There is great concern about the seriousness of the allegations about the PVE program. These concerns are emanating from real life stories which are giving rise to a culture of fear and mistrust.
For organsisations like The Cordoba Foundation such concerns are disastrous for the work that we are doing. Thus a lot more consultation and discussion will be needed to ensure that the program is amended to avoid such mistakes in the future.
Seldom has a concept been made use of and discussed as much as ‘Violent Extremism’. Of course questions are raised as to the root causes of violent extremism and how it is dealt with.
There are many challenges involved when trying to tackle and prevent violent extremism. It is important for those involved within social cohesion work that those who propogate the message of violence and harm to people should be dealt with. However recent reports by the Guardian and The Institute of Race Relations raises concerns about the viability of such programs for the future.
The Cordoba Foundation is very concerned that if the program is being implemented as it is currently being claimed, it is failing to address some of the root causes of the problems. It also is recommending certain steps to be considered for future implementation such as more consultation with a wider variety of stakeholders at the early stages of fund allocation.
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
According to reports in the Guardian on the 16th and 18th of October and backed by an independent report produced by the Institute of Race Relations, the Preventing Violent Extremism program has been used to gather intelligence about innocent people who are not suspected of involvement in terrorism causing concern amongst civil rights and civil society organisations about the violation of the privacy of individuals
For more information on this issue, please click here
The Institute of Race Relations’ (IRR) independent report produced on 17th October 2009 entitled ‘Spooked! How not to prevent violent extremism‘ raises concerns about how has described how the Government’s ‘PREVENT’ programme has led to “violations of privacy and professional norms of confidentiality” and presents evidence that “Prevent-funded services are being used by counter-terrorist police for information gathering”, through the institution of a little known protocol, the ‘Information Sharing Agreements’ (ASAs).
In short, some of the key findings of the report are:
- Prevent funding has not been driven by a decision-making process in which local agencies identify their own needs and access central government funds accordingly.Rather,local authorities have been pressured to accept Prevent funding in direct proportion to the numbers of Muslims in their area – in effect,constructing the Muslim population as a ‘suspect community’.
- Prevent decision-making lacks transparency and accountability. Decisions are taken behind closed doors rather than in consultation with the voluntary and community sector.
- Prevent,with its focus on a single group,has undermined this aspect of the cohesion agenda
- The embedding of counter-terrorism police ofﬁcers within the delivery of local services,the purpose of which seems to be to gather intelligence on Muslim communities,to identify areas,groups and individuals that are ‘at risk’and to then facilitate interventions
The report closes with some key recommendations which also includes identifying and addressing the specific needs of different communities for local service and community development
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Faith and Humanity
As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum Wa Rahmatullah (Peace and Blessings be Upon You)
As the blessed month of Ramadan knocks at our door, we would like to congratulate you on this Holy Month.
We are all travellers on the same path, struggling to seek Allah’s pleasure. The price to acquire the traits of self control, serenity, awareness and respect of the other is a permanent personal battle against our innermost evil desires. Death, life, experiences, ordeals, pain, solitude, joy and happiness, are lessons to be learnt and taught on this journey.
The most beautiful and the most difficult lesson to be learnt on this journey? That our final destination is to find Allah and that can only be done by reconciling with the deepest level of our being (al-fitra) – the original light that Allah breathed into our hearts. Thus the secret of life is hidden in the place from which you set out.
A wise man once said, ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and happiness.’
Such is the meaning of profound spirituality. We are responsible for the actions we take and within these actions there is a reminder. For within this space, there is God and one’s heart, as the Qur’an reminds us: “…and know that [the knowledge of] God lies between the human being and his heart.”
Hence within this space everyone is asked to take up a dialogue of intimacy, sincerity and love with The Most-High. Within this space is the horizon of all spirituality requiring man to acquire a force of being and doing, rather than to undergo despotic relentlessness of a life reduced to mere instinct. Within this space, we marry the purpose of our existence with the purpose of our subsistence.
The Holy Month of Ramadan enables us to rediscover and reform this space whilst soothing one’s heart close to the recognition of the Creator. Close to the awareness of The One is the comprehension of the message of the Qur’an, its words and inspirations. To serve humanity with the higher purpose of peace and equity… To awaken your conscience in the proximity of the wounds and the injustices people face… To move away from bad thoughts and the darkest dimensions of one’s being.
At the heart of our consumer society, where materialism and individualism drive our daily lives, the Blessed Month of Ramadan reinforces our personal effort and commitment, invites us towards the deep horizons of introspection and meaning, reminds us of silence,
restraint and remembrance, and inculcates the importance of detail, precision, rigour and discipline of practice.
The Blessed Month of Ramadan is a feast of the faith of fraternal atmosphere that is shared with all brothers and sisters, to portray the humility and compassion of the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) towards the downtrodden and distressed, irrespective of culture and creed. Ramadan is about realizing a prophetic vision of a just world and reflecting it in our mindset, etiquette, and actions, so that we become 21st century ambassadors of the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him): advocating justice, compassion and love; reminding ourselves of the role he played in promoting education, entrepreneurship, caring for the elderly, caring for people with disabilities, love for the people of other faiths, and caring for the neighbor.
So this Ramadan let us undertake a journey, ‘a journey back to the beginning’; a journey that is, completely inward, into intimacy, solitude between ourselves and our self – in the place where there is no longer anyone but God, and our self. This Ramadan let us reconcile disputes between families and friends as a sign of the remembrance of God. This Ramadan, let us strive to reinforce this remembrance of God and to remember our duties with the people, for to be with God is to be with the people. This Ramadan let us not only journey into intimacy and solitude within our self, but inculcate our responsibility as creations of God to serve humanity
Ramadan Mubarak and many happy returns