Twenty six mosques and community centers in Luton (Bedfordshire, England) have written to the local council to express their opposition to the controversial Prevent counter-terrorism strategy. In the letter, Luton Council of Mosques and the Sunni Council of Mosques describe Prevent as “ineffective” and “unjust.” The statement was also supported by Luton Council of Faiths, Luton People’s Assembly, Luton Trades Council and Luton for Justice Addressed to Trevor Holden, the Chief Executive of Luton Borough Council, the letter says that Prevent:
- Uses vague and constantly changing definitions of extremism developed without consultation with the diverse British community or respected faith leaders.
- Breeds mistrust and suspicion about all Muslims in the wider community, causing fear and leading to discrimination, abuse and violence.
- Scapegoats Muslims and Islam without fairly acknowledging political context as a significant factor in causing the type of disenfranchisement that can lead to radicalization.
- Causes significant fear and anxiety amongst the Muslim community.
- Conflates issues of integration and cohesion with counter-terrorism.
- Relies on an empirically flawed policy.
- Blurs the lines between “counter-terrorism” and wider social issues including safeguarding, education and healthcare.
- Targets children in nurseries, schools and colleges.
- Fails to consider the social, cultural and religious context of local communities evidenced through numerous cases of misunderstanding of basic differences between “extremism” and acts of religiosity.
The statement says: “We feel there is a genuine misunderstanding about the Islamic faith, which we would like to clarify. Islam is the belief in one God. Muslims take guidance from the Qur’an, which we believe is the word of God, transmitted through the final prophet and messenger, Muhammad. Followers of Islam are known as the middle nation due to their adherence to God’s path of balance and justice. Extremism, by its very nature, violates these basic principles of Islam. The government definitions of extremism and radicalization, which have developed based on political and social pressures, do not seem to recognize this position.
Imams and faith leaders in Luton follow and promote the message of Islam based on the teachings of the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muhammad. When individuals deviate from this message, this is a reflection of themselves, not of Islam. We cannot be held responsible for their actions, just as no other faith or community would be held accountable for the acts of a criminal who claims to follow their beliefs.”
The statement concludes: “In order to build trust and cooperation with communities, there is a need to ensure an open and transparent relationship with all community leaders. Contrary to this, we have witnessed selective invitation to meetings and unwillingness to accept responsibility by officers when members of the community raise concerns…”