The New Local Government Network (NLGN) think tank is calling for the £45million scheme to focus on tackling all extremism – including far-right extremists – rather than just focusing on Islamic extremism.
While Islamist extremism remains a very serious threat to our security, this kind of extremism is not the only threat to the stability and security of our communities.
Prevent is too prescriptive from the centre, undermines broader community cohesion objectives and lacks sufficient integration with police and security services at local and national level. Concern has also been acknowledged over the agenda’s impact on relations with Muslim communities and whether it unfairly stigmatises an entire community.”This is spot on.
While it is too early to assess the success of the Prevent agenda in terms of outcomes, the lack of support from within the Muslim community, as well as the changing threat of wider extremist voices mean that it is time to review whether the separation of the Preventing Violent Extremism approach from wider community cohesion approaches is still relevant.
There is - as the report acknowledges - a real problem with Islamist extremism. The number of people murdered by jihadis in this country has been high. But for the actions of the police and security services, and families and neighbours turning would-be murderers in, the death toll would be much higher.
However, the narrow focus on Islamist extremism must be widened. It does have the effect of making Muslim people feel exposed and picked on. The only solution is to apply common standards in anti-extremism work, across the board.
In practice this would mean that groups which support the creation of a totalitarian state, or which promote discrimination against or hatred of other cultural or ethnic groups, or which support terrorism directed against civilians should all be treated similarly. Don’t fund them. Don’t work with them. Actively seek to confront their vicious politics.
In other words, a sensible anti-extremism strategy would bracket together groups like Jamaat-e-Islami and Hizb ut Tahrir with Socialist Action, the Socialist Workers Party, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, and the British National Party.
HOPE not hate, Norfolk might query the inclusion of a couple of the groups above, but agrees that it is the extremism in some groups that is the problem. Extreme views that actively encourage violence on our streets need confronting and quelling, wherever those extreme views originate.