The government’s independent reviewer of terror legislation says Muslims feel the government’s hugely controversial counter terrorism programme – Prevent – is targeting the practise of Islam itself.
He told BBC Radio 4: “There is a strong feeling in Muslim communities that I visited that Prevent is, if not a spying programme, at least a programme that is targeted on them. In some cases, it is even felt it is targeted not just on Islamist terrorism or extremism, but at the practise of Islam.”
Whilst he believes these feelings are not totally justified, he said a review and subsequent overhaul of the policy- which aims to stop people being radicalised- is required.
He said there is a “serious problem” with Islamist extremism and thus some kind of anti-extremism strategy is necessary. In order for any strategy to be successful, he said there should be greater transparency on the research used and the results achieved. This echoes a report published last week by the Royal College of Psychiatrists calling on the Home Office to be more transparent about the criteria used to judge whether a person is “at risk” of radicalization.
Mr Anderson also believes the government should be doing more to work with Muslim communities across the country and found it “extraordinary” the government and Muslim Council of Britain do not have a closer relationship.
His comments were backed by Jenny Jones- a Green party peer- who is concerned the Conservative government’s decision to link violent extremism with non-violent extremism could be counter-productive. Jones herself is considered a “domestic extremist” by police for protesting against police violence, the war in Iraq and genetically modified wheat crops.
Mr Anderson, who will be stepping down from his post next year, has previously stated the terrorist threat is “exaggerated for political or commercial purposes”, but believes this should not deter nor nullify genuinely necessary counter-terrorism work.