Following this, The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) and Lord Ahmed of Rotherham convened a meeting at the House of Lords on 27th October 2009, to discuss the revelations that the PREVENT program involved spying on individuals from the Muslim community thereby having damaging implications on present and future communal relations.
Opening the discussion, Lord Ahmed remarked the seriousness of the stories that were emerging from the PREVENT program but stressed that ‘ it should not be mistaken that to be critical of the PVE agenda, one was against preventing violent extremism, rather that it was those at the forefront of preventing violent extremism who the ones voicing their loudest concerns about the current PVE program’
Also addressing a broad spectrum of guests including academics, politicians, community leaders and the media, were speakers including Arun Kundnani (author of ‘Spooked:How not to prevent violent extremism’ published by the Institute of Race Relations), Dr Phyliss Starkey (Chair, Communities and Local Government Select Committee), Dr Muhammad Abdul-Bari (Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain), Saleh Mamon (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities) and Robert Lambert MBE (former head of Scotland Yard’s Muslim Contact Unit and Co Founding Director of European Muslim Research Centre).
Speakers were unanimous that whilst measures to tackle violent extremism were justified, this should not be at the expense of people’s civil liberties and creating suspicion, distrust and division with and between communities, especially amongst Muslims. Arun Kundnani highlighted the issue of surveillance and the safeguarding of human rights, he said “individuals particularly youth are being targeted in terms of their political and religious views which is leading to a process of depoliticisation amongst the youth”.
Chief Executive of The Cordoba Foundation, Anas Altikriti, noted “that great strides to engage Muslim youth in particular, within the political process would have been wasted if the youth are made to feel that their political views are irrelevant.”
Saleh Mamon focussed on the erosion of civil liberties and the potential damage to social cohesion caused by PREVENT, whilst Robert Lambert provided evidence from his experience within counter terrorism of best practices for dealing with violent extremists.
In closing the meeting, Anas Altikriti announced TCF will hold future meetings to further the discussion on the PREVENT program and to identify possible strategies for improvement.
The discussion report is available to be downloaded here