Luton Council of Mosques has written to Luton Borough Council’s chief executive Trevor Holden opposing the government’s ‘Prevent’ anti-terrorism strategy.
The letter, issued jointly by Luton Council of Mosques and the Sunni Council of Mosques last week, cites nine problems with the strategy that could lead to alienating the very people it seeks to help.
The letter states: “Extremism, by its very nature, violates [the] basic principles of Islam.
“The government definitions of extremism and radicalisation, which have developed based on political and social pressures, do not seem to recognise this position.”
The letter goes on to accuse the Prevent programme of nine chief failings, including breeding mistrust of muslims, causing fear in the community and scapegoating Islam.
Regarding ‘scapegoating’, the letter states: “Political context is a significant factor in causing the type of disenfranchisement that can lead to radicalisation.
“The former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, in her evidence to the Chilcot Enquiry, stated that the Iraq war undoubtedly increased the threat of terrorism in the UK.”
The letter adds that the language used in the Prevent programme is also too vague in its definition of extremisim.
The government’s Prevent programme is one of four main arms of its counter terrorism strategy, and falls under the administration of local authorities.
Luton Borough Council (LBC) states that Prevent is about identifying people who may be at risk of radicalisation, and supporting them to change direction.
A LBC spokesman said: “The council is aware of the concerns raised and the complexities and debate that surround Prevent’s perception and implementation.
“Many of the points raised in the letter are about the national Prevent strategy and associated impacts.
“The council has therefore shared the letter with the Home Office. We have also offered to facilitate a meeting with senior Home Office representatives.
“Nonetheless the council believes that every effort must be taken to safeguard vulnerable individuals from being drawn into any form of extremist activity.
“The council has a specified duty which requires us to ensure that individuals are protected and safeguarded, and we will remain focused on attempting to work with the widest cohort of partners to achieve this.
“Since inception this approach has enabled the programme in Luton to support and prevent many individuals from being drawn into radicalisation, and with the support of partners there is the potential to build a nationally significant approach.”