Survey on UK counterterror program called into question

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Updated 03 March 2020

Survey on UK counterterror program called into question

  • Research finds higher-than-expected Muslim support, but methodology criticized
  • Prevent has long been controversial in Britain, with various think tanks, charities and religious groups condemning it

LONDON: A new survey that suggests British Muslims might not be as opposed to a UK counter-extremism program than originally thought has been called into question by human rights experts.

The survey, from the criminal justice think tank Crest Advisory, said its research reveals that the “narrative” of Prevent being a “toxic brand” is “fundamentally flawed.” 

Of those questioned, 55 percent of British Muslims and 68 percent of the general public were unaware of the scheme.

However, Crest Advisory said when respondents were given a “neutral explanation” of the program’s duties and powers, 80 percent of British Muslims and 85 percent of the general public offered broad support for it.

But Yasmine Ahmed, executive director of Rights Watch (UK), told Arab News: “The value of the report is questionable at best due to the structural biases inherent in the questions’ wording and the conspicuous absence of questions about the human rights harms caused. The import of the survey is even more inconsequential.”

She said: “It doesn’t require a survey for the government to know that a program that leads to the storing of children’s personal information for years at a time isn’t human rights compliant.” She added: “A genuinely independent review of Prevent is needed now more than ever, and distractions such as this one don’t detract from the very real structural flaws and human rights harms that are clearly documented and felt by impacted communities.”

Prevent has long been controversial in Britain, with various think tanks, charities and religious groups condemning it for an alleged discriminatory approach and excessive curtailing of civil liberties.

Danny Shaw, the BBC’s home affairs correspondent, said: “The finding that should cause most alarm among local authority safeguarding teams and counter-terrorism police is that most Muslims don’t know what Prevent is — major work is clearly needed to raise its profile.”

Crest Advisory’s research was funded by a charitable trust interested in policing and crime, but the organization was not revealed for security reasons.

The survey found that 67 percent of British Muslims said they would refer someone they suspected of being an extremist, which is higher than 63 percent of the wider public.

“Our findings appear to fly in the face of a number of narratives commonly applied to British Muslims by some politicians, campaign groups and commentators about extremism and efforts to counter it,” said report author and Crest Advisory Director Jon Clements. 

“British Muslims are, broadly speaking, no more ‘in denial’ about Islamist extremism and the threat it presents than the population as a whole,” he added. 

“Equally, it is evident that British Muslims appear to be just as willing to step up and report concerns about an individual at risk of being radicalized as everybody else.”

Shared experiences: Philippines, Libya eye stronger defense cooperation over Daesh

Updated 29 September 2020

Shared experiences: Philippines, Libya eye stronger defense cooperation over Daesh

  • Follows meeting between senior officials to discuss bilateral ties between two countries

MANILA: The Philippines and Libya are looking to explore opportunities for defense cooperation based on their “shared experiences” in fighting Daesh, the Philippines’ charge d’affaires and embassy head of mission in Tripoli, Elmer Cato, told Arab News.

“The Philippines and Libya could cooperate in such areas as counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing. We shared our experience fighting Daesh in Marawi and Sirte,” Cato said following his meeting with Libya’s Defense Minister Salahuddin Al-Nimroush on Sept. 21, referring in part to a five-month siege which pitted Filipino forces against Daesh-inspired militants, and the eight months of fighting to liberate Sirte from the group.

“In Sirte, a number of nurses were taken hostage by ISIS (Daesh) but later managed to escape. In Derna, four Filipino oil workers were taken and later executed, but their bodies have not yet been recovered. We continue to work with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in recovering the remains of our four countrymen,” he said.

He added, however, that the meeting — which included discussions on language training and military-to-military exchanges — was only “exploratory” and intended to see how the Philippines could expand ties “with one of our closest friends” in Africa.

“Cyberdefense was (also) brought up because the minister (Al-Nimroush) was an IT expert,” Cato said, before thanking him for giving the Philippine navy vessel BRP Gabriela Silang permission to enter Libyan waters and evacuate Filipinos “at the height of the fighting” in Tripoli earlier this year.

“We took the opportunity to express our appreciation to Libya for approving our request for the BRP Gabriela Silang to enter Libyan waters and dock in Tripoli, in case we needed to evacuate Filipinos,” he said.

Al-Nimroush expressed his appreciation for the Philippine’s continued presence in Tripoli through its embassy as “one of several countries that chose to keep their diplomatic missions open” and praised Filipino nurses and workers in the oil sector for their “important role” in Libya.

“The minister thanked us ... for being true friends of Libya. He said he and the Libyan people appreciated the fact that we kept our embassy in Tripoli open and allowed our people to continue caring for their sick and in helping them pump their oil. We told him that’s what friends are for,” Cato said.

He added that while Al-Nimroush “had been around Southeast Asia,” he never had the chance to visit the Philippines. 

“He told me ‘when I do get the chance to visit, I will go scuba diving in Palawano,’” Cato said.

The Philippines recently won the Best Overseas Diving Award 2020 during the 28th Marine Diving Fair held at the Sunshine City Convention Center in Tokyo, Japan. 

Cebu, Bohol, Moalboal, and Busuanga, all of which are teeming with whale sharks, snappers, dugong, and other exotic species, are some of the most popular diving sites in the Philippines.

Cato’s meeting with Al-Nimroush followed talks with Libyan Foreign Minister Faraj Abdelrahman Abumtary earlier this month, where the two discussed the state of Philippine-Libya relations and steps to strengthen bilateral ties. 

This was in addition to discussing the measures taken by Libyan authorities to ensure the well-being of more than 2,300 Filipinos residing in the country.