IHRC finds gravely disturbing today’s revelations that referrals to a deradicalisation programme have risen exponentially since reporting people of suspected extremism became an official requirement for public bodies on July 1 this year.
The figures show that there were more referrals between June and August this year than for the whole of 2012/13 – the first year the scheme was rolled out across England and Wales. The number is also more than double the level of referrals recorded in the first three months of 2014/15. Approximately 40% of the referrals were of people under the age of 18.
Moreover during the same period, of the 796 individuals reported to the Channel programme for possible intervention, only about a fifth have required intervention in the form of deradicalisation sessions.
The figures suggest that the government dragnet cast over the Muslim community by the Islamophobic ‘PREVENT’ anti-extremism programme is having the effect of demonising and stigmatising innocent individuals and creating a pall of fear that prevents them from fully engaging in everyday life.
What is worrying is that these figures have been compiled over a period when schools and educational institutions are closed for the summer break. The likelihood is that referrals are only going to increase now they have reopened.
IHRC is opposed in principle to the whole PREVENT programme. It rests on racist and Islamophobic assumptions. By demonising Islam as innately violent the programme has contributed to the legitimisation of institutional discrimination against Muslims. Although the programme is presented as targeting all extremism including that of the far right in practice it is almost exclusively applied to Muslims.
Many Muslims have been caught up by PREVENT for nothing other than expressing conservative religious opinions or views that are critical of the government’s policies in Muslim countries. Deradicalisation programmes are in themselves designed to disabuse people of these views and amount to political and social indoctrination. Moreover, the secretive nature of the referral process which is usually informed by Islamophobic prejudices means that there is rarely a paper trail by which officials can be held accountable.
In a case that arose last month, a 14-year-old Muslim schoolboy was questioned about ISIS after a classroom discussion about environmental activism. His parents are taking legal action after the boy said he was left “scared and nervous” by his experience with school officials in north London, and was left reluctant to join in class discussions for fear of being suspected of extremism. IHRC has been informed of a case in which a schoolboy was referred by teachers for objecting to a school concert on the grounds that he thought it was unIslamic.
IHRC is also alarmed by statements made yesterday by PM David Cameron that he intends to bring private madrasas under state scrutiny because he believes the allegedly conservative views they teach are helping fuel extremism. His views are based on the now officially accepted conveyor belt theory of terrorism in which illiberal Islamic education is the first step of a journey towards violent extremism. According to this view every Muslim is a potential terrorist who requires state intervention to keep them clear of extremism.
IHRC’s head of advocacy Abed Choudhury said: “It is highly ironic that a programme that the government parades as vital for social cohesion is in fact having a divisive effect by obliging people to report others, mostly on the basis of their own prejudices. Subjecting Muslims to deradicalisation programmes for holding alternative views smacks of indoctrination meted out to dissidents by authoritarian regimes both present and past.”
Notes to editors:
For media enquiries please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8904 4222[Ends]
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