By Iram Ramzan
Critics of the Government’s counter-terrorism Prevent strategy often claim that it disproportionately targets and focuses on Muslims, despite the fact that it actually works on countering the far-right too.
So what does the Muslim Council of Britain decide to do? It has decided to set up its own programme to target, er, Muslims.
In a direct challenge to the government’s ‘controversial’ Prevent scheme, the MCB plans to start the Muslim-run counter-radicalisation scheme next year.
The MCB said in a statement:
In reflecting the wishes of a cross-section of British Muslim society, our affiliates have directed the MCB to explore a grassroots-led response to the challenge of terrorism. Real challenges exists, as we see with Muslim families broken up as a number of children, mothers and fathers leave to travel to Syria.
Cross-section of British Muslim society? I’m guessing this probably won’t include Ahmadi Muslims who aren’t even deemed Muslims by the MCB.
Until this April, the MCB was affiliated with the Stockwell Green Mosque (also known as the Aalami Majlise Tahaffuze Khatme Nubuwwat), in which ‘Kill Ahmadis’ pamphlets were found. Khatm-e Nubuwwat is an organisation, founded in Pakistan, specifically to target and persecute Ahmadi Muslims.
It was only after the furore raised in the media did the MCB release a statement that it would temporarily (yes, only temporarily) suspend its affiliation and would launch an independent investigation into whether it really is a hate organisation.
Shahid Raza Naeemi is on the MCB’s “independent panel”. Here he is attending a Khatam-e-Nabuwwat rally in Walthamstow. So much for an ‘independent’ panel. Is this really the appropriate group to be tackling extremism or terrorism?
The guardian article goes on to say:
Instead of trying to liberalise British Islam, the new scheme will focus solely on a message that violence can never be used. A source familiar with the plans said: “If we can get these voices more heard, they are anti-government and therefore more credible in saying do not turn to violence.
So it’s okay to have and even promote prejudiced views just as long as you remember to tell Muslims, just don’t resort to violence, mkay. Nice pop at those who follow a liberal version of Islam, by the way.
Mosques will be the key point of contact, being at the heart of Muslim communities across Britain. People can also be referred directly to the new counter-radicalisation scheme.
Since when were mosques at the ‘heart’ of Muslim communities? Exactly how many young people who might become extremists are actually going to their local mosque? Furthermore, this will just re-enforce the outdated idea that Muslims are a separate community and must resolve their issues from within. If anything, it is going to lead to even more segregation.
“Some of those who will try to turn people away from violence may include conservative Islamic scholars who are considered by government to be extremists. These are people who may have illiberal views on homosexuality or women’s equality.”
Does anyone else see the problem with this? This tried and tested method of working with non-violent extremists has failed. Imagine if we referred white, non Muslim extremists to their ‘community leaders’ who were promoting illiberal and disgusting views about other groups in our society, but saying that it is okay just as long as they don’t resort to violence. We would rightly be horrified.
The MCB version of Prevent will include panels of community leaders (of course!), former police officers and professionals from mental health and other agencies willing to support the scheme.
“It will face a dilemma about whether it would ever report people to police if, for instance, their behaviour broke terrorism laws.”
Well, I feel safer already, don’t you?
While on the one hand it is good that the MCB wants to tackle terrorism, why now? How exactly will they able to run a scheme where they can do something that effectively sounds similar to the Prevent strategy but without the same capability and resources to actually tackle extremism. Instead, they wish to rely on imams who don’t really have much training on these issues.
And let’s face it, the MCB doesn’t exactly have a great track record on getting things done. As former chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal pointed out:
This is the MCB that does little about child abuse, safeguarding in mosques, FM, HBV, gender equity, protecting minorities etc. Good luck https://t.co/lAsn09ZljJ
— nazir afzal (@nazirafzal) October 20, 2016
With all this in consideration, you will excuse me for being slightly sceptical of the MCB’s latest brainwave. They have actually shot themselves in the foot here. On the one hand they denied there were issues within Muslim communities for many years, and now they are admitting that there are problems. But hold on a minute, if extremism or terrorism are nothing to do with Islam, and can affect any community, why should this initiative be led by Muslims? Isn’t that sending the wrong message, that Islam or all Muslims are the problem?
On a final note, why is the Guardian constantly providing an unchallenged platform to such groups? Whenever there is a story even vaguely relating to Islam or Muslims, they will go to a Muslim ‘spokesperson’ for a comment as though he (it’s never a she, by the way) represents all Muslim in Britain. Many Muslims are constantly speaking out and saying that these ‘community leaders’ do not represent them and, shock horror, they can speak for themselves.
Yet the media wants to keep us all boxed in and labeled Muslims with our designated community leader. Not only is it lazy journalism but it is bigoted. And it is certainly not helpful in the debate around extremism.