Sunday, 1 November 2009

CONTEST PVE Wrong for Muslim Community

I recently attended a Liberal Democrat fridge event at the southern Regional conference on PVE (Prevent Violent Extremism) and its impact on the Muslim community.

I learnt that local governments are being forced to take on the PVE agenda. I thought it would be a good idea to highlight this because I’m not sure that many people are aware of PVE outside of the Muslim community and government and its implications for all of us.

PVE was developed by the government as a local government system to counter terrorism. This strategy is known as CONTEST.

The aim is to


Prevent is split down into

Challenge violent extremist ideology and support mainstream view.
Disrupt those promoting violent extremist.
Support individuals who are targeted for recruitment to violent extremist.
Increase the resilience of communities to violent extremist.
Address the grievances that ideologies exploit.

This is managed by the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism at the Home Office. The government have spent a fair amount of money on this about £86million.

After the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks the perception of the 1.5 million British Muslim communities changed. The government response became a broad-brush approach to dealing with British communities and PVE became the main vehicle for this.

The Government relies on representative Muslim advisors who may not actually have a presence or an influence in the Muslim community. Relying on these people can’t really be helping, as they are too remote and not holistic enough, consequently it maybe damaging to community cohesion.

To give you some understanding of the problem I would like to add some quotes from Question time in Stoke on Trent in October 2008.

Julisa Goldsworth Liberal Democrat MP said

“What worries me about the way government handles this. The government talks about it in terms of community cohesion and the assumption is that it is, in brackets, about dealing with Muslim extremism. Can you imagine any Muslim organisation wanting to take that on and that badge that goes with it? What a lot of it boils down to is just basic good community development without labelling it to any one religion. Actually it’s about looking at the organisations that are serving their community and giving them the support they need, rather than trying to intervene.”

Julia then turned to Geoff Hoon

"Do you think funds like preventing violent terrorism and forcing some council to take them on board with that title actually achieves moderation and understanding?"

During the same question time program Dr Ajmal Hussain Said

"One of the biggest mistakes that we made locally (In Stoke) was to accept this (Pathfinder) Fund because for a long time the BNP had a problem really convincing people that part of the community (Muslims) was a problem. But when central government is saying that here is a fund because there is violent extremism throughout them. The climate (of Islamophobia) is being built in Stoke (and) Islamophodia is at fever pitch."

I think this link here from the An-Nisa Society explains the problems very well.

It also contains this quote from Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, has called Prevent "the biggest domestic spying programme targeting the thoughts and beliefs of the innocent in Britain in modern times," she said. "It is information-gathering directed at the innocent and the spying is directed at people because of their religion, and not because of their behaviour."

An- Nisa calls for;

1. An-Nisa Society believes that the government's Preventing Violent Extremism agenda (PVE) agenda and the Prevent Strand of its CONTEST strategy is fundamentally flawed and discriminatory and call for it to be dismantled with immediate effect.

2. We call upon the government to dismantle the machinery it has put in place to gather intelligence about Muslims and to be transparent and accountable as to what is being done.

3. We call upon Muslims - members of the community including voluntary and public sector workers and councillors, to boycott Prevent. It is only with the co-operation of Muslims that the government can take the strategy forward.

And recommendations:

1. The government should cease linking community cohesion, capacity building, community development and addressing inequalities with PVE. This approach risks de-legitimising much needed community building of the Muslim community. Security measures should be separate and distinct so that there is no doubt as to their objectives.

2. Addressing inequalities, social and economic deprivation, social exclusion and fractured families as a common goal for all communities will be more productive to building 'resilience' to social ills, including extremism of any type.

3. We believe the way forward is to engage purposefully with underprivileged communities to ensure cutting-edge services within communities to prevent grievances based on perceived inequalities based on ethnic, religious or socio economic factors.

4. A public debate needs to be held on the crisis in our most vulnerable communities and how we address this with sensible and just policies. There is general concern nationally about young people in all communities, the breakdown of families and fractured communities. Root causes must be investigated and addressed.

I would add these points about PVE

1. PVE treats the whole Muslim community as potential terrorists. It is unique as no community has been treated in this manner before. This means that a specific based approach has been diverted to a community-based policy and lacks targeting of the few actual potential terrorists.

2. This smears the whole community and is being entrenched into core local council services. This is demeaning to a minority of the British community and places most of them under potential surveillance, which could alienate the very community that the government want to win over.

3. This is gold dust too the far right as they now have a confirmation from the government actions that all Muslims are terrorist which could place Muslims in danger as it provides more justification for attacks.

4. This didn’t even happen during the height of the IRA terror campaign and this could take the authorise eye off the ball from other forms of Terrorism such as Neil Lewington's from Reading (see here on Reading List) who was planning terrorise people with explosive devices and admired the London nail bomber and neo-Nazi David Copeland.

5. PVE also discharges the government from its responsibilty to assist the Muslim community in finding the actual terrorist plotters.

6. The government also plans to extend the PVE agenda to a multiagency approach which could affect primary care trusts, mental health trusts, schools, college and other agencies. Though information gained at funding events it appears that Muslims only could be asked to provide information on others to identify a potential terrorist. This is ethically suspect and could be misleading and lead to wrongful labelling of Muslims and even false arrests.

7. This is an erosion of Civil Liberties and Human Rights.

8. Muslim groups will lose credibity and trust though any funding given by the government. These groups will be seen as watch dogs for the government and any actual Terrorist will avoid them thereby making them harder to detect.

9. The government has already issued school tool kits titled ‘Learning together to be safe’, this provides details on PVE and teachers are expected to report any child they deem having extremist views.

10. Police can use the PVE info for police mapping but any anti-terror measures and arrest in hindsight often involve innocent parties. Is this not in itself building up a backlash of anger?

11. There is no forum in PVE for Transparency and Accountablity to workthough concerns within the PVE process.

I think we need to get back to working with communities and not targeting them. This would allow the comunnity to help us find the terrorists and not become angrier with the way the government treats the Muslim Community. I think An- Nisa plans here provide the best ideas for replacing PVE with some much better and workable proposals.

Reading Council PVE Report can be found here

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