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The Government’s flagship scheme on tackling extremism is alienating Muslim communities and should be scrapped according to a new report. The New Local Government Network (NLGN) think tank is calling for the £45million scheme to focus on tackling all extremism – including far-right extremists – rather than just focusing on Islamic extremism.
The Government set up the Prevent scheme in 2006 to help local councils to tackle violent extremism at a local level. Currently 94 local authorities receive funding from the scheme. NLGN’s independent report argues that whilst the scheme has helped in some areas, overall it risks alienating some local communities and particularly Muslim communities.
The report calls for the Government to allocate resources to tackle all extremist ideologies, arguing that the recent increase in far-right extremism is as much of as a challenge for local communities as Islamic extremism. In July this year Scotland Yard warned that far-right extremists are planning a “spectacular” terrorist attack in Britain to try to stoke racial tensions and that more resources need to be targeted to tackle this form of extremism.
It also calls for reform of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) to allow an expert on ‘home-grown’ terrorism to sit on the Committee. It suggests that the Communities and Local Government department should have a permanent seat on the JIC alongside the seven other government departments on the Committee and that experienced local authority Chief Executives should be consulted when assessing potential security risks.
Author of the report, Anna Turley argues that reform of Prevent is vital to rebuilding confidence within local communities:
“While Islamist extremism remains a very serious threat to our security, this kind of extremism is not the only threat to the stability and security of our communities.”
“Prevent is too prescriptive from the centre, undermines broader community cohesion objectives and lacks sufficient integration with police and security services at local and national level. Concern has also been acknowledged over the agenda’s impact on relations with Muslim communities and whether it unfairly stigmatises an entire community.”
While it is too early to assess the success of the Prevent agenda in terms of outcomes, the lack of support from within the Muslim community, as well as the changing threat of wider extremist voices mean that it is time to review whether the separation of the Preventing Violent Extremism approach from wider community cohesion approaches is still relevant.”