Former UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has found himself in hot water after slamming prominent Muslim groups for speaking out against the government-led programme to combat ‘anti-terrorism’, Prevent.
In a foreword for a report published by Policy Exchange, Cameron accused critics of “enabling terrorism.”
“In a country where everyone feels at home, there is no place for extremism. It sows division and hatred and threatens our very way of life,” he said. “I don’t just mean violent extremism. No one becomes a terrorist from a standing start. The warped narratives are what draw people in and pave the way for many to support or even commit terrible acts.”
“I believe those who refuse to challenge the falsehood surrounding Prevent are guilty of a form of ‘passive tolerance’, whereby society fails to interfere in minority communities for fear of appearing racist,” he continued. “So just as we need to counter the Islamist extremist narrative, we need to counter the anti-Prevent narrative… to show that delegitimising counter-terrorism is, in essence, enabling terrorism.”
Prevent has been widely condemned within the Muslim community and externally for a range of different reasons. Not only is it “unethical” in its practises – some have compared it to the treatment of the Uyghurs – but it has also been accused of being a “vehicle for the Government to spy on Muslim communities and take away their children.”
There have been repeated accusations of mistreatment and separation tactics hurled at Prevent, with some young Muslims even being detained without reasonable evidence that they’re linked to “extremism.”
Cameron’s use of language in the report tries to delegitimise these concerns of the community and turn the issue around by equating criticism to extremism – yet another low blow for organisations that have been working closely to tackle issues concerning the government. He states that Prevent is specifically being “undermined” by campaigns from “Islamist activists and their allies,” and even goes onto naming prominent Muslim organisations. And this is coming from a man and government who bombed innocent Syrian children and now he’s claiming they want to protect British Muslim children? Are we shocked that the community is having a hard time believing him?
In a lengthy statement addressing the issue, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) spoke out against the former Prime Minister’s serious accusations, slamming them as “strange.”
“Today Policy Exchange has gone out of its way to say that the MCB has consistently opposed counter-terror measures,” they wrote on Twitter. “It fails to mention that the MCB has also loudly and consistently spoken and acted against terrorism.”
They continued: “In its strange report, it uses a former prime minister to say that anyone questioning Prevent is in effect ‘enabling terrorism’. The last time we checked, we were a vibrant democracy that encouraged robust debate and scrutiny of policy. The Policy Exchange pushes the same old tired line that the authorities should not cooperate with the MCB. And then accuses us of discouraging cooperation.”
In a separate statement they also referred to it as “an attack on British Muslim groups,” branding their efforts “laughable.”
MVSLIM reached out to other notable charities and they were also less-than-impressed.
Muhammad Rabbani, the Managing Director of CAGE, an organisation that helps communities impacted by the ‘War on Terror’ said: “The report stands as a testament to the unified resilience of Muslim organisations, against all odds, in effectively defending their communities from one of the most pernicious and insidious government policies, that is PREVENT.”
“It is very telling that in its attempt to defend PREVENT, Policy Exchange has completely ignored the vast body of critique from beyond the Muslim community. This underlines their open Islamophobic agenda. It’s indicative of Islamophobia in the UK when Former PM’s give their name to such open hostility to Muslim civil society,” they added.
The group MEND, also had their say: “MEND condemns the blatant Islamophobic attack on Muslim critics of the PREVENT strategy launched today by David Cameron and Right-Wing Think Tank @policyexchange and further propagated by press outlets.”
But beyond just Muslim groups, non-Muslim charities have also spoken out about Cameron’s use of language. Ilyas Nagdee, Amnesty International UK’s Racial Justice Director, described it as “shockingly misplaced.”
“David Cameron’s defence of Prevent is shockingly misplaced and only does more to demonise Muslim organisations. Cameron’s assertion that criticising the flawed counter-terrorism strategy increases terrorism is simply wrong. Policy Exchange’s report should have instead focussed on the host of human rights violations committed by Prevent – and not just been another excuse to make scathing attacks on Muslim organisations.
They continued: “Thousands of children are routinely referred each year to Prevent but have not been suspected of a crime, yet they are criminalised by having their data retained on secret databases with little transparency on how these are monitored and who has access to them.”
Cameron’s words are not only dangerous and provocative, but they’re also very telling of the government’s own insecurities towards their policies. If you can’t handle criticism about something your own political party created, just say that instead of trying to undermine an entire community by targeting the groups out on the forefront.
It’s pathetic and down-right desperate.
We hope David Cameron thinks about the power of his words next time before spewing them so frivolously.