An organisation with extensive links to the police and counter-extremism authorities has claimed that British Muslims do not oppose Prevent.
The claim runs contrary to the overwhelming view of grassroots Muslim organisations which have consistently claimed that the Prevent counter-extremism programme is a thinly-veiled spying and monitoring exercise which targets the Muslim community.
Crest Advisory – which is partnered with several pro-Prevent police forces as well as the pro-Prevent Commission for Countering Extremism, released a report today called Listening to British Muslims: policing, extremism and Prevent. The report deals with what British Muslims think about policing, extremism and efforts to tackle it, and the Prevent programme in particular.
Authors who contributed to the report include pro-Prevent figures Akeela Ahmed as well as government advisor Qari Asim and pro-government figure Dilwar Hussain.
The research was funded by “a charitable trust with an interest in policing and crime reduction which for security reasons does not wish to be identified.”
It says it was based on focus groups with British Muslim men and women in eight towns and cities across Britain, and a poll of 1,000 British Muslims and of 1,000 adults in the general population.
Findings from its Savanta ComRes poll include that:
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- 63% of British Muslims said they were worried about “Islamist extremism,” compared to 67% of the general population.
- 55% of British Muslims and 68% of the general population said they had not heard of the Prevent programme.
- 36% of British Muslims said they supported the principle of Prevent being focussed in large part on Muslim communities due to the threat of “extreme Islamist terrorism.” A further 38% said that while they also supported this principle, they had some concerns about it.
- 64% of British Muslims said they trusted the police, compared to 71% of the general population.
Crest Advisory said: “Narratives applied commonly applied by some politicians, media and campaign groups to British Muslims about these sensitive issues are fundamentally flawed. There is little or no evidence to support claims that British Muslims do not recognise the threat posed by Islamist extremism nor to support the argument that the Prevent programme is a toxic brand which has alienated them.
“In contrast, our research, supported by an an advisory group of experts drawn from academia and civil society with relevant knowledge of integration, identity and Muslim community relations, found that majorities of British Muslims trust the police, are concerned about Islamist extremism, support the aims of the Prevent programme and would refer someone to it if they suspected that they were being radicalised.
“Overall, the report found levels of support for policing and counter-extremism work among British Muslims were similar to those of the population as a whole. These findings contradict common polarising narratives which claim either that British Muslims do not accept that Islamist extremism is a serious threat and are “in denial” or that argue Prevent is ‘toxic’ to British Muslims and has ‘alienated’ them.
“However, it found strong evidence of the need for more and better engagement with all sections of the population at risk of radicalisation, Muslim and non-Muslim, by the police and other agencies, and it identified serious concerns among British Muslims about Islamophobia, their representation in the media, and about the conflation of Islam with terrorism.”
Commenting on Crest Advisory’s report, Extremism Tsar Sara Khan said: “Over the years repeated suggestions by politicians, so-called Muslim representative bodies and sections of the press that ‘the British Muslim community do not support Prevent’ have been categorically untrue. Instead a majority (56%) of the 1000 British Muslims polled had not even heard of the Prevent programme and when offered a neutral explanation of the programme 80% of them offered either qualified or unqualified support…
“Crest’s report paints a striking picture of how the vast majority of British Muslims resoundingly reject the extremist views ascribed to them by both the Far Right and Islamists, yet too often their voices are drowned out by the extremists on both sides.
“I have met many Muslims across the country who do support Prevent, are concerned about the threat of both Far Right and Islamist extremism and believe more needs to be done to counter extremism. Many are also playing their part in helping to build resilience against extremism and are defending the values of tolerance and freedom which extremists threaten.
“However questions need to be asked about the divisive role played by those politically or ideologically motivated organisations and Muslim leaders who have repeatedly presented a dogmatic and monolithic view about British Muslims and their attitudes. Some have even promoted the dangerous narrative that counter-extremism is ‘structural Islamophobia.’
“It has been unfortunate to then see some politicians, human rights organisations and sections of the press blindly accept such narratives and as a result inadvertently misrepresent the genuine diversity of views that exist among British Muslims. I am concerned to see how easily misinformation can make its way into the mainstream, be presented as fact and even influence policy. This is having serious consequences on how British Muslims are perceived.”
Meanwhile, British Muslim organisations and activists expressed scepticism over the neutrality of the research given Crest Advisory’s links to pro-Prevent authorities.
Dal Babu – a former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent, who used to chair the National Association of Muslim Police – criticised Prevent and the research.
He said the report sought to “mislead and conflate safeguarding with the Prevent programme” which “does not have the trust of the community.”
“Unfortunately this clumsy, misleading report will lead to further evidence of the authorities failing to engage with communities and develop a system for preventing terrorism from where it comes,” he added.
Arzu Merali, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: “If this means that Muslims will report actual acts of criminality which are going to affect the community, that has always been the case. If the authors are trying to suggest that Muslims welcome a process that demonises and discriminates against them and their faith, then that suggestion is absurd.”
And advocacy group CAGE said: “It’s clear Crest Advisory was tasked to whitewash the Islamophobic Prevent and claw back some ground, while at the same time its leadership is closely tied to government, police and the Islamophobia industry. No surprises there!”