House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE
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Taken before the Communities and Local Government Committee
Dr Phyllis Starkey, in the Chair
Mr Clive Betts
Dr John Pugh
Mr Andy Slaughter
Memoranda submitted by Quilliam, the Institute for Community Cohesion
and the New Local Government Network
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Mr Ed Husain, Co-director and Co-founder, Quilliam Foundation, Professor Ted Cantle, Institute for Community Cohesion, and Ms Anna Turley, Deputy Director, New Local Government Network, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Can I welcome you to this first oral session of our inquiry on the Prevent programme? Can I make it clear that when we come to write our report it will be informed not just by the oral evidence but also by the very extensive written evidence which we have received from a vary wide range of organisations including obviously those of you who are here as oral witnesses. We do not have to go over absolutely everything. We will be focusing only on certain aspects. We have a lot of witnesses this afternoon so we would be very grateful if the witnesses could try to be as concise as possible. The first question that I would like to ask each of you about is to explore some of the concerns that have been expressed about whether it is appropriate for Prevent to be part of the Government's counter-terrorism strategy and in particular whether CLG as a department should be so closely identified with counter-terrorism.
Professor Cantle: My view is that it should be entirely separate. I think the Prevent agenda has had a great deal of difficulty with the Muslim communities that we have been working with, precisely because it has been seen as part of the counter-terrorism strategy, because it has associated the Muslim communities - and there are many different Muslim communities - with terror, with a problem as such. The Prevent agenda really should be entirely separate. There needs to be some relationship but it has to be a separate agenda. I think the counter-terrorism strategy obviously needs to have its own programme and its own dedicated team, but the problem with the Prevent agenda is that it has been solely focused on the Muslim community. It needs to be widened out. It needs to deal with all potential acts of violence, whether from the far right or other communities, and to be part of an ongoing cohesion strategy which recognises that violence is not just found in the Muslim community, that problems exist in all communities, and that leadership and other issues are also a problem in other communities. I think this is the fundamental issue really. I think it would be very helpful to disengage the two and to see Prevent as part of community cohesion and have an entirely separate counter-terrorism strategy.
Q2 Chair: We are going to explore in subsequent questions the issue about whether it should be targeted only at Muslims, so perhaps we could not pursue that one at the moment.
Ms Turley: I would certainly agree with Professor Cantle. I think you really have to have a quite separate approach between what is an intelligence-based security effort that is targeted, where we know there is a fundamental issue, as opposed to a much more broad brush community cohesion approach which is positive, which brings communities together rather than trying to drive a wedge between them, which the Prevent agenda has often been seen as doing. From the local authority perspective, there is real and serious concern that many communities simply do not want to engage in this programme and simply do not want to accept this money because it is seen as stigmatising, as stereotyping all the Islamic community as potential terrorists and actually is being used to almost drive a wedge between local authorities, local government and the broader community itself. At the moment there is a lack of clarity and I think the important thing here is just being clear about what is intelligence based and targeted, where there are real issues, and what is a broad brush approach to bringing communities together and having a positive means to community cohesion.
Mr Husain: I think I disagree with the premise that somehow there are Muslim communities out there that do not welcome Prevent. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Prevent funding at least has been able to drive a discussion forward that otherwise would have been left on the margins. Should Prevent be part of the Government counter-terrorism strategy? Absolutely it should be because, without Prevent, we are consequently left with pursue, protect and prepare. In order to make sure that the others are bolstered, Prevent has to be part of that. I have no doubt in my mind that Prevent is a crucial part of that entire CT strategy. Should CLG have a role in countering terrorism or playing an active part in Prevent? More thinking needs to be done on it. My hunch is to say CLG should have less of a role in the counter-terrorism part and perhaps more of a role in doing some of the things CLG does so well, building up capacities, women's work and so on and so forth. Much of that has been looked at through the Prevent prism and it should not be. In that I am in agreement with the other two panellists.
Ms Turley: If I could support that, I do want to be clear as well. There has been some really good work done by Prevent. I would like to get that on the record. There are some excellent projects that have been funded around the country that are supporting particularly young women's groups and others, enabling some Muslim communities to find their voice and also in some areas encouraging the local authority and the police to reach out to communities they would not necessarily have engaged with before. That is a positive thing to come out of it. As long as that trust is built, there is clarity and good communication.
Q3 Mr Slaughter: Is each of you of the view that the Prevent programme as it currently exists is directed primarily and exclusively at the Muslim community and primarily and exclusively at religious aspects of the Muslim community? Whatever good works that may be done - I am sure we probably all agree that investing in whatever social, cohesive or perhaps building programmes may be very good - is that how you see it at present, as specifically being directed at targeting what is considered a potential evil that could come out of the Muslim community and religious parts of the Muslim community? Is that your understanding?
Professor Cantle: I think the irony is that the Prevent agenda reinforces the Muslim identity because it only approaches Muslims through their faith rather than recognising that everyone, all communities, all people, has lots of different identities and multiple identities. Prevent does not engage with them as parents, as employees, as members of any other type of activity at all. It makes the community more inward. It creates the impression that the only thing that the government is interested in is their Muslin-ness. That is exactly the opposite of the approach that we should be taking, which is to try and recognise that members of the Muslim community, like all other communities, have multiple interests and have the ability to engage at a lot of different levels. There is a real irony in the Prevent agenda in that it actually strengthens the faith identity. This has been criticised by academics and, as we mention in our evidence, by practitioners. It is creating almost completely the opposite ethos to the one that we really want to champion.
Ms Turley: The Government has made some attempts to try and take some of that almost branding away from it. I know some have tried to change the emphasis so that it took out a lot of references from guidance towards this being targeted at Muslim communities. It has been very clear historically as the programme has developed that that was the fundamental purpose of it or the target community. It is very clear through things like the national indicator and so on that it is aimed at Islamist fundamentalism rather than being a broader approach. We also know that the funding is allocated in a very broad brush way, based on the number of Muslims in an area rather than on a specific risk-based, intelligence approach. That for me sends out a fundamental message about how the approach has been.
Mr Husain: I am not known for tip-toeing
around this agenda so I am going to be brutally blunt and say who else should
it be targeted towards. Let us be
open. The 7/7 bombers came from, whether
we like it or not, a Muslim background.
The suicide bombing videos that they left behind talked clearly about
the Islamic identity. They talked about
their people being under attack in
Slaughter: I think you are missing the point I am trying
to make in targeting. There are lots of
instances of terrorism coming either from Irish Republican terrorism or far
right terrorism in the country. The approach
to that is not necessarily to target Catholic communities in
Mr Husain: I think if you speak to Joe
Q5 Chair: Who should it be targeted at then? If you are agreed that it should not be at all Muslims, how should you target it then?
Mr Husain: Terrorism does not occur in a
vacuum, as we will all agree. It
responds to a certain mood music. It
responds to a certain narrative. It
wants to advocate a certain cause. That
cause, that narrative, that mood music, is something along the lines as
follows: that the west is somehow at war with "Islam" and "Muslim" countries,
that somehow we British Muslims do not belong here in Britain, that we are a
fifth column community that is waiting for a caliph to arrive somewhere in the
Middle East to which we will respond.
The narrative believes in overthrowing every single Arab government and
imposing some sort of Islamic state. It
believes in the destruction of
Q6 Chair: Professor Cantle, just before you answer, I suspect you might actually agree with some of that but would suggest that there are other types of extremism that would also challenge the same values, maybe from a different perspective.
Professor Cantle: I do not think anybody is saying that, where there is a problem associated with sections of the Muslim community and a link to terrorism, that is not challenged. Of course it should be and of course there should be a direct approach to that, but the Prevent agenda is solely on that particular area. What members of the Muslim communities and other communities want is to see a focus on violence and extremism in those other communities as well. We have been to plenty of local authority areas where we have been told by the police about how those associated with the far right are involved in bomb making activities. There has been a number of recent arrests for example, a number of other areas of violent extremism, completely separate from the Muslim community. I think we need to see a proportionate, risk based approach which runs across all communities and, in so doing, it will help to build the trust of the Muslim communities in that this is not just about them. We are not just concerned about the violence associated with that area. We are trying to be open and fair and transparent in the way we deal with this. At the moment it tends to be counterproductive.
Q7 Dr Pugh: The government endeavours to identify the risk factors associated with radicalisation and produces lists of the kind of things that might make people prone to engage in extreme political action and violent political action. How accurately and successfully do you think they do this?
Ms Turley: If I could just offer a local authority perspective on this, from the conversations we have had, I think local authorities feel they do not really have enough of the toolkit and available evidence. I know it is early days in all of our understanding of these issues but certainly local authorities I think are struggling. They are responsible for targets about reducing vulnerability of a local area to extremism, but they actually do not themselves necessarily have the toolkit and the understanding of what these risk factors are and how to handle them. Often there is a failure to share evidence, information and intelligence with police and counterterrorism organisations to really enable them to make the decisions they need and to allow them to follow a risk based approach. I think local authorities feel they do not necessarily have the toolkits they need to understand some of these pathways towards extremism.
Q8 Dr Pugh: What would a good toolkit look like? I read through some of these futures and some of the futures do not divide terrorists and things like having an ideology that makes you prone and susceptible to commit terrorism and things like that. When you have got that far already, you are practically easily identifiable as a terrorist. What the scheme presumably purports to identify is those people who are at risk, who are not necessarily overtly claiming to be terrorists or terrorist inclined at the moment. How useful are the risk factors stated in the CONTEST strategy?
Professor Cantle: I think they are not particularly useful. There is no typecast terrorist or potential terrorist. We do not know in truth what the risk factors are. If you look at the evidence submitted by CLG, CAPO and others, they make it perfectly clear that there have been some general academic studies which have tried to identify risk factors associated with terrorism, but there is not a clear typecast. On the one hand, I think it would be extremely difficult to say if a person comes from this background they have this sort of personality; they have been exposed to this sort of radical ideology. That just does not exist. Even if it did, we have to ask who are the agencies that will identify people with those risk factors. To my mind, the only people who possibly can do that are through the counter-terrorist team and again disassociating people who are the amateurs within local authorities, schools and others from that role, because otherwise they themselves I think are going to be severely criticised for pointing the finger at people without really any understanding of the risk factors associated with it. It is an extremely difficult task.
Q9 Dr Pugh: So there is no accurate method of identifying those people who are the real objects of this strategy, as it were. Is there not a serious danger that money will be spent in vain? You will just simply look at communities that may not be cohesive with the rest of society, who may not particularly be terrorist prone and put money in that may be achieving some good effects but not the effect that the strategy has in mind. Could I ask Mr Husain his opinion on that?
Mr Husain: The latter part of your statement is true, that a significant amount of funds has more or less gone to Muslims and others, primarily Muslims who are not extreme. If you have projects going on, you are not necessarily extreme. Here is your pot of funding to carry on doing whatever it is you are doing. The money has not gone in, in the amounts that it should have done, to the counter ideology, the destroying the narrative strand of the work. That is not because the government - when I say "the government" I think I am talking more here about the Home Office or the Foreign Office - wanted to put money into those projects. It has been more a case of those partners, those projects, just not being available. This is a very murky, very blurry area. Just like most of us, most Muslims do not understand the causes of extremism and do not understand what makes a terrorist tick. Most Muslims, like everybody else, do not know what it means to put up a counter narrative. As a result, the huge amount of money that the government has been offering to people is being grabbed by people who have been doing work previously which was not related to counter ideology.
Q10 Dr Pugh: Your organisation receives some money from the government, does it not?
Mr Husain: It does.
Q11 Dr Pugh: How much, as a matter of interest?
Mr Husain: About £850,000 per year.
Q12 Dr Pugh: Do you think that money is best spent on counter ideology, if I can put it like that? I would have thought it was quite tricky to spend money in order to change ideas.
Mr Husain: It is a multiple of
factors. It is not about just changing
ideas. It is about challenging current
ideas. No one can guarantee that it will
change ideas. The work we do in Syria,
in Pakistan, in Bangladesh and communities here in Britain, university
campuses, in the media - we employ 17 members of staff - is all based on at
least 30 projects which are to do with countering the narrative along the lines
that I mentioned earlier. I think more
of that should happen because ultimately, as Professor Cantle rightly said, it
is not about one's background or one's propensity; it is about what one is
offered in the afterlife. There is a
religious aspect to that. No suicide
bombers, whether it is in
Q13 Chair: What evidence is there that other voices within the Muslim community itself, however theologically well qualified, have actually ever managed to stop one of these individuals choosing to follow a different version of Islam?
Mr Husain: What are often referred to as
deradicalisation programmes at deradicalisation centres in Saudi Arabia, in
Yemen, in Egypt and recently in Libya have come up with huge successes to the
extent that ideologues who went into prison for the assassination of Anwar
Sadat, the Egyptian President, or ideologues who went into prison for belonging
to Jihadi organisations spent time with the result of their exposure to
mainstream traditional Muslim scholars as well as political thinkers have
written entire books now refuting that ideology.
Q14 Dr Pugh: What I was going to ask you to follow through is about the socio-economic correlates of being terrorist inclined, if I can put it like that. You seem to be suggesting that there may not be any, that the people who may have the particular ideology that leads to terrorism or the Muslim version of the ideology that leads to terrorism may as easily be unemployed with no skills, but equally they may be young, qualified doctors. Almost anybody is susceptible within the faith groups to this particular misguided ideology and the job is to combat it ideologically because it has no socio-economic route. Do you not see any connection between people's social background and favouring an ideology?
Mr Husain: No. I wish I could. I really wish I could. Osama bin Laden comes from one of the
wealthiest backgrounds in
Professor Cantle: I agree that there is no correlation between socio-economic status and attraction to terrorism, at least as far as the Muslim community is concerned and the present association with terrorism. There have been other studies in relation to other communities which have links - alienation, deprivation - to other forms of violent extremism, but in this particular area I have certainly seen no studies that link it with socio-economic status. Therefore, as I was saying earlier, there is not a typecast and it is important I think that we approach the Prevent agenda through a much broader spectrum than we have at the moment in just a single minded focus on the Muslim community.
Q15 Dr Pugh: From what you say, Professor Cantle, I imagine that you might even find people who are politically radical that have no ideology to speak of. They are just driven to aggression and whatever. Just going back to Mr Husain for a second, if the government department charged with dealing with social factors knows how to do that, it can provide more resources, a community centre or something like that. It seems to address those issues. If they are asked to fight a battle of ideas or to fund a battle of ideas, it is more problematic for them to do. They are not used to doing it and it is hard to find out whether you have been successful, is it not?
Ms Turley: I think that is why a lot of local authorities are struggling. They are falling back on safeguarding agendas, wellbeing agendas and often anti-poverty agendas because that is what they know in terms of protecting the vulnerable. They are not properly equipped and do not have the right support and the right training to focus money on these issues, or the right links with the security services.
Q16 Dr Pugh: How within Muslim communities is the Prevent agenda seen? Do they see it as just another mechanism by which some degree of social support and effort at social cohesion takes place?
Ms Turley: It varies. In our experience from a local authority perspective, some find they have built excellent links. They have reached out to communities they have not traditionally engaged with. Others simply will not engage, do not want anything to do with the money and call it so-called blood money and are using it almost themselves as a tool to soak up alienation, fear and mistrust of the state, of the government, local government public services. It has just become a running sore, I think, in building relations between local authorities and communities in many areas.
Professor Cantle: I think local authorities are trying to avoid using the label "Prevent" in their programmes. They are trying to integrate Prevent moneys into other programmes so that it no longer appears as though it is coming from purely the one perspective. They are trying to broaden it out. They are being demanding and have had some success in applying it to far right and other groups. I think the recent, very welcome guidance from John Denham to local authorities in August to broaden out the Prevent agenda has helped that but, by and large, we found all Muslim communities very reluctant to engage with the Prevent agenda. Some have, as you have heard, I think for different reasons but there is this huge reluctance because of the single minded focus on them.
Chair: Can we just explore a bit further the local authority or central direction angle on this?
Q17 Alison Seabeck: Has government struck the right balance between central and local government involvement in this programme or not?
Mr Husain: That really is the nub of the
matter. The thrust of the big picture
set by a
Ms Turley: I would try to defend local government at this stage because I do think many of them often know their areas much better than central government. They know the challenges they face. They desperately want to be the place shapers, the people who can protect the vulnerable and their communities and keep their public safe. That is what they are there to do. I think they want the funding and they want to use it in the right way to reach out to these communities and I think it is right that it is done through the area based work and they have the flexibility to decide how that is used. However, you have to have the proper support from the police, from the security services, to help them understand where to target this, how to use it and where the problems are, because they are struggling at the moment without knowing where the hot spots are really. There is a willingness there. There is a desire to do better and there is a strong community basis which you can only get at local level. It cannot be dictated from the centre, but you also have to have that communication fed back up as well. Central government and the central security services have to know what is happening at local level as well and I think it is part of the disconnect we have in this country between central and local that we are not seeing proper communication going through.
Q18 Alison Seabeck: Much of the evidence says that people are seeing this money as being state down, directing local communities as to how they spend it. We have heard from Ms Turley saying we need to have a bit more freedom so that we can spread it more widely. Mr Husain, I think you said this: it is not just focused on Muslim communities, but we look more widely at other potential groupings that might be drawn into terrorism of one sort or another. Do you see a way through this if we stay with the Prevent programme, or do you just feel that central government ought to offer local authorities a bit more flexibility in this field?
Professor Cantle: I think there has to be a
separation of the Prevent agenda from the counter-terrorism strategy. I think the counter-terrorism strategy has to
be much more nationally directed, police led.
What local authorities should focus on is a much broader programme of
preventing any violent activity in any community. The tension monitoring arrangements which
they have in place at the moment are comprehensive. When we talk to local authorities, often they
are worried about gang violence or violence between different communities or,
yes, far right violence. They have to
try and reconcile all of those different pressures and deal with them in a
proportionate way. They therefore have
much broader based programmes and would find it very difficult to focus on some
of the very specific concerns of Muslim communities without getting drawn into
some of the counterterrorism activities. Bear in mind that in
Q19 Mr Slaughter: I am persuaded that the current intention and actuality of Prevent are entirely misconceived from both ends of the spectrum. I am not entirely persuaded by your alternative, if I have understood it, which is that it is very clearly directed ideologically at re-education or persuasion. That sounds as if it might work in Saudi but I am not sure that that is going to work. It might be even worse. We get a lot of briefings from your organisation and other organisations. A lot of those seem to be constantly critical of other organisations and what they say or individuals in that way, which may be interesting in a technical way but how on earth is that going to resolve issues of terrorism in particular communities?
Mr Husain: It is part of the process. If the thinking of Muslim organisations now does not end, the wallowing in victimhood, the blaming on foreign policy, the desire to be seen constantly as bullied, if that is not changed and the narrative reshaped, if the discussion does not occur and we do not see the bickering that you are seeing at the moment, I do not think we will be in a healthier space. If, God forbid, there is a terrorist bomb that goes off in the next two or three months, I think people rightly will ask what did people like us in this room do about it. In order to have the right answers at that time, I think the Prevent programme must stay. The options without the Prevent programme would be to somehow talk about this or put the pressures on necessary places which to me seem inconceivable.
Q20 Mr Betts: Can we just talk about the race relations industry? We have an Islamic experts industry now which you are part of. In relying on advice from people like yourselves, is this really getting views that reflect the views of the Muslim community as a whole?
Mr Husain: Why do you go out and seek
opinions of the Muslim community? The
Muslim community is no different from any other community. Muslims are British citizens like everybody
else. Their concerns are the same as
anyone else's concerns. I think the desire
Professor Cantle: I think what we have to do is to show that we are not just interested in the Muslim community as Muslims. They suffer disadvantage. We need to tackle some of the inequalities. We need to tackle the fact that many of them, rather like young people more generally, do not vote. There is a democratic deficit and we need to tackle them much more widely, as with all other communities. At the moment, the Prevent agenda creates the impression that we are just interested in one thing. We are pursuing that through the Muslim identity, yes, with the relevant experts as part of that process, rather than being interested in the things which we should be interested in, in other aspects of their identity and disadvantage.
Q21 Mr Betts: You all think that you are right to be advising government on these matters obviously. Are there any organisations government should refuse to engage with and on what criteria?
Ms Turley: I guess I am here representing the local authority perspective of those who are given the responsibility of using this money and trying to help build the kinds of communities that we want to live in. They have a very difficult balance to strike. They are not there to represent any particular portion. They have to be very careful who they deal with, that they do not always deal with the same people. They have to be fair in the way they distribute resources. All these pressures on them in the way they try and manage their local places. Going back to the original question, I do not think they would see themselves as having a particular message on the Muslim community but about their places as local areas that have identities and the kinds of communities they want to support and build.
Q22 Chair: The question was: are there any groups that local authorities should not be engaging with.
Professor Cantle: In my view, no. I think you have to have the widest possible engagement with groups and that means sometimes dealing with very marginalised, difficult groups. I am thinking here across all communities in order to try and make sure that you understand the pressures on people from all different perspectives. I think it is extremely dangerous to try and refuse any particular group because you are obviously going to fail to hear some of the voices that probably are the ones that you most need to hear.
Mr Husain: Much depends on what you mean by "engagement". If engagement means financial backing, then I think there should be limits on who the taxpayer funds. If engagement means sharing a platform with, then I think it depends on what a politician or a government minister is saying at that platform. If they are bolstering the case for parliamentary democracy against those - and they exist - who stand against parliamentary democracy, then the framing of the debate needs to be such that endorsement is not given but critical engagement happens. Much depends on what we mean by "engagement", when it happens and why it happens. I think it is difficult for us to give a straightforward yes or no answer.
Ms Turley: We have to remember the importance of local, political leadership as well. Local authorities have to make these decisions all the time. If they choose to take a difficult position, then they will face their public at the next election. Those are the kinds of things they have to juggle. I think the fundamental thing here comes back down to the point about information sharing. Local authorities do not always know who they are dealing with until perhaps something reaches the papers. The importance of working with the police and intelligence services is absolutely critical for them to know who they are funding, who they are working with and enabling them to make the decisions they need to make.
Chair: Thank you very much indeed.
Memoranda submitted by the Muslim Council of Britain, the An Nisa Society
and the Islamic Human Rights Commission
Witnesses: Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain, Ms Humera Khan, An Nisa Society, and Mr Massoud Shadjareh, Chair, Islamic Human Rights Commission, gave evidence.
Q23 Chair: I think the three of you were here in the previous session so you heard what I said about how we will take into account the written evidence as well as the oral evidence. We do not have to cover everything in your oral evidence. We are time limited, obviously. The first question again is whether you, from your viewpoint, think it is appropriate that Prevent is part of the CONTEST, counter-terrorism strategy and whether CLG should be involved.
Dr Bari: I think anything that
conflates community cohesion with security has problems. Anything that has conflation of community
cohesion and security has a problem because community cohesion is a totally
different thing. So far, what we have
seen is that CONTEST has been conflated with community cohesion is what it is
about. We have serious reservations about
this. Our report from our
Ms Khan: I am in place of Khalida Khan who is our director. She is not feeling well so I am here in her place. She is the expert so if there is anything in particular that I cannot answer then she has to. As an organisation we feel very strongly that Prevent should not be part of community cohesion for a number of different reasons which have been stated in our submissions already, but primarily for the reason that a whole community cannot be made responsible for the acts of a minority. It is unprecedented in this country. I personally have grown up in the London Borough of Brent. I lived through the troubles at the time of the IRA and also the race riots in the seventies and eighties. During all those times never was the entire community made responsible or accountable for the actions of a few. What is also unprecedented at this point, following 7/7, is that there are no real, meaningful strategies to work at looking at where the barriers have been within the local engagement with communities, what is leading to the disengagement of Muslim communities, the radicalisation on the ground, why are our young people susceptible to certain types of ideas. We have not had any kind of real, meaningful engagement at the local level to understand that. The government and local authorities have lost the opportunity certainly from the time of the Cantor review, which I was part of, of not identifying institutional Islamophobia. We did hear people talk about that across the country when we went visiting but the report did not reflect that. I think we lost an opportunity at the time of the Cantor review to actually take the bull by the horns on the issue of institutional Islamophobia to have some policies in which may not have prevented 7/7 but would have created the engagement with local authority that we would have needed in order to make the Muslim communities feel that they have a stake in this society and maybe that they can work more cohesively, constructively and more harmoniously with the authorities who are dealing with the crisis that we have had since 7/7.
Q24 Chair: Mr Shadjareh, can I maybe ask you to amplify on what I asked before? As well as considering whether Prevent should be part of the counter-terrorism strategy - and I suspect you are going to say no - how do you think that cohesion work might contribute in any case to reducing levels of radicalisation?
Mr Shadjareh: I personally think that one of the main problems is alienation of the Muslim community which has amplified in the last few years. If anything, rather than trying to address that issue, all these policies including Prevent have alienated the community even more so, identifying the whole of the community as possible terrorists with the criminalisation of the community, creating them into this outside community. Mosques, centres and organisations, when they are being asked to bid for Prevent, have to acknowledge there is a major problem in the community. Most of them do not believe there is. There is this double standard both in the community and also on the government's part. On the government's part we are also hearing that this is not a problem with the Muslim community, but the way that they have been dealt with is taking a whole blanket approach to the whole of the Muslim community. I think it is counterproductive. Also I think it counterproductive from the point of view that when you are dealing with intelligence and intelligence agencies they need to talk to the very people who are more likely to be a threat. Prevent excludes those people. In some ways the two things are completely counterproductive, because the intelligence needs to go to those specific groups. Prevent is saying that those groups should not be approached. I believe that it is counterproductive on many levels but, more than anything, I think one of the main problems has been from the beginning. We failed to identify what we mean by "extremism". I think that what we are really talking about is trying to stop a means of violence to address issues of concern or issues of grievance. There has been a failure to understand that aspect. We are dealing with a much wider, blanket problem or perceived problem in the Muslim community.
Q25 Alison Seabeck: Do you think therefore that the attitude of the non-at risk groups towards communities that are seen as more likely to be or perceived as harbouring violent extremists needs to be dealt with more vigorously? Clearly, their attitude in a sense can increase feelings of disengagement and exclusion within minority communities.
Mr Shadjareh: Yes.
Q26 Alison Seabeck: We are not looking across the piece is what you are saying?
Mr Shadjareh: Yes. I agree. We have failed to address this main issue of engaging the community. As my colleagues were also saying, I think the whole of our attitude of anti-terrorism and Prevent or even cohesion has been on exclusion rather than inclusion of the communities. That is very dangerous. We need to understand that every single Muslim organisation, with the exception of very, very few, condemned this and they were partners in fighting this. They excluded a whole lot of them. We only wanted to listen to the music that we like to listen to. Afterwards we went into it further and created an organisation that will specifically play the music that we want to listen to. That is really not going to address the issue. If anything, we will exclude the main community even further. Something needs to be done to make everyone a stakeholder in our society because that is very important.
Q27 Chair: Can I just tease out this point slightly more? I think we would all agree that we should be trying to engage every part of the British community in the wider community. That is what community cohesion is all about, but what I am not quite clear about is whether you are suggesting that by so doing, in relation to the Muslim community, that would have any effect whatsoever on the small number of Muslims who are engaged in violence.
Ms Khan: In a sense, the Prevent
strategy is already a strategy once the horse has bolted. It is already too late. The 7/7 bombings were symbolic of the fact
that the lack of investment in the past has resulted in this tragedy. My own personal view is that there is no
reason why anyone in
Q28 Chair: Can we try and focus back on the question I asked in the first place, which is: are you contending that that disengagement of the Muslim community as a whole has then contributed to the small number of people within the Muslim community who have involved themselves in outright violence? Yes or no?
Ms Khan: It has contributed but I am not saying it is necessarily the major factor. It created the arena for young people to disengage. I am trying to explain to you. The personal disengagement did not happen overnight so the process of re-engagement is not going to happen overnight. If you want to re-engage, you have to re-engage in the proper mechanism.
Q29 Chair: If you are suggesting that the disengagement of the Muslim community as a whole has somehow contributed to a small number within the Muslim community becoming violent, that would suggest that re-engaging with the entire Muslim community, which is what Prevent is trying to do in a sense, is actually a good strategy.
Ms Khan: No, because what it is trying to do is re-engage with the Muslim community on the issue of counterterrorism.
Q30 Mr Betts: How do we then engage in government bodies, whether they are national or local, with the Muslim community? There has been criticism in some of the evidence we have had about the representative organisations so-called that the government does engage with and the feeling that perhaps they are not representative and are not really engaging at all properly with the Muslim community as a whole. To engage with the Muslim community as a whole is a massive job, is it not, because you say there are so many different variations of interests and views within that community?
Dr Bari: Muslim communities are very diverse and evolving. Before the disturbances in the three northern cities in 2001 this community was praised by everyone for what it has been doing, contributions in many areas, in spite of all the difficulties. 7/7 suddenly came and there must be some reasons for that. There is no reason for violence or terrorism or criminality but unfortunately our community also has a disproportionate number of the prison population compared to our own population. That is the reality, for whatever reason. There will always be a minority of people who would probably go for this violence, extremism or terrorism. What all of us should do, community organisations, communities, the government and everyone, is try to engage with everyone who does not break the law. That is the important thing. What is happening with the Prevent agenda is there are community organisations they support but they are not representative enough so produce some new organisation. Some new organisation comes with no background of serving the community or working in the community and the money is spent. This has created an envy from the other communities. I work with different types of faith groups. Many non-Muslim faith groups envy us that we are getting lots of money. At the same time, it is also creating internal division in our community, envy within the community, because money is going to certain groups of people because they probably listen to the government. This may not be right. Other organisations may represent this chunk of the community. They do not get anything or they do not apply for that. There is an environment of envy and lack of confidence has developed because of this Prevent funding.
Mr Shadjareh: I think the first basis of engagement is on the right basis. The way that we are being engaged as the Muslim community now is we are looked at as either terrorists, possible terrorists or possible future terrorists etc. On those premises you cannot really have a positive engagement with any community. The problem is, as my colleagues were saying, that real infrastructure of inter-communication between local authorities and the community has failed. Also, there is another issue that we have failed to understand, that there is a perception, although sometimes denied, that Islam is the cause of terrorism. We are looking at the concept of the philosophy that the end justifies the means as a main cause of terrorism. Any community or any group believes that the end justifies the means. Then they would end up becoming a terrorist. Indeed, within the religious community of not just Muslims and others, the concept that the end justifies the means is non-existent because as a religious faith group, like others, we believe that we are responsible for the means. The end is in the hands of God. Therefore, Islam in this form is practised by a majority, not specific groups that you target or engage with. I believe that. I think that has been again another opportunity that has been missed as a means of addressing this problem. The whole thing has been mixed up with cohesion etc., anti-terrorism, Prevent and so on. Now, we have a policy which is alienating people. Alienation does not automatically turn to terrorism but alienation does contribute to some who might become terrorists and some might just go into themselves and create other problems in our society. We keep on saying that people should not have grievances. People in the real world do have grievances. Even if the grievances are not appropriate, still they have the right of having those grievances. What we could ask as a society is to make sure that those grievances are going to be addressed within the means of civil society and democracy rather than anything else. For that, we need to create and support organisations that are getting involved in the community, promoting that sort of concept rather than just saying that you should become passive and therefore be a good citizen. That is another area that is really counterproductive to what we are trying to achieve, getting people engaged and giving them the tools of being good citizens.
Betts: I live in a constituency where there is a
mixed population in part of it from
Mr Shadjareh: It is a problem. I go and give talks in the schools and when I
go into schools I find in one classroom the black children in one corner and
Bangladeshis in one corner. They are all
sitting down in their own corners. This
is a challenge going beyond the issue of terrorism. It should be addressed. After the
Ms Khan: I think this whole thing about community cohesion is a bit of a red herring. I grew up in the London Borough of Brent. I went to school in Kilburn. I went to a comprehensive. It was not great. I loved it. There was the social life, but we were very diverse. Education was not our priority. It was an extremely diverse community that we had there. At a very human level we got on with each other. We knew for example the Muslim girls can do this and the Jewish people could do that. The Spanish could not do this. Italians could not do that. The Catholics had this. We knew how that all worked at a human level amongst ourselves as young people. What happens is it becomes a systemic problem because the system does not know how to harness all the potential of all this diversity. How do you acknowledge all these different people? I think the illusion about community cohesion is that, just because you say, "Okay, give the funds and we will create the space for people to come together; therefore they should" for community cohesion to work people all need to be equal. We all need to be able equally to feel that we are part of the process. We are able to articulate ourselves and be heard. For example, one thing I have said in the past is, for me as a Muslim to be engaged, I would like to be able to say one sentence that I usually say in 10 or 20 sentences. The only way I can explain who I am, where I come from, I need 20 sentences to explain what otherwise somebody might say in one sentence because society as a whole understands where some of these other communities come from. They have that understanding. Another example is, if you say a white male rapes a woman, we do not suddenly say all white males are rapists but if you see a minority, particularly now if you see a Muslim person who does something wrong like rape somebody, because of the images that we have of Muslims which are all negative, we immediately put them in that box. Therefore, we need to create a dialogue between understanding where our perceptions of understanding of community comes from and remove the barriers, stereotypes and prejudice from that. The problem is we do not have a systemic process in place. We have not had that historically. For Muslims to be seen for ourselves and understood and to look at what institutional Islamophobia is, like we have done in other communities, it does not mean that you solve all the problems but you give the space for ordinary people in the community to have the framework in which to work. For me, I do not think community cohesion works in the way that we talk about it.
Chair: We are not actually supposed to be discussing community cohesion in this session. We are supposed to be discussing the Prevent programme.
Dr Pugh: Could I follow through on something Mr Shadjareh said which I think follows from what Mr Husain said before? Mr Husain suggested in the earlier session the fact that we have to fight a battle of ideas. What you seem to be suggesting in your response is this battle of ideas is not just purely a battle about Islamic ideas, the reference to text and so on; it is a more fundamental battle about how you behave as a civilised being. You mentioned the end and the means, an ideology which has to be contested no matter what the religion is. In a sense, you are giving some marker as to how to fight the battle of ideas. We do not need to be
experts on the Koran to do it.
Q32 Chair: Can I focus you on this: if we are all agreed that there are some individuals out there who are more likely to become extremists than others - not just Muslim extremists but BNP type extremists, animal rights extremists, whatever - how do we identify those individuals rather than just dealing with groups as a whole and hoping you vaguely hit the individual?
Mr Shadjareh: Identifying them is a security issue. If there are people like that in any section of the community - and there are extremists, the extreme right etc., - that is an issue that security needs to deal with. It is not something that the communities or councils and so forth could deal with. If you are talking about how we could minimise that type of engagement, we need to promote other engagement and give other avenues for people to deal with their grievances. If we do not do that, we are pushing more people to issues of extremism. This is a natural concept. I think we have failed in creating those avenues. What we are saying and hearing from politicians is that people should not have grievances. I am sorry; people do have. My whole family and my children have grievances in the house and so forth. We as human beings do have grievances. Some are right and some are wrong but they need to be addressed within appropriate means. I think it is essential because even nowadays governments are involved in the concept of the end justifies the means. We need to say that is something that is unacceptable in any form. This leads to violence which is unacceptable.
Dr Bari: Any security issue is a matter for the security agencies, the police and definitely society and communities should cooperate with them because it is the overall security of society. The nature of a dynamic and living society is that society is vigilant. There are ways of engaging people who can think of doing something atrocious to society because societies are not full of NGOs, so good parenting, good education, good moral education and citizenship in schools. There are many, many ways that we should all engage with every society but the most important thing is every community should be treated with respect. Us and them does not help.
Q33 Alison Seabeck: You will have heard the witnesses earlier talking about the relationship between central and local government and the fact that there was a view that local government was not equipped to manage this programme or to identify potentially organisations and individuals that might be encouraging terrorism. Do you have a view on that?
Ms Khan: One thing is about them not being equipped. The question is: are they the right place for it, as people have been saying. Certainly we do not think that it is the job of local authorities to act as a policing agency. The job of local authorities is to engage with their communities, provide services and therefore represent their communities and their needs. In some respects you could say local authorities have failed the Muslim community because they should already be having an understanding of the Muslim community and what their issues are. I would throw the thing back to local authorities and say, "Why have you not understood your local communities? Why have you not already engaged?"
Q34 Alison Seabeck: Do you not have a sense that they are being directed from the top down and therefore it is outside their control, as some of the evidence suggested?
Ms Khan: In our experience locally in Brent, we found that the way this policy has been implemented has been that local authorities are seeing it as a little bit of extra money for them. They are given that little bit of extra money to do something that they should be doing anyway, but they will get this extra money to do whatever they are doing without really putting into place in the man consultation processes, accountability; there is no transparency. There are whole ways that these things have not been done appropriately. They do not even know how to implement it.
Q35 Alison Seabeck: Does that perpetuate rivalry between different groups to see money going to different places, as was also alluded to in earlier evidence?
Ms Khan: Historically, whenever government gives to particularly minority communities following a crisis, pots of money like this, it has been at the time of race relations when lots of money is pumped in to certain types of groups or whatever and of course it created tensions and conflicts. By definition when you do that it is going to create conflict. I would just like to add that the Muslim community did not ask for this money. The money was given by the government's own criteria, whatever it decided. In the main, certainly when it has come to a local level, it has been imposed on them. We as an organisation were persuaded to go for this money as pathfinder and then we decided not to take it because we could see the implications of it. We only agreed to it with our local authorities. We said to them that the only way we would do it is if you then begin a strategy with us on how to mainstream outside Prevent the issues to do with the Muslim community.
Dr Bari: I think local authorities may not be fully aware of what is happening in their area. I have seen, through my interaction with our affiliates and communities, they are probably far more aware of their local communities than central government. What happens sadly is some of the local authorities were not told they could take this money. I have some practical experiences and personal as well from my dealings with other affiliates. There was a lot of persuasion from central government for local government to take that money. There is some discrepancy between the central government perception and the local government which works with the local community. Wherever I have gone, local Muslim communities have worked quite well with local authorities. They have worked quite well with the local police. There could be mixed pictures but that is what I know in the whole of the country.
Mr Shadjareh: First of all, the problem is top down, putting on pressure. Secondly, it is not really identifying the need within communities and the need perceived in the government is based on anti-terrorism again. It is very counterproductive and negative. Also, it fails. There are many issues in the community which have been created or have been promoted and escalated because of what happened in 7/7 and 9/11. There are huge problems of Islamophobia in our community. There are mental health issues that have been created out of criminalisation of the whole community. There is no counselling available. There is no legal aid available. There is no help line available to help these communities. No money has gone into this area while we have spent millions in other areas and even internationally. The problem is that this money is earmarked in certain ways which are counterproductive and are not addressing the real needs of the community. Even local authorities are finding it unacceptable because it is turning them into police officers, watching for extremism when nobody knows what is the definition of extremism.
Chair: Thank you very much indeed.
Memoranda submitted by Forward Thinking, Ulfah Arts and JUST
Witnesses: Ms Huda Jawad, UK Programme Director, Forward Thinking, Ms Naz Koser, Chief Executive, Ulfah Arts, and Ms Ratna Lachman, Director of JUST, gave evidence.
Q36 Chair: I think some of you have been here at least during part of the previous evidence so you have heard what the previous witnesses have been saying. I will just repeat the bit about the written evidence also being included, so we do not need to cover absolutely everything. Can I start on the issue of who is giving advice to the government at the moment and information on the issue of preventing violent extremism and ask first really who you believe the government should be talking to and whether you think that organisations within the Muslim community who are seen to be advising government on this issue are then somehow delegitimised with the rest of the Muslim community.
Ms Jawad: I apologise if any of this is repetitive but in answer to the question that you have asked what we have found since 2005 is that there has been a process by which information about the Muslim community or things that are appropriate with regard to engaging with the Muslim community has changed from consulting a wider group of stakeholders, if you like, to a narrowing down. I feel it has come to the point where information is listened to depending on the organisation you claim to represent or the way in which you claim to engage with government. In my experience, I believe that the advice government has been getting about engagement with the Muslim community has been quite limited. Engagement with the diversity of the Muslim community has not been reflected in the process of consultation, ministerial advice and reaching out to Muslim communities. I feel that there is an agenda being played by various Muslim organisations to influence government policy and to claim to have the representative voice of the Muslim community rather than to say that we are a diverse group of people that cannot be represented by one strand of Islam or by two or even three organisations within the country. My personal opinion would be that the process of advice and consultation has been extremely limited to the detriment of Prevent.
Ms Lachman: For me, what has happened with the Islamic Council of Britain and the Quilliam Foundation is symptomatic of how the government conducts itself. Where there are messages that it does not want to hear or does not like to hear, those are the organisations that are marginalised. Those organisations refer back to the government in terms of the messages it wants to hear are the ones that it prefers to listen to. I think that is replicated in the local arena too. If you are going to have a meaningful dialogue, you need to understand the notion of radicalisation. It is important that you are speaking to a diversity of organisations, not just those who perpetuate the moderate version of Islam that the government is most comfortable with. I think, in terms of who is advising the government, it is those organisations that mirror back the government's views. Secondly, I also think that because the police are such key drivers at a local level together with your counterterrorism officers and the intelligence services, they become the funnel through which what is happening in the community is funnelled back to the government. Whether you look at the assessment of the NI35, whether you look at tension monitoring, whether you look at the conversations that are happening around CDRP tables, it is the police who are leading the agenda. They are the ones who are assessing the intelligence and they are the analysts who then feed it back to the government. It is not just about Muslim organisations, we need to remember that the police are key drivers in terms of how that information is being translated.
Q37 Chair: Ms Koser, can you extend it to the local level as well. Do you think that those bits of the Muslim community that are being excluded could maybe force themselves back on to the agenda and into the dialogue?
Ms Koser: Yes, absolutely. Whilst I was listening to the other evidence I was thinking of how we could encourage this. IT and technology is at such a fast pace, and we have got things like Facebook and MySpace, tools like that, which we as organisations could use to take your message to young people and women's organisations and women that we work directly with to bring their voices forward. As an organisation, we try not to talk on behalf of the women and young people that we work with, we act as a broker so we bring those voices forward directly. Some kind of tool where other organisations could send that message out to their stakeholders, to women directly and encourage them, engages them in this debate a lot further.
Q38 Chair: Do you think there are specific organisations which are currently excluded from the government debate who ought to be included?
Ms Jawad: The obvious example is the MCB, but in my opinion and my experience there has been a trend to categorise organisations as either Islamist or not, and if you seem to have a political agenda or an organisation that has a political opinion about what is going on in the world yet retaining Islamic identity, that is seen as a threat and unacceptable version of Islam that we do not wish to deal with. That is at a central government level. At a local level there are different nuances, primarily because the faith agenda is so recent. What has happened in my locality is that previous race groups who talked on behalf of BME communities or race relations organisations have taken on the faith discourse without really having much experience of or articulation in faith matters, and I feel that has been problematic at the local level.
Q39 Alison Seabeck: Can you tell me whether or not you think there are risks in adopting an even more local approach to administering the Prevent programme? Would you have worries about local authorities' capacity to do it or would you be worried that the local police forces - the point you have just made - would be the key drivers?
Ms Lachman: My view is that the sooner the local authority moves away from the entire security agenda, the better it is in terms of restoring confidence and trust of the communities that it works with. It is critical that local authorities are service providers and it is critical that Muslims are seen as citizens who are service users, and their ability to leverage local authority services should not be predicated in terms of whether they are Muslim or not. There is a profound amount of challenges that local authorities have to face. We talk about place shaping, localism, engagement, and they cannot seriously be involved in those debates and do that in a leadership role if by the same token they are seen to be playing to another master who in some sense is on the opposite spectrum to the Muslim community. I think that the local authorities are between a rock and a hard place because they have a role as a service provider but, on the other hand, they are being pulled by the government towards a security and anti-terror agenda and are severely compromised.
Q40 Alison Seabeck: You do not think they are equipped for that role at all, and nor should they be?
Ms Lachman: I do not think you can say yes or no. It may be that some local authorities might be better positioned in terms of knowing their locality and where the issues are. I do not think that is the issue. We need to go back to ask what is the role of the local authority, and it is that of a service provider, that of leadership. Its role is to reflect the aspirations of the community. Its role is not to impose the aspirations of the government without engaging communities in that process.
Q41 Alison Seabeck: Ms Koser, you were nodding at that point.
Ms Koser: Yes. We have experience of our local authority contributing to local politics within the Muslim community. When you break it down there are 73, if not more, different sects of Islam and we all practise differently, we are all from different cultural backgrounds, and whoever gets funded everybody else is thinking, "They have been funded because of this, that or the other" and there is this conversation around Muslim women who are supported are women who wear hijab, not the women who do not wear hijab. All of these rumours are escalating at local level.
Q42 Alison Seabeck: Unhealthy.
Ms Lachman: As a result of these politics, what it has done is it has contributed not just to inter-ethnic divides between black communities and the Muslim community, but critically it has led to intra-ethnic divides between white and black communities. No local authority should be put in a position where it is seen as positioning itself with one community against the other because it is dangerous for the local authority to be embroiled in something like that.
Q43 Chair: Can you expand on this? A facile view would be to say that terrorism is a threat to all of us, so how can a programme that is trying to combat terrorism be seen as siding with one community or another.
Ms Jawad: The idea of transferring power to the local level is aspirationally welcomed. What it does miss on the ground is the actual factors and daily nuances that people in different geographical locations with different ethnic backgrounds and diversity of ethnic community actually go through. I know in the guidelines on Prevent it asks local authorities to attach Prevent to other local agendas, like community cohesion, youth services, leisure services, which I think is absolutely detrimental to these services but also to Prevent itself because what happens is every interaction with the state becomes through the lens of countering terrorism so, therefore, there is a great mistrust of any interaction. People are afraid to send their kids to school because they will be spied upon. That is the kind of misconception that there is. Another consequence of local authorities' inability to know their constituencies and also deal with the Prevent agenda has been that those who have been, if you like, given Prevent money, or in the eyes of the community co-opted into local authorities, have then been asked to be accountable by their own communities for actions by the police or by the government, to explain why a certain action has been taken against their own community by the police or the government. For example, should there be arrests made in certain localities then the people who have been involved in the Prevent agenda from the Muslim community are seen as agents of the state: "You gave information. It is your involvement in this that has led to the arrest of community leaders or young people".
Q44 Alison Seabeck: Would that not happen anyway even without the Prevent programme, that somebody would point the finger at someone and say, "Someone must have told the police"?
Ms Jawad: I think it is the way you engage with these organisations because in certain localities only certain community groups have been awarded funds to the detriment of others.
Q45 Alison Seabeck: That does suggest a lack of understanding of the diverse nature of Muslim communities on behalf of local authorities and central government.
Ms Jawad: The fact that local
authorities are asked to provide a service but also uphold a central government
agenda that is about policing communities, if you like, gives these mixed
messages where people feel they cannot trust any interaction with government. Finally, we, as an organisation, do a lot of
visits for civil servants to Muslim communities and we were doing a visit to
Q46 Dr Pugh: Could we have a bit of clarity on this. Are you saying that no money should be spent by the government in reducing the risks of violent extremism, in other words spend the money on something else?
Ms Jawad: Personally, I am not.
Q47 Dr Pugh: You are saying that some money should be spent by the government on preventing violent extremism, you are all saying that?
Ms Jawad: Yes.
Ms Lachman: I am saying that local authorities ---
Q48 Dr Pugh: You are saying that some money should be spent by the government on preventing violent extremism?
Ms Lachman: No, I am saying no money should be spent.
Q49 Dr Pugh: No money should be spent at all by the government on preventing violent extremism?
Ms Lachman: Not on violent extremism. I think that should be within the purview of the intelligence service, the security service, not within the purview of local authorities.
Chair: I do not think that was quite what John was asking. He was not asking whether local authorities should necessarily spend that money.
Q50 Dr Pugh: No, I think I made myself reasonably clear. You are basically saying that if any money is spent on violent extremism it should be spent exclusively on intelligence services and not any other attempts?
Ms Lachman: Policing, intelligence, security, that is where the money should be spent.
Q51 Dr Pugh: That is relatively clear. If anybody was going to spend money on violent extremism, you are suggesting local authorities are not well-equipped to do it and should not do it. Is that generally the case? And so far their efforts at endeavouring to do it have been fairly cack-handed and counterproductive.
Ms Lachman: Not just cack-handed.
Q52 Dr Pugh: I did say counterproductive as well.
Ms Lachman: I will tell you why it is counterproductive. We work with very young people, we do the Midbusters project in some of the most deprived wards, and I can tell you that a lot of the young people will not work with council youth workers because they do not know where that information is going. There is a real concern that if they say something wrong, for instance, they might be channelled into the Channel project, which is seen as a de-radicalisation scheme. There is a real concern in terms of the relationships of trust and confidence that used to be there with youth workers from local councils and I know a lot of young people who will not do that. From the point of view of youth workers, the fact that they have to sign information sharing agreements and are bullied and cajoled into sharing that data with other parties is a real problem. Where does that data go? Who is monitoring that data? How long is that data going to be kept? Where are the scrutiny mechanisms? Where are the accountability mechanisms?
Q53 Dr Pugh: To be fair, is that not an argument about how it is done rather than that it is done. Clearly if people have suspicions about what is basically a benign effort to get people more happily ensconced in their own community and less inclined to radical extremism and they are doing it in a way, that creates suspicion then it is not being done well. Would you accept or not that local authorities are huge organisations and they do a range of things, some of which are beneficial and we all appreciate, and some activities, like funding police forces and so on, are not always seen in quite the same way? There does not seem any reason why a big organisation like a local authority should not successfully do a number of different things and do them well.
Ms Lachman: I would suggest that it needs to do what it needs to do well, and that is be a service provider. That is its raison d'etre.
Q54 Dr Pugh: No, it is not. Local authorities do a range of things apart from providing services.
Ms Lachman: It is involved in CDRPs - Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships - it is involved in tension monitoring, so it is not that it does not have an overview in terms of what is happening in its locality, of course it has, it has very vital partnerships with the police and they are represented on the Local Area Agreement. That information flow is ongoing, but whether it becomes an extension as a security arm of the state is a completely different thing because I think that responsibilities and accountabilities should be very clearly earmarked. The police need to do policing, intelligence services need to do whatever they are doing in terms of intelligence gathering, and local authorities need to do what their role and responsibility is, and that is advocating for the communities for whom they are there. I am very clear about accountability and transparency in terms of function. This continuum that we have that you cannot hold them accountable any more is very dangerous for civic engagement, for local democracy, and the sooner we go back to first principles on accountability the better.
Q55 Mr Betts: I am not sure how far you are going with this. I can see an argument which says that local authorities should not have a structured and particular responsibility in the area of counter-terrorism, but surely when local authority officers are engaged with any members of the public in their job, if information comes to them both as a public servant and a citizen which they are concerned about they should have a responsibility to pass it on to the appropriate authorities.
Ms Lachman: I agree with that. They have a responsibility, as would I as a
citizen if I did find out. For instance,
Q56 Mr Betts: It is interesting information.
Ms Lachman: I will send you the information after about that.
Chair: Can you send that to the Clerk of the Committee afterwards.
Q57 Dr Pugh: I was going to reiterate the point that local authorities are not simply service providers, that is a false statement, because they do things like antisocial behaviour orders, for example.
Ms Lachman: Absolutely.
Q58 Dr Pugh: In a sense, what you are trying to say is that local authorities are trying to do two things which cannot be done together or we have not hitherto seen successful examples of that being so.
Ms Lachman: I think there are real tensions in that role. Local authorities need to have the confidence of the communities that they serve and if that confidence is lost then they cannot do what they need to do well.
Q59 Mr Slaughter: There does appear to be consensus, at least on this, that it is a waste of money. Do you all agree that the Prevent programme is a waste of money?
Ms Koser: I started my organisation in 2004 and at the time there was no mention of Muslim women, and that was my target group. What Prevent has done is make Muslim women very visible, so now if I want to do a tour up north I know a number of Muslim women's organisations and for me as an organisation in that sense it has been quite productive, but in relation to what the Government's aims are and what they are trying to achieve, that is something I cannot answer, I am afraid.
Ms Jawad: Personally, I think a lot of money has been wasted but I do not think it is a waste of money. Prevent has provided an opportunity for a lot of reinvigoration and the mobilisation of Muslim organisations at a grass roots level like never before. It is unfortunate that it is being done through the prism of counter-terrorism, but it is a form of public engagement that there has never been before on such a scale. In many ways it has forced government to seek the local voice. The question that I have is on the quality of engagement. When we were founded in 2004 our whole ethos was to bring the establishment to the grass roots community and vice-versa, and we do not need to do that any more because you can be engage fatigued by the number of ministers and policymakers coming to visit people and see local authorities or local communities. There remains the question of the quality of interaction that is important and the way in which accountability has in many ways never existed or been very opaque when it comes to Prevent. "Your project sounds good", but there is not an ability to compare. You can compare a football youth project in Luton and a de-radicalisation programme in Walthamstow, but you cannot make comparisons so how do you know what is or is not working. For me, the attachment of the counter-terrorism agenda to local issues like housing, leisure, youth work, has caused a lot of confusion for people. That demarcation that is not there has been suggested before and has caused many people to have a confused view where anything that sounds like it is dealing with Muslims must get Prevent money. Unfortunately, if you are a Muslim who wants to engage with the state on issues that do not have to do with Prevent there is nowhere for you to go, it is either through Prevent or nothing. It is all or nothing.
Q60 Chair: Ms Koser, I know that your activities are largely artistic and cultural ones. You seemed to be suggesting that you were happy to take the money and thought your projects were doing good things but they were not actually doing anything for Prevent. Is that your assessment?
Ms Koser: I took a while to engage with Prevent. I was listening to my community and they were very nervous and expressed quite a lot of concerns. I engaged with Prevent trying to access this bridge because I had experience firsthand in my life when my sisters were engaged in a group. I do not have the language to explain what happened but they became quite extreme which led to my family collapsing, hence my organisation was set up. I am very passionate about this issue. One of the things I realised from my personal experience was the isolation of my mother when my sisters were going through this process of where they were coming home with these really extreme ideas and forcing them upon the rest of the family. We were quite isolated and did not have anyone to go and talk to. You cannot go to the mosque and talk about it. They were using Islam and this is something that is our faith, we cannot question it. My mother was really isolated and did not know where to go. In the end she had a stroke and suffers from schizophrenia. That was a key thing for me and that was why I set up my organisation to target Muslim women to use arts and creativity as a way to bring them together rather than to say, "I am going to talk to you about religion and these are my views" and create that environment where people can talk about things. For me, the confusion is what is the government trying to achieve. I switch from community cohesion to something that is criminal, is a crime, and something that the police and counter-terrorism should be dealing with, not an arts organisation. When it comes to things like community cohesion and raising aspirations, those are things that my organisation can do. It is about being clearer when you are asking me these questions. If you are talking about community cohesion and supporting women to do with this issue then, yes, I do that, but in terms of have I taken your money and actually prevented extremism directly, no.
Ms Lachman: You have to listen to the local authorities. You have to ask yourself why is it that Bradford, where the northern riots happened, and Leeds, where the 7/7 bombers came from, are uncomfortable with the whole Prevent agenda and do not want to call it the "Prevent monies". They have completely distanced themselves from it.
Q61 Chair: When you say "they", who do you mean?
Ms Lachman: The local authorities.
Chair: Thank you very much indeed. You will send us the extra information that you mentioned. Thank you.