CAIRO – Muslim groups were united Wednesday, June 8, in criticizing a new revamped government policy to fight extremism, warning that the strategy fuels anti-Muslim sentiments and stigmatizes the sizable minority.
“We are faced with a situation where a Muslim will be deemed extremist if defined so by neoconservative think-tanks,” the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said in a statement on its website.
“In this attempt to bring clarity to the discussion, it would appear that the latest strategy muddies the water and we will be faced with arbitrary measures that stigmatizes the community”
British Home Secretary Theresa May unveiled Tuesday a revamped version of Prevent anti-extremism strategy.
May told parliament that the strategy set up by the then-Labour government in 2007 had been flawed, with funds reaching "the very extremist organizations that Prevent should have been confronting".
Under the new policy, money would be withheld from groups that refuse to support democratic values. Yet more money will be spent on identifying threats from individuals radicalized in jails and universities.
Measures to bar "foreign hate preachers" from Britain would be enhanced, May said, as part of a policy targeting both violent and non-violent extremism.
The new program requires closer scrutiny of Internet use for radicalization, and of the extent to which unlawful content is filtered out by public bodies such as schools and libraries. British websites hosting such content also face new crackdowns.
“The Muslim Council of Britain today voiced its concern at the Government's latest Prevent counter-terrorism review,” the umbrella Muslim group.
“Prevent” strategy was designed to curb extremism and raise awareness in public and prevent Muslims from being lured into extremist ideologies.
However, the strategy was widely criticized as focusing predominantly on British Muslims.
The MCB termed the new anti-extremism policy as flawed like the previous strategy, warning that it would fuel anti-Muslim sentiments.
“The government has announced that it will no longer support or fund groups that it deems as extremist. It is a continuation of a policy that relies on dispensing government patronage. That is the government's prerogative.
“Yet, in a place where the British Muslim community is incredibly diverse in practice and tradition, the government -- like its predecessor -- engages in state-sponsored sectarianism by setting arbitrary measures on who is, and who isn't an extremist.”
The umbrella group questioned the criteria under which the government can define people as ‘extremists’.
“Above all, as the government sets itself up as the purveyor of extremism, we ask the government by what practicable measure does it identify extremism?
Muslim groups warned that the new policy treats Muslims as being unfit to democracy.
"At a time when Muslims in the Middle East resoundingly endorse the universal values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, is there any reason to believe that British Muslims are any different? The latest Prevent strategy seems to think so,” said MCB Secretary General Farooq Murad.
“For Muslims and public policy, security has become the only consideration on the agenda. It contains the implicit assumption that Muslims are less able to function in an open democracy than other people, more susceptible to totalitarian impulses and that they are more open to be incited to violence.
“It sends a very negative message to the community and is likely to increase Islamophobia.”
The MCB leader said that it’s the government’s right to refocus resources.
“But if the strategy is anything to go by, diverting money away from one bad idea to another — won’t necessarily accrue the results we all crave for: the eradication of terrorism.”
Muslim leaders warned that the new policy would prove disastrously counter-productive.
“Any counter-terrorism strategy that fails to acknowledge the link between foreign policy and terror is doomed to failure,” Tahir Shah, a spokesperson for Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPACUK), told The News.
Mohammed Shafiq, Chief Executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, was also critical.
“This dangerous escalation of attacks on Islam and Muslims will lead to further division and make the task of tackling extremism more difficult,” he said.
“It is interesting that the Government has no strategy to deal with the evil far right like the EDL and BNP,” he said, referring to the English Defence League and the British National Party.
“Over the past two years millions of pounds have been wasted in public funds policing these extremists who march our streets and attack our faith and community - no mention of how this Government will deal with these fanatics.”
Far-right groups like the EDL and the BNP are playing the card of immigration to stoke sentiment against Muslims and immigrants.
British Muslims, estimated at nearly two million, have been in the eye of storm since the 7/7 attacks.
A Financial Times opinion poll showed that
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