The government’s anti-extremism strategy, Prevent, has become a “toxic brand” and is widely mistrusted, a former senior Muslim police officer has said.
Dal Babu, an ex chief superintendent with the Metropolitan police, said most Muslims were suspicious of the scheme and see it as a tool for spying on them.
Babu told the BBC: “We’ve had situations where cameras have been implemented without the community understanding in Birmingham,” he said. “A huge amount of money has been spent on this. At a time when we have limited resources we really need to make sure that we measure it.”
Prevent was introduced as part of the government’s post-9/11 counter-terrorism strategy, aimed at stopping people becoming terrorists.
However, the strategy remains deeply controversial. Critics believe Prevent is counter-productive and discriminates against Muslims, while others have said there is no clear way to measure its effectiveness.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Babu said counter-extremism officials “should not be putting Muslim community in a separate box when it comes to safeguarding vulnerable young people”.
He said there was a “spectacular lack of diversity” in local safeguarding services and police forces that meant many of those involved in Prevent did not understand the communities they serve, particularly in cities such as London and Birmingham.
Babu – who has been involved with the National Association of Muslim Police and was chairman of the Association of Muslim Officers within the Met – added that Prevent money had been given to organisations such as the counter-extremism thinktank Quilliam Foundation, which he said was viewed with deep suspicion in the Muslim community.