has been going on for many years now, so we’ve embarked on this project to really inform the debate from a community perspective on where it should be going.”
Asif Hussain, a key MCB member, explained that their new initiative wouldn’t replace the government’s Prevent strategy.
“What we have been calling for is for the government to meaningfully engage with the communities most affected by the policies, what they haven’t done from the beginning is actually do a meaningful consultation with the Muslim community on what is extremism and what is the definition of extremism,” he said.
“…because at the moment you have Prevent training where they ask doctors and teachers ‘has the student been growing a beard and going to the mosque?’ and suddenly that is a sign of going onto the path of radicalization, whereas if you talk to any normal Muslim, a man who grows a beard or goes to the mosque he’s just become more religious,” he continued.
Hussain believes that Prevent-detected signs don’t necessarily indicate radicalization of an individual.
“That [person] doesn’t necessarily go to become a terrorist, there are other factors that Muslims know are triggers and signs of radicalization,” he said.
“So, they [the government] haven’t had that consultation and that’s why they are getting it wrong.
“So, we’re not necessarily going to replace Prevent, but we’re going to come out at the end of this year with the listening exercise, we’re going to go through all the Muslim communities in the country and provide recommendations for how Prevent can be changed and also call for a new review… We do know people independently advising the government to look at it again.”