Communities Secretary John Denham today re-affirmed the importance of the Government supported Prevent programme and set out measures to further improve its effectiveness.
Prevent works by bringing the weight of the vast majority of Muslims who reject Al-Qaida inspired extremist violence to bear on the minority who would give the tacit support or verbal justification which can create the space in which terrorists recruit and act. Work like this has been an essential element of anti-terrorist work in many different contexts around the world.
Speaking to an audience of over 1000 frontline Prevent workers, Mr Denham said that that while Al-Qaida inspired terrorism is a serious problem that must be tackled, this issue can’t be seen as the defining issue for British Muslims, or for the Government's relations with Muslim communities.
Mr Denham made clear that Prevent cannot work as a Government programme imposed on Muslim communities - they need to feel ownership of the community based parts of Prevent and work as full partners in it.
He used his speech to re-state the Government’s commitment to Prevent and how it is looking to strengthen its work through a series of measures. This includes, in addition to existing Prevent funding, making £5million available so every local area in the country can, where necessary, have a comprehensive strategy for tackling all forms of extremism, including far-right extremism.
Speaking at the International Conference Centre in Birmingham, Mr Denham said:
"The success of Prevent depends on its effectiveness through public support and consent. To be more even effective it is important that we are as open, transparent and clear about the aims and work of Prevent to support local authorities in making what can be very sensitive judgements and to make sure that those whose support we need most have the trust and confidence they need to be partners in this work."
"In many ways, community cohesion - building a strong society with shared values and a strong sense of shared identity - is a broader and more ambitious aim involving every part of every community equally, not just Muslim communities.
"Prevent needs to remain focussed on preventing crime. There are aspects of Prevent that would never be included in a cohesion strategy. But there will clearly be circumstances, for example, involving young people in building stronger communities and establishing their rights as British citizens, where well designed projects can deliver."
As well as being clear that Prevent is a crime prevention programme that needs to be more transparent, other measures Mr Denham announced at the conference include:
- encouraging local authorities to move away from using labels and language which are creating unnecessary obstacles to participation by Muslim communities; and
- Providing more support for frontline Prevent workers through Government offices, direct-support when needed and sharing best practice and resources from within Muslim communities to tackle theological and ideological issues.
He stressed that Prevent will remain focussed on the particular challenge of Al- Qaida inspired violence, but local authorities and the police should use the new funding announced today, as well as the Connecting Communities programme and mainstream resources to ensure other forms of extremism are addressed.
Mr Denham acknowledged that the development of local Prevent strategies, aiming to ensure fellow citizens do not commit acts of violence against Britain or British people overseas and abide by British anti-terrorist laws, are complex and involve making difficult judgements about the activities and organisations to be supported. He stressed that Prevent strategies must be designed and delivered locally but he promised more support and guidance over the coming year.
Communities Minister Shahid Malik said:
"After visiting projects around the country, the Communities Secretary and I have been engaged in open and honest dialogue. Where criticism has been constructive, we've been willing to listen as this is key to improving the effectiveness of Prevent. Communities must have ownership, including Muslims, as equal partners in standing up to all forms of extremism."
Mr Denham made it absolutely clear that there should not be any covert gathering of information by Prevent projects and encouraged local authorities to move away from using labels and language which creates unnecessary obstacles to participation. He completely rejected accusations that Prevent is about spying on Muslim communities as not a single documented accusation of spying or intelligence gathering through Prevent has been verified.
Notes to editors
1. If you would like to know what Prevent is doing in your area, please contact Press Office for case studies such as the E-Safety Awareness course in Harrow for Muslim women who have children or work with young people. This training helps the women to know the signs to look out for in young people if they are risk of being radicalised online. Or the nationwide OneVoice project which, working with universities, encourages safe and structured debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
2. In August 2009, responding to constructive criticisms from local authorities and community organisations actively engaged in resisting violent extremism, new guidance was issued to local authorities by the Communities Secretary and the Home Secretary Alan Johnson to encourage local activities which develop and sustain shared values. This was in acknowledgment of the fact that the effectiveness of the Prevent programme could be reduced if the labelling of local activities or their restriction solely to Muslim Communities discouraged some groups from becoming involved. For further information please visit www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1321898
3. Connecting Communities is a £12million plan to reinvigorate and connect with those communities that are feeling the pressure from recession most acutely and ensure they are well placed to share fully in future prosperity and emerge stronger and more cohesive. For further information visit www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1357214
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