“Community leaders” not fit for purpose to run counter-extremism programmes


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Claims the Muslim Council of Britain plans to set up an alternative to the Government’s counter-radicalisation strategy, Prevent, are deeply worrying. Such a scheme risks repeating past mistakes, placing vital work in the hands of unaccountable and inappropriate individuals.

Reports today suggest the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) plans to create an alternative to the Prevent strategy in an attempt to deal with the problems posed by radicalisation. Run through mosques, the scheme will supposedly comprise of panels of ‘community leaders’, former police officers and other professionals, and may use conservative scholars with illiberal views to turn people away from violence.

This suggestion is deeply worrying and echoes previous unsuccessful iterations of the Prevent strategy, in which unaccountable community groups were allowed to act as ‘gatekeepers’ to the Muslim community, and individuals with extreme views contrary to British values were funded by the state.

These manifestations of Prevent suffered from a lack of evaluation, vetting and oversight, something that ad hoc community provision simply will not be able to provide to the same standard as central government and local authorities.

If implemented, such a scheme would see the most vulnerable people in our society being dealt with by religious leaders and organisations, some of whom may have extreme views, rather than trained and accountable safeguarding professionals – a system tailor-made for abuse and poor practice.

It is also likely to further hinder the successful work of those community-led groups which work with Prevent delivery staff to challenge these issues at present, and which are already smeared as ‘government stooges’ by too many.

Rupert Sutton, Research Fellow at The Henry Jackson Society, said: “Unaccountable and untrained ‘community leaders’ simply do not have the skills or structures in place to be able to effectively deal with the complex safeguarding work counter-radicalisation interventions require.

“Instead, any system created is likely to be ad-hoc in organisation and patchy in provision, and will lack the rigorous evaluation, data-protection and collaborative networks that local authorities offer. It will be ripe for abuse and will see vulnerable individuals failed as a result of inadequate intervention.

“It is vital more community groups work with government to challenge radicalisation, and stop smearing those within the Muslim community who already do so.”


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