PREVENT: The existential threat to the UK Muslim community
The case of the 5 year old Muslim schoolgirl being questioned by PREVENT officials in a West Yorkshire mill town has left the UK Muslim community in utter shock and disbelief.
Since 2005, the PREVENT strategy has evolved from a well intentioned strategy attempting to deal with the threat of terrorism into a mass surveillance programme that threatens the very fabric and existence of the Muslim community.
The clouds of despondency currently hang over the Muslim community in the wake of these revelations and many Muslims are asking the question if an innocent 5 year old Muslim schoolgirl can be targeted in this fashion then hunting season is well and truly open on the rest of the Muslim community. The modus operandi used to interrogate an innocent Muslim schoolgirl paints a troubling picture that faces each and every person in the Muslim community at this very juncture.
Many Muslims practice their faith in diverse ways but to ask a child whether her parents pray or not smacks of the deeply unfair intrusive methods used by the practitioners and agent provocateurs of the much discredited PREVENT policy. It appears that the powers behind PREVENT are trying to claim that if a Muslim that offers five daily prayers is a terrorist or an extremist by default for that matter.
This assertion is very much erroneous as most Muslims will tell you that their fellow brethren from Birmingham, Leeds or Manchester have not become terrorists on the basis of performing one of the fundamental tenets of Islam. If state institutions such as the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Home Office subscribe to this worldview then they would be advised to undertake research and disseminate findings indicating a link between Muslim religious observance and radicalisation, extremism and terrorism.
The victim of this overzealous questioning is then asked not to believe in Almighty and disobey her parents. Again, we need to ask the question what anecdotal evidence is there to indicate that atheism will somehow stop a person from becoming a terrorist.
History tells us that people like Hitler and Anders Brevik carried out heinous crimes yet do we find Christians and atheists being subjected to state intrusion into their personal lives. The answer is a resounding no so why is it acceptable for the state to subject Muslims to this discriminatory framework? Are the PREVENT policymakers and agent provocateurs attempting to claim that people of faith are more likely to become terrorists and extremists than those who have no religious affiliation?
On the question of obedience towards one’s parents it should be said that the PREVENT practitioners are indeed encouraging rebellion and disobedience amongst younger members of the Muslim community. Superficially, it seems on this account that the agent provocateurs have been influenced by the philosophy and ethos of the anarchist lobby.
One was under the impression that the much vaunted British values project supposedly promoted respect, equality, freedom and justice. It should be said that Muslims have been accused of not conforming to British values for the last 15 years by the much maligned neo-conservative lobby who view Islam and Muslims as the proverbial problem as to speak.
If PREVENT practitioners and policymakers want Muslims to be part of wider British society adhering to so called British values then why promote disobedience when questioning a five year Muslim girl in a school?
This incident is the latest example in a catalogue of cases that has stigmatised the Muslim community since 2005. PREVENT in our view has become a national scandal in that it now polices thought and has indeed in effect criminalised Islam and Muslims. We recommend that policy makers at the heart of the Whitehall machinery should scrap this policy immediately and give an undertaking that individuals belonging to the Muslim community in the UK will not be subjected to a systematic witchunt ever again.