Outrage at police guideline that claims concern for ‘oppressed Muslims’ is a sign of extremism

31st Jan 2020
Outrage at police guideline that claims concern for ‘oppressed Muslims’ is a sign of extremism

Nadine Osman

The UK’s Counter-Terrorism Police were forced to recall a document that said believing Muslims were oppressed was a sign of extremism following an uproar from civil rights and Muslim groups. The 12-page guide produced by counter-terrorism police in the south-east titled ‘Safeguarding Young People and Adults from Ideological Extremism’, was marked as “official.”

In the guide, people are advised to look out for people who share the views of the proscribed Al Muhajiroun group that argue ‘Muslims are persecuted in the UK by the government and media. You may hear someone state this view or voice concern for ‘oppressed Muslims’ in other countries.’ It was this kind of broad accusation that lead to several Muslim civil rights groups to voice concern that freedom of speech could be undermined.

Prevent is a Government programme to confront far-right and religious extremism. The programme requires public sector workers from the NHS staff to teachers to tell the Government if they feel someone is at risk of radicalisation.

The programme has been criticized for disproportionately targeting the Muslim community and has been branded as toxic by parts of the community. Government ministers have consistently stood by the programme.

Rights group Liberty said it would be “outrageous” to refer someone under the Prevent scheme if “someone expresses the view that Muslims are oppressed.”

“Prevent has always been a blunt instrument that undermines free expression, embeds discrimination in public services and sows distrust among communities,” said Rosalind Comyn, Liberty’s policy and campaigns officer.

CAGE, another rights group that focuses on Muslim detainees, also condemned the document and Prevent as a whole.

“Prevent is not only validating Islamophobia but is entrenching it across the public sector. The leaked Prevent document seeks to determine which forms of political expression are acceptable, or beyond the pale,” said Dr Adnan Siddiqui, the group’s Director.

The Muslim Council of Britain urged the parties concerned “to ensure that evidence-based views that reflect legitimate concerns of Muslims are not conflated with claims of extremism.”
The same document was also criticised for including Extinction Rebellion alongside neo-Nazi groups. The Home Office said that Extinction Rebellion’s inclusion was ‘an error and will be reviewed.’

A spokesperson for Counter-Terrorism South East said: “The document was designed for a very specific audience who understand the complexities of the safeguarding environment we work within, and who have statutory duties under Prevent. We are in the process of confirming who it has been shared with and recalling it.”

“We as Counter Terrorism Policing, along with our partners, have a responsibility to protect vulnerable people. Officers are trained to spot those who may be vulnerable, and this is a fundamental element of the work of Prevent – to stop people potentially being drawn into criminal behaviour,” the police argued.

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