Open letter about Prevent
Respected Brothers: Imams, Khateebs, Teachers and Members of Masjid Committees
Assaalamu alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh
You will have heard of the government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy. You may also be aware that many people have criticised it – including Muslim leaders and organisations, former Police Chiefs, Teachers, Doctors, Lawyers and even some politicians. The policy has been so heavily criticised for being ‘toxic’, ‘unjust’, ‘racist’, ‘Islamophobic’, creating ‘hatred of Muslims’ and ‘policing thoughts’ that many believe it has lost all credibility.
However, it is strange that against this background we are hearing that some Muslim organisations plan to ask masajid to participate in a new version of ‘Prevent’ that they hope will be run by Muslims instead of by the government. Some have endorsed the terrible idea that ‘Prevent’ should be reformed or rebranded (and named ‘Engage’), at the very time that it is at the point of collapse.
I am writing to share our belief that such an approach would be shallow, deeply flawed and harm the interests of Muslims in the UK. I say this as someone who has pursued this policy for over ten years, speaking and writing against it – at a time when some of our well-meaning but naïve Muslim organisations were participating in the same Prevent policy that they now say they are against.
I make these points confidently, for the following reasons:
- Prevent is not, and never has been, about preventing terrorism. Prevent works by spreading the lie that the more Islamic you are, the more of a potential threat you are – so the solutions it pushes are aimed at ‘westernising’ Muslims by suppressing expression of Islamic beliefs and values, or our political views about foreign policy in the Muslim world. If you are against Prevent, it does not mean you are ‘for’ terrorism because the policy was never about preventing violence. Indeed, it can be argued that this policy alienates Muslims more and creates more division and potential harm in society.
- It is a dangerous idea to say masajid and Muslim organisations should be taking responsibility for tackling ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism’. The day Muslim organisations say they will take responsibility for dealing with ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism, they will be accepting that there is problem that comes from Islam, the community and our institutions – which we all know is untrue. They will be blamed every time there is problem or a threat of violence, saying they have not done enough. It will absolve government of responsibility and be a distraction from the truth that such actions occur from individuals that have a grievance with government policies, some having mental health problems.
- There is a need for masajid and Muslim organisations to prioritise important work over gimmicks that look to observers that they are aimed to win government approval more than to solve any real problem. Prevent has made some Muslims scared to address issues – such as Khilafah, Jihad, Islam as a complete way of life and problems in the Muslim world. The community’s neglect of these issues has meant that some Muslims search for information about these things on search engines and websites, so becoming confused. Organisations that historically fear to say anything that might upset the government have been at the forefront of ignoring such issues and sadly have little credibility to address those confused young people who look for genuine answers – not words that sound like they are meant to appease the local council or central government. Our masajid and institutions need to address these things, work to build and promote the identity of our youth and invite the wider community to understand what Islam really is – and how this beautiful way of life can bring light to them.
We pray Allah guides us all to the straight path – not the path of those who incur his anger – nor the path of those who go astray by seeking to change the deen of Islam, to fit in with a secular model.
Chairman, UK Executive Committee, Hizb ut-Tahrir
22 Muharram 1438 / 23 October 2016