Muslim officers criticise UK policy on extremism

Muslim police in the UK brand the government's flagship policy for tackling extremism as an "affront to British values".

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LONDON // Muslim police in the UK have branded the government's flagship policy for tackling extremism as an "affront to British values". In an outspoken attack on the Prevent strategy, the National Association of Muslim Police (Namp) accuses it of "stigmatising" Muslims and fuelling Islamophobia in Britain.

Publication of the evidence came as imams and religious scholars from hundreds of Muslim organisations met in Birmingham yesterday to discuss the rise in Islamophobia and anti-Muslim attacks. In evidence submitted to a parliamentary inquiry, the association also accused the government of ignoring the growing threat from far-right extremist groups. The £20-million-a-year (Dh118m) Prevent strategy was introduced in the wake of the 2005 suicide bombings on the London transport system that killed 52 people. It has proved controversial among Muslims, some of whom say it has been used simply to spy on young Muslims. Last month, John Denham, the communities secretary, promised to overhaul parts of the policy, saying it suffered a "lack of clarity".

In its evidence to the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee - posted on the committee's website - the Namp, which has more than 2,000 members, warned that the policy had proved counterproductive and could have already caused "some serious damage" to young Muslims' attitudes. "It can be argued that there is a connection in the rise of Islamophobia and our Prevent programme as it feeds on the stereotypes that the media and some right-wing parties promote: ie, all Muslims are evil and non-trustworthy," said the association.

"Never before has a community been mapped in such a manner and nor will it be - The hatred towards Muslims has grown to a level that defies all logic and is an affront to British values." The association, which had not wanted its evidence to the inquiry published but which the committee posted on its website, said it believed all forms of extremism - including right-wing groups, separatist organisations and green activists - should be tackled.

Currently, it said, it was only Islam that Prevent was focused on, though the government did announce last September that the policy would be expanded to include the far right. However, Tarique Ghaffur, who rose to become assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, criticised the Namp for its stance and said the association should be concentrating on warning of the dangers posed by Muslim extremists. "The Namp and Muslim community representatives need to face up to the stark reality within the UK," he told The Daily Telegraph yesterday. "There is a very real problem within certain sections of our community. We have a small number of individuals within the Muslim community who have committed terrorist acts and others who do pose a significant threat to national security.

Hanif Qadir, of the Active Change Foundation, a London-based project working with young Muslims, defends the Prevent strategy and says it has "nothing to do with spying". "Prevent is working, without a shadow of a doubt," he told the BBC. "If you are looking at both far-right extremism and violent extremism within the Muslim community, the problem is growing." The Muslim Council of Britain, which represents about 500 groups throughout the country, has welcomed the government's decision to review part of the Prevent programme.