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Prevent strategy damaging Muslim family relations

24th Aug 2018
Prevent strategy damaging Muslim family relations

Hamed Chapman

Pressure on British Muslim parents to counter extremism is having a detrimental effect on intra-familial relations, according to new research conducted in West Yorkshire.

Part of the Government’s controversial Prevent counter-terrorism strategy places increased responsibility on parents to police their children, who are put under intense public scrutiny due to their perceived vulnerability to radicalisation.

The role of Muslim families in countering extremism has been made a pressing policy concern, but the study carried out by Manchester academic Madeline-Sophie Abbas found that that there is a failure to address the detrimental effects that such measures have on Muslim family relations as well as broader relations between Muslim families and the state, and the non-Muslim community in Britain.

“It demonstrates the need to understand how counter-terrorism measures pervade all Muslim families and communities – not just those under official suspicion,” said Abbas, who was motivated to conduct the research due to her own personal background as someone of Iraqi and Muslim heritage.

“I decided to embark on the research because of the significant focus placed on British Muslims as ‘suspect’, in order to examine the potentially detrimental impact that these representations have had on communities and families,” the lecturer at the University of Manchester said.

Her study focuses on how the Government’s security agenda has crept into Muslim households including through Government-sponsored initiatives such as Families Against Stress and Trauma (FAST) and the #MakingAStand campaign, which work with Muslim women – particularly mothers – to counter terrorist recruitment.

She discovered that the Government and media debates about countering extremism within the Muslim community caused tensions within families, with fears about their children being targeted by the state, leading to them worry when they wear Islamic clothing or grow beards.

“It is important to note that adopting Islamic markers does not mean that Islamic principles are being followed or that Muslims embracing Islamic dress or the beard are extremists. By viewing behaviour typical of young people as they discover themselves through the lens of extremism, Muslim parents risk perpetuating conceptions of young Muslims’ vulnerability to being radicalised, ” says Madeline-Sophie Abbas

The Government’s Prevent strategy has come under increasing criticism as being not only ill-judged but counterproductive in countering terrorism. Numerous other studies have called for the policy to be reviewed, overhauled or completely scrapped.


One Response to “Prevent strategy damaging Muslim family relations”

Hifsa Haroon-IqbalAugust 25, 2018

An interesting article, concerning nonetheless. Parents “police” their offspring from the day they come into the world. When they are babies we go into their room ten times at night to check they’re still breathing. We set up alarms in the cot in case something goes wrong. We follow them around the room when they crawl to make sure they don’t put something in their mouth. We put locks on cupboard doors to stop them getting their hands on bleach and other dangerous substances. We feed them a balanced diet and try avoid sugary drinks and sweets because it’s bad for them. As they get older we want them home from school immediately, we want to know where they go with friends and who they talk to on social media. We want to protect them from all the dangers that are out there. This is NOT policing – it’s called PARENTING. And wanting to keep our children safe from the danger of radicalisation is and SHOULD be part of our parenting responsibilities. Ask the parents whose children went out to Syria and have subsequently been killed if they would have liked someone to give them some understanding of what they could have done to stop their children making the biggest mistake of their lives. Of course the author rightly says that the wear of Islamic clothing or grow beards are not signs of radicalisation – everyone has the right to dress and look as they please (that’s the joy of living in a democracy). However what is wrong with a parent talking to and questioning a child when they make changes to ensure there is nothing more sinister involved? As Muslim parents we need to be honest – there is another risk out there now that is targeting our children. Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending this isn’t a reality is not only naive but bad parenting. Calling for a strategy to be scrapped that has proven to work, that deals with over 30% of cases involving extreme right wing (50% in some parts of the country) indicates very little understanding of what it does. If parents are living in fear, it’s because of the misconceptions and lies being propagated by those with a different agenda. I have personally been approached by many parents who have said they support Prevent and understand what it’s about, but would never admit that because they fear being attacked by the “anti-Prevent lobby”. It would be good to see The Muslim News perhaps presenting a more balanced view in the next edition.


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