Prevent Watch

Prevent deepens Islamophobia and ‘compromises the Mental Health Act’ in the UK

Post 9/11 Islamophobia and the pathologisation of black people should be tackled as part of the Mental Health Act review, argue former psychiatrist Suman Fernando and researcher Tarek Younis.

Stephen Lawrence’s murder in 1993 led to the Macpherson inquiry that attributed police failure to prosecute the murderers to institutional racism. The government of the time took various actions to counteract institutional racism, sometimes with apparent success.

A general view developed (instigated also by the advent of Barrack Obama in the White House) in the early 2000s that racism in the UK was at least under some control, if not on the way out.

People even talked of Britain becoming ‘post-race’. As complacency developed, anti-racism movements lost support.

But the apparent gains were ultimately illusory.

Racial inequality in the diagnosis of schizophrenia and compulsory treatment (with deprivation of liberty) has been noted in the UK since the early 1980s — facts that medical-psychiatric research has been unable to explain, but my (Fernando) study into areas including the pathologisation of black people and post 9/11 Islamaphobia can and does.

In 2015, the Home Office made Prevent a statutory duty for public bodies. In doing so, the UK government designated healthcare settings a ‘pre-criminal space’.

Elusive and vague terms such as “extremism” and “radicalisation” have deep religious and racial connotations in the public consciousness, associated primarily with the Muslim ‘other’.

To add to this the securitisation of “integration” discussions echoes Prevent’s leverage of an ambiguous notion of ‘British Values’; it is unsurprising then that British Muslims are 40 times more likely to receive a Prevent referral than someone who is not a Muslim.

Now, an individual vulnerable to be at risk of “radicalisation” who is sectioned under the Mental Health Act will continue to have their information shared with the local authority outside the hospital setting if this is deemed necessary under national security prerogatives.

Read more on Mental Health Today.

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