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.”