Spooked: how not to prevent violent extremism

This courageous report into “how not to prevent violent extremism”  provides some of the first documentation of how counter-extremism, in particular the UK Prevent strategy, fosters division, mistrust and alienation. The report by the Institute for Race Relations was published in October 2009. It suggests that the Prevent programme has been used to establish one of the most elaborate systems of surveillance ever seen in Britain. Moreover, there are strong reasons for thinking that the Prevent progamme, in effect, constructs the Muslim population as a ‘suspect community’, fosters social divisions among Muslims themselves and between Muslims and others, encourages tokenism, facilitates violations of privacy and professional norms of confidentiality, discourages local democracy and is counter-productive in reducing the risk of political violence. The result of a six-month research project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the report drew on existing policy and academic work at the time, freedom of information requests, a roundtable discussion and thirty-two interviews with Prevent programme workers and managers in local authorities, members of local Prevent boards, voluntary sector workers engaged in Prevent work and community workers familiar with local Prevent work. Author of the report, Arun Kundnani, at the time, said: ‘The stated aim of the government’s counter-terrorist strategy is to enable people to ‘go about their lives freely and with confidence’. The question we pose in this report is whether freedom and confidence for the majority can be enabled by imposing a lack of freedom and confidence on a minority – in this case, the Muslim population of Britain.” The full report is available through the IRR website. Related resources Photo by Muhammad Adil, Unsplash

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