A cross-party group of MPs has concluded that the government’s Preventing Violent Extremism programme, known as Prevent, undermines community cohesion and stigmatises Muslims.
In a report published today by the Communities and Local Government parliamentary select committee, Prevent is described as ‘unlikely ever to be fully accepted in its existing form by those it is most important to engage’. It notes that the ‘single focus on Muslims in Prevent has been unhelpful’ and expresses concern at the number of people who feel that the programme has been used to spy on Muslim communities. The report calls on the government to commission an independent investigation into allegations of inappropriate surveillance.
In October 2009, the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) published its report Spooked: how not to prevent violent extremism, which concluded that Prevent constructs the Muslim population as a ‘suspect community’, fosters social divisions among Muslims themselves and between Muslims and others, encourages tokenism, facilitates violations of privacy and professional norms of confidentiality, discourages local democracy and is counter-productive in reducing the risk of political violence.
The result of a six-month research project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the report drew on existing policy and academic work, freedom of information requests, a roundtable discussion and thirty-two interviews with Prevent programme workers and managers in local authorities, members of local Prevent boards, voluntary sector workers engaged in Prevent work and community workers familiar with local Prevent work.
Arun Kundnani, author of the IRR’s Spooked report, said: ‘The select committee’s wide-ranging report on Prevent is to be welcomed. Its call for an independent investigation into the issue of surveillance must now be heeded by the government.’