October 19, 2015Counter-Terrorism Prevent Marginalised and vulnerable groups
The Home Office’s ‘Counter-Extremism Strategy’, published today, raises fears over counter-productive effects in Muslim communities and the creation of a legal regime which offends the rights to expression, thought and religion.
Rights Watch (UK) considers that many of the measures to combat extremism set out in the Strategy will necessarily have a profound effect on the wider Muslim population of Britain. Powers to further intervene in schools and other educational establishments and for reporting by NHS and local authority staff will negatively and disproportionately impact the lives of Muslims throughout the country. They will also impact the public service providers tasked with a quasi-policing role and – while the Strategy advocates community cohesion – it risks creating an atmosphere of distrust in relationships between public service providers and the public. The current Strategy builds heavily on Prevent, part of the government’s current antiterrorism strategy. Prevent has not been fully reviewed and many of its initiatives are widely criticised and have resulted in unfair targeting of Muslim students and in the family setting.
More broadly too, many of the measures in the Strategy amount to censorship and risk offending against the rights to expression, thought and religion, which surely among the ‘fundamental values’ to be protected. Censorship of ‘extremism’ cannot be allowed when ‘extremism’ is framed so loosely and broadly as to embrace ‘the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.
Yasmine Ahmed, Director of Rights Watch (UK) says:
“In seeking to uphold so-called ‘fundamental values’ the government must not sacrifice the fundamental freedoms of expression and religion and create a species of thought policing which is anathema in this country. Government must work with the right stakeholders and ensure that they have a proper understanding of issues facing a diverse Muslim community in Britain. They must analyse how these measures may impact and marginalise large sections of that community and ensure any measures are proportionate and targeted.”
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