The Prevent strategy: a textbook example of how to alienate just about everybody
The Government has spent millions of pounds on a strategy to prevent Muslim radicalisation that’s counterproductive, writes Douglas Murray.
By Douglas Murray
31 Mar 2010
As we are reminded on a daily basis, there is very little that government does well. Perhaps what it can do least well is theology.
Yet through its “Prevent” strategy, that is exactly what this Government has tried to do. In the past few years, it has spent millions of pounds trying to prevent Muslim radicalisation. But the effort was flawed from the outset and as the Communities and Local Government Select Committee warned yesterday, the efforts made could be backfiring.
The Prevent programme was set up after the 2005 London bombings as part of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy. Yet the security services already do counter-terrorism and are remarkably successful at it. So the purpose of Prevent was not only unclear, it was a classic example of government metastasizing.
It attempted to go far beyond what government could or should do. It aimed to tackle radicalisation by providing a “counter-narrative” to that of al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. And so, instead of teaching British values and beliefs and otherwise allowing the relevant authorities to enforce the law, Prevent got involved in attempting to create what one Imam recently described to me as “MI5 Islam”.
This meant that from the outset Prevent got bogged down in the interminable ongoing civil wars in the Islamic faith while doing little to tackle the real problems. It did not stop extremist speakers being given platforms at mosques and universities across the country, nor even, as it turned out, speaking at Prevent-sponsored events.
But it did become, predictably enough, a cash cow which any enterprising Muslim group could tap into. Government funding on what were called “key Prevent deliverables” in the period 2008-2009 alone was over £140 million. Much of this money went on things which were – at best – many steps away from dealing with what drives young Muslims into extremism.
Barking Mosque received more than £5,000 to provide rap “workshops” and lunches. Something called “Bedford: Faith in Queens Park” received £9,000 for its basketball club, another £10,000 for its cricket club and £11,000 for “fusion youth singing”. It received £1,350 for a talk on “prophetic medicine”. The Cherwell “Banbury Fair Trade Society” was paid by Prevent to deliver a “multicultural food festival”.
Across the country Prevent money went to boxing, karate, judo and five-a-side football clubs, while the 1st Bristol Muslim Scout Group bafflingly received £3,180 of Prevent money for camping equipment.
Most disturbingly of all, thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money was used not to stop fundamentalism, but simply to teach Islam. Just last year, one highly conservative Muslim organisation received two payments of £20,000 to proselytise for Islam.
It didn’t take long for other “community leaders” to realise something was deeply wrong. Why should only Muslim communities receive hundreds of millions of pounds? Say you were a Hindu boy-scout in your leaky tent at scout camp. Would you not wonder at the spanking new facilities enjoyed by your Muslim neighbour? Why have young Sikh, Buddhist or – imagine – white working-class youngsters not had ping-pong tables and karate lessons thrown in their direction?
Indarjit Singh, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, made exactly this point when he spoke before the Committee of MPs. As Singh said, “rather than tackling underlying issues” Prevent is “producing a sense of victimisation among Muslims and a growing sense of resentment and marginalisation in other religious communities.”
This is exactly what some of us predicted would happen – that if you privileged the Muslim community it would not be long before other faith groups would notice and get aggrieved themselves. Britain should be rewarding ethnic and religious groups who integrate into British life. Instead we are doing the opposite.
It is a good job that the MPs heard Singh and a few others because otherwise their committee was notable for the fact that it listened to some people who can be alarmingly unhelpful. In fact, it constituted exactly the sort of people who have helped lead Britain into such a fragmenting mess. They included a Khomeinist group, the Islamic Human Rights Commission. They included professional race-relations industry “experts”, who have done so much to deform this country in recent years. And they included groups who gave glowing endorsements to Prevent precisely because they receive huge funding from the pot. The way the committee went about its procedures was a textbook example of how not to hear a broad range of views. So if it has landed on the right conclusions – including that it is very hard to see what good Prevent has done – it has done so for the wrong reasons.
The next government is going to have to make substantial cuts. There could be no better place to start than scrapping Prevent – to be remembered as a textbook example of how to alienate absolutely everybody.