A new anti-radicalisation programme was launched last week called ‘Safe and Secure’ as an alternative to the government’s ‘toxic brand’ Prevent Strategy launched many years ago. The Safe and Secure programme aims to address the same issues as Prevent but “without the stigma” attached to it for the Muslim community.
The programme was created by a former senior Muslims police officer, Dal Babu and Mike Howes, a former council head of community safety. The programme has also reported to have been backed by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
Sections of the press portrayed the launch of this programme as something which was “launched by Mosques” due to the first launch event being held at the London Muslim Centre, next to the East London Mosque. Maybe forgetting that in 2015 the Waltham Forest Council for Mosques announced a boycott of Prevent accusing it as being a racist attack on the Muslim community.
Around the same time Sajid Javid, the government’s Communities Secretary revealed a new government pledge of £50m to help boost integration.
In what is clearly seen as a rebranding of successive government’s failed Prevent strategies, Javid said the pilot areas for this initiative would be densely populated Muslim areas including Blackburn, Bradford and Peterborough.
Like Safe and Secure it would address issues to do with segregation of ethnic minority communities and integration with a particular focus on Pakistani and Bangladeshi women who could not speak English and ironically did not claim child care vouchers; citing this as an example of limiting their work opportunities and integration as well as their children’s integration!
Sajid Javid’s announcement follows a review of social integration in England in 2017 by Dame Louise Casey who, predictively, handpicked issues from the Muslim community as key examples of segregation of communities and “deeply regressive religious and cultural practises, especially when it comes to women”.
It is therefore no surprise to anyone that this announcement has selectively used examples from the Muslim community again in a desperate attempt to achieve what Prevent miserably failed to do.
Comment: it is not at all surprising for anyone who has followed the events since the launch of Prevent, the number of times the government and its financial beneficiaries who take Prevent funding have tried to rebrand this failure of a policy.
The government has pumped millions of taxpayers’ money for numerous attempts to revive Prevent after it became clear to all that it was a failure.
Why Did Prevent Fail?
The government’s Prevent programme was launched after the 7/7 attacks in London with the aim of making the UK a safer place from terrorist attacks. The idea was to spot people who could become radicalised as a result who would then go on to become terrorists due to their ‘radical’ views.
In reality the programme became a ‘police-state’ style spying tool directed at the Muslim community, shifting blame and onus on the entire community to do more to root out ‘extremists from within’. According to Prevent, people who held ‘radical’ (based on the government’s definition) views could potentially become terrorists.
How would a radical person be identified? Prevent used examples of the following to identify someone going through a process of becoming radicalised or extremist: a sudden change in behaviour such as growing a beard, changing to a more ‘Islamic dress’, stopping listening to music, having support for oppressed people like the Palestinians and even disagreeing with the government’s foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The problem with this theory is that it criminalises people for having legitimate ideas and practices according to their religion as well as having perfectly valid political criticisms of the government’s foreign policy which in turn would label them as radical and extreme. Going against a fundamental tenet of ‘freedom of speech’.
The government provided millions in funding and training to local authorities, schools, NHS and even GPs on how to spot potential terrorists. Numerous national bodies, and high-profile people such as the National Union of Teachers, the Royal College of GPs and the former head of MI5 expressed concerns at the effect this would have on silencing and further alienating the Muslim community.
However, the government didn’t listen and continued with the approach of apportioning suspicion and guilt on the Muslim community until it was clear to them there had been little effect.
Therefore, Safe and Secure and other integration programmes announced by the government and its associates are evidently a rebranding and reforming of a failure.
If the government really wants to make a change in education, employment rates and wants the wider society to accept the Muslim community it should scrap Prevent and its consequent schemes and stop shrouding the entire Muslim community with suspicion and blame for the problems it has created since its involvement in the Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria wars.
An honest approach to the challenges of integration would be for the government to ask itself why it is trying to scare and force communities to accept ‘British values’ rather than trying to convince them through open dialogue and debate.