The controversial government anti-radicalisation programme allegedly designed to combat the threat of extremism will come under critical scrutiny this weekend at an international conference being held in London.
The Prevent initiative, first introduced by the Labour administration in 2005 to head off the threat of violent extremism has mushroomed from an intrusive surveillance programme into an invasive social engineering exercise that critics say directly attacks the Muslim community and strikes at the heart of long established civil liberties.
The purported logic governing ‘Prevent Violent Extremism’ is to deny terrorists space in which to operate and encourage ‘violent extremism’. However, its application has involved the erosion of many fundamental freedoms and rights, particularly in relation to the Muslim community.
Muslims in Britain have been subjected to intrusive monitoring for evidence of ‘extremist ideas’, These have always been loosely defined but have increasingly come to be set in opposition to an assumed core of ‘British values’. In practice however, politicians’ interpretation of ‘British vaues’ conflates universal human values with the British state, whose foreign policy routinely contradicts such ideals.
The result has been that those who criticise UK foreign policy have been treated as ‘extremists’ by the Prevent programme. This has spread fear within communities, as well as among voluntary organisations and public employees who are expected to implement the programme. The tentacles of the Prevent programme were widened in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act which became law earlier this year.
Saturday’s conference is the first of its kind to directly address the controversial programme. It is being co-organised by IHRC, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers. The speakers include some of the most highly acclaimed authorities in the field such as Arun Kundnani, currently of New York University, who has written extensively on government anti-terrorism strategy and Marie-Breen Smith of the University of Surrey.
The conference is being held this Saturday 13 June at the Amanah Centre, 251 Commercial Road, London E1 2BT (Nearest stations: Shadwell / Whitechapel / Aldgate East). It is due to run from 2-5pm. Entry is free with a free lunch being served at 1pm.
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More details about the conference including the full list of speakers can be found at http://ihrc.org.uk/events/11430-preventing-violent-extremism
IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Islamic Human Rights Commission
PO Box 598
Telephone (+44) 20 8904 4222