On February 10, Cage held a press conference to discuss a report on impact of Government’s Prevent Extremism policy. The report suggests that this policy ‘criminalises, stigmatises and alienates the entire Muslim community’ and encourages them to working to disestablishing it.
The report says that the policy’s desire is to deal with the so called ‘War on Terror’. It is in fact targeting and scrutinising all aspects of Muslim life from school, university, healthcare, charity work and community spaces, argues the report. This leads to eliminating the fundamental rights and freedoms of an individual within the state. This policy has thus created a climate of fear within Muslim communities and has led to them feeling alienated, withdrawing into themselves and is essentially counter-productive.
Jahangir Mohammed, the report’s co-author said at the launch, “There is no policy that has tried to look at the ideas, the views and the thoughts of a community like this in recent modern history.” He reiterated that the counter terrorism measures in place at the moment have been “drawn from neo conservative thought rather than a rigorous empirical evidential approach.” It is argued that violence in the Muslim world is drawn directly from Islamic belief and theory rather than an individual’s desire to create political change.
Mohammed said that since 7/7 it isn’t the perpetrators who have been held to account but “rather Muslim communities who are being criminalised for their beliefs, actions and opinions likening it to the Assad regime in Syria with children who make comments opposed to the regime being sent off for correction.”
Shakur Rahman, an Imam at Redbridge Mosque spoke of how Prevent policy has placed limitations on community events and imams threatened. Measures were taken against imams who were told that if they “didn’t comply with Prevent measures their lives would be made difficult.”
One of the victims who spoke at the press conference explained his confusion in understanding why he had been targeted under the policy. He said he has been questioned several times, held under Schedule 7; at one time he added he was detained for 26 hours with no food or water and no communication, “even when it was clearly evident that I was only travelling for religious pilgrimage.” To this day he said he has never been given a clear answer as to what evidence has been used in order for him to be targeted.
Vice President at the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), Ibrahim Ali, said authorities constantly target Islamic societies and are “treated with suspicion with members being questioned for simply praying in their prayer room.” Muslim individuals who denied to spy on their friends and colleagues without a clear reason were blackmailed with personal information, he said.
The report says Prevent policy’s view that Islamic beliefs are in direct relation to acts of terror is “completely inaccurate and its use through manipulation, blackmail and secrecy is continuously acting as a breech on the freedom of individual liberties and their rights to freedom of expression.” The Prevent policy is “no longer about terrorism and violence but rather about values and beliefs and is constantly leading to all areas of Muslim life being regulated without clear evidential support.”