A week-long national police initative to raise awareness about terrorism is ill thought out and will only serve to further alienate Muslims.
Counter-terrorism officers intend to inform people at schools, universities, airports, shopping centres, cinemas and farms about terrorism. Police officers and theatre groups will be speaking to students about the Prevent strategy, which provides practical help to people who may be drawn into terrorism.
IHRC believes that further promotion of the PREVENT strategy will lead to yet more alienation. Far from stopping terrorism, the strategy, which has drawn massive criticism for legitimising religious profiling and intelligence gathering on the Muslim community seems to have encouraged it.
The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said over the weekend that there is growing concern about the possibility of a “lone-wolf” terrorist attack in Britain. He says on average the police foiled one such plot each year, but in 2014 they have stopped four or five attacks.
Apart from the rather disturbing fact that the most senior police officer in the UK doesn’t know the exact number of ‘lone wolf’ cases, the figures clearly suggest that PREVENT’s alleged aim of preventing radicalism is not working. We question the wisdom of trotting out more of the same failed prescription.
The initiative comes against the backdrop of revelations at the weekend that non-Muslim British ex-armed forces personnel had gone to fight with Kurdish forces in Syria against ISIS. Like dual UK-Israeli nationals who serve in the Israeli army it seems unlikely that they will be arrested if they return home, espeically in view of David Cameron’s reply in in September to the question of how border staff would be able to discern the difference between volunteers with the Kurdish authorities and ISIS fighters when returning to the UK. The PM said that “highly trained border staff, police and intelligence services” would be able to discern the difference between Islamic extremists and those fighting them.
IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “Government anti-terrorism policy is in total disarray and governed by the needs of foreign policy rather than the aim of preventing terrorism. The latest initiative is pumping the same failed PREVENT agenda that is actually responsible for driving more people into extremist violence. Moreover the fact that British non-Muslim fighters are now publicly known to be fighting in Syria without any apparent risk of being prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws on their return shows just how discriminatory their application is vis a vis the Muslim community. Any anti-terrorism policy must be coherent and consistent in prosecuting all terrorism and war crimes, not just those the government finds expedient.”
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