Twenty six mosques and community centres in Luton have written to the local council to express their opposition to the controversial Prevent counter-terrorism strategy.
In the letter, Luton Council of Mosques and the Sunni Council of Mosques describe Prevent as “ineffective” and “unjust.”
It was signed by Luton Central Mosque, Bury Park Jamia Masjid, Jamia Islamia Ghousia, UKIM Madina Mosque, Jalalabad Jame Masjid, Jamia Al-Akbaria, Masjid-e-Noor, Hockwell Ring Masjid, Al Hira Educational and Cultural Centre, Masjid Us-Sunnah, Masjid Al Madani, Masjid Al Ghurabaa, Baitul Abraar Jami Masjid, Saints Ghousia Centre, Kokni Community Luton, Zakariya Masjid, Farley Hill Masjid, Masjid Bilal, Al Jalal Masjid, Suffa Tul Islam Luton, Hart Lane Masjid & Education Centre
Sri Lankan Islamic Forum Luton, Luton Turkish Community Association
Al-Huda Masjid, Masjid-E-Ali, Luton An-Nisa Trust.
The statement was also supported by Luton Council of Faiths, Luton People’s Assembly, Luton Trades Council and Luton for Justice
Addressed to Trevor Holden, the Chief Executive of Luton Borough Council, the letter says that Prevent:
- Uses vague and constantly changing definitions of extremism developed without consultation with the diverse British community or respected faith leaders.
- Breeds mistrust and suspicion about all Muslims in the wider community, causing fear and leading to discrimination, abuse and violence.
- Scapegoats Muslims and Islam without fairly acknowledging political context as a significant factor in causing the type of disenfranchisement that can lead to radicalisation.
- Causes significant fear and anxiety amongst the Muslim community.
- Conflates issues of integration and cohesion with counter-terrorism.
- Relies on an empirically flawed policy.
- Blurs the lines between “counter-terrorism” and wider social issues including safeguarding, education and healthcare.
- Targets children in nurseries, schools and colleges.
- Fails to consider the social, cultural and religious context of local communities evidenced through numerous cases of misunderstanding of basic differences between “extremism” and acts of religiosity.
The statement says: “We feel there is a genuine misunderstanding about the Islamic faith, which we would like to clarify. Islam is the belief in one God. Muslims take guidance from the Qur’an, which we believe is the word of God, transmitted through the final prophet and messenger, Muhammad. Followers of Islam are known as the middle nation due to their adherence to God’s path of balance and justice. Extremism, by its very nature, violates these basic principles of Islam.
“The government definitions of extremism and radicalisation, which have developed based on political and social pressures, do not seem to recognise this position. Imams and faith leaders in Luton follow and promote the message of Islam based on the teachings of the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muhammad. When individuals deviate from this message, this is a reflection of themselves, not of Islam. We cannot be held responsible
for their actions, just as no other faith or community would be held accountable for the acts of a criminal who claims to follow their beliefs.”
The statement concludes: “In order to build trust and cooperation with communities, there is a need to ensure an open and transparent relationship with all community leaders. Contrary to this, we have witnessed selective invitation to meetings and unwillingness to accept responsibility by officers when members of the community raise concerns…
“We are united with you in our earnest desire to live in a peaceful, harmonious society where all members of the community feel safe. We have consistently and unequivocally spoken out against terrorism and violent extremism. However, for the reasons stated above, we
believe that the Prevent strategy is counter-productive and cannot work in any shape or form.
“We cannot lend our support to policies which have damaged our communities. As such we urge our local authority, elected representatives and members of the community to join us in our call for an urgent independent review of the Prevent strategy in its entirety.”
On its website Luton Borough Council says Prevent is about identifying people who may be at risk of radicalisation, and supporting them to change direction in a way that will help them. It says the purpose of Prevent is to enlist the support of people to reach the much smaller minority who may be drawn into terrorism, often through extremist views.
The website says: “One of the main elements of our Prevent work is a programme called Channel, whereby people who are assessed as being vulnerable to supporting violent extremism are provided with multi-agency support.
“Channel has been operating successfully in Luton for around five years, and covers all forms of extremism. The support that is offered is tailored for each case, and could consist, among other methods, of any of the following: help with family problems, mental health support, mentoring