This joint letter was signed on Monday by all the regional council of mosques and key Muslim organisations within the boundary of Greater Manchester.
“This joint letter expresses our concerns over the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, the Protection of Charities Bill and other measures seeking to tackle ‘’non violent extremism’’ under the PREVENT strategy.
The move by Government from tackling ‘violent extremism’ to ‘non violent extremism’ as a base line is dangerous and un-proven, There is little or no evidence to show that individuals progress from non violent extremist thoughts to violent extremist action in any study on terrorism. We are concerned that society is heading into the area of Orwellian concept ‘’thought policing and control’’, where we judge people by what we believe they think, rather than their actual thought or actions
These two bills place the UK at a cross roads of changing its current position of upholding liberty and the rule of law to one where these key values will be seriously compromised. It will not assist but act as a hindrance to the very services it is designed to help.
We recognise the terrorist threat posed by a small number of individuals seeking political change through violence and justifying it through either a misunderstanding of religion or a misplaced sense of duty to the nation. The solutions to counter this threat are difficult and complex and we recognise this .We have continuously made public statements opposing violence in all its forms to our congregations and members, as well as to groups, occupying powers and governments. We have always promoted ideas of active citizenship and participation, encouraging all people to improve the lives of all our citizens and people.
We also add that radical thought and debate are often a key driving force of innovation and progress. Our society and world has developed with radical thought and debate in establishing for instance, women’s rights, racial equality, industrial laws to protect workers, the right to challenge government decisions and police action.
In our role as active citizens and leading members of our various organisations, we outline our main concerns below:
- We believe these measures are being passed through Parliament without proper consultation. If introduced, they will have adverse impacts on Muslim relations with public service providers like the Police Service, Charity Commission, Social Services, OFSTED, Schools and the like. In addition, we believe the Government appears to be listening to a select group of individuals or “experts”, who in our view, are not in touch with the reality of Muslim life in the UK and do not represent Muslims. The recent case of this approach by the American agencies in involving one Steve Emerson has shown the danger of this approach, by relying on so called experts.
- We do not believe that measures to tackle ‘’non violent extremism’’ will have the desired aim to reduce violence and make the UK any safer. See attached article entitled ‘’Tony Blair’s anti-jihadist programme has failed, says ex-MI5 chief dated 15 January 2015’’ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/11344281/MI5-chief-Blairs-anti-jihadist-programme-has-failed.html
- We believe that ‘’non violent extremism’’ is an all encompassing term lacking clarity. The current definition of ‘extremism’ in the PREVENT strategy is unhelpful. There is no published list of ‘’non violent extremist views’’ which should not be promoted or practiced, or a published a list of ‘’non violent extremists speakers’’ who should not be invited. Consequently, there is no proper guidance given as to where the line of acceptability is to be drawn thus leaving this definition open to interpretation and abuse. Consequently there is a serious concern that particular Islamic ideas and practices and those faiths or non faiths which hold similar views will be stigmatised as ‘’non violent extremism’’.
- We believe that with the all encompassing concept of ‘non violent extremism’ alongside the new S.21 PREVENT duty and with a greater ‘’policing’’ role of governing bodies and political pressures, this is likely to lead to a greater number of Muslims and Muslim organisations identified as ‘extremists or vulnerable to extremism’. Therefore, Muslims and Muslim organisations are likely to be subjected to greater number of investigations by those in authority and greater number of interventions such as exclusions from public speaking, citizenship deprivation, or disqualifying trustees and children being removed from families on the basis that they are ‘extremists or vulnerable to extremism’. We should not underestimate the impact of these measures nor the potential damage to individual and state at a time when the debate on freedoms is very vocal. This will in turn lead to greater credibility for those promoting a “Them and Us “ideology.
- We believe that particular measures for example the Confiscation of Passports, Temporary Exclusion Orders which exclude ‘dangerous citizens’ from returning to the UK and the no platform policy used to exclude ‘’extremist speakers’’ will further damage our judicial process and create an air of alienation amongst many Muslims and Muslim organisations.
- We believe the proposed power to disqualify trustees based on ‘unfitness’ contained in S.181A(3)(b) and S.181A(4)(F) of the Protection of Charities Bill raises serious concerns. This power would give the Charity Commission wide and subjective powers to disqualify a trustee based on whether ‘any other past or continuing conduct by the person, whether or not in relation to a charity, is damaging or likely to be damaging to public trust and confidence in charities generally’. In other words this would mean that the Charity Commission could disqualify anybody from being a trustee if it thinks they should be disqualified. We are also seriously concerned about powers under proposed S,81 forcing trustees to close down charities after an inquiry decides they are being mismanaged without clear guidance on what they believe “non violent extremism”.
We strongly recommend:
- Government and governing bodies like Social Services, OFSTED, and Charity Commission Police Service consult with a much wider group of Muslim organisations some of whom have signed this letter below.
- New measures, if any are required, should be challenging terrorism on-line or via social media. The focus and apparent obsession of tackling non violent extremism within Mosques, families, schools charities will not reduce violence but will restrict the very rights we all cherish.
- If any citizens is ‘dangerous’ then they should be prosecuted in the UK in an open criminal justice system. We fail to understand why some ‘dangerous’ British individuals, as defined by security services, should be left to potentially cause harm in other countries as proposed in Terrorism Exclusion Orders. This appears to be an abdication of responsibility.
- Proper safeguards and judicial oversight is a necessary to ensure that that any measures are used in a necessary and proportionate manner. The whole process needs to be transparent and evidence based with clearly defined parameters on what is “non violent extremism”.