LONDON: A Muslim survivor of the 7/7 bombings targeting London called for an overhaul of the British government’s controversial counter-terrorism strategy.
Sajda Mughal OBE told British newspaper Metro on the 16th anniversary of the London bombings that she is dismayed at the government’s controversial Prevent strategy, which outlines the approach for countering radicalization and extremism.
A review of Prevent is being boycotted by more than 450 Islamic organizations who say that the program has curtailed freedom of speech, removed people’s civil liberties and criminalized communities.
The review is being conducted by William Shawcross, who has expressed Islamophobic views in the past, and the organizations say that he is unfit to be a neutral and fair assessor of the policy.
Mughal, the CEO of JAN Trust, an organization which supports marginalized women and young people and raises awareness of issues including counter-terrorism, told Metro the government is not doing enough to tackle hate and far-right extremism in British society.
“Having survived 7/7 and left the corporate world I’ve made my own differences on the ground in terms of the work I’ve been doing with communities but I have to say our government hasn’t done enough, particularly with the rise of far-right extremism and the division and hate in society,” she told Metro.
She also blamed the government’s slow response for a rise in hate crime and Islamophobia.
“If the government had worked quicker, we wouldn’t have had the rise of hate crime and Islamophobia. I don’t believe the agencies such as the government and the police have a joined-up and consistent approach,” the consultant and public speaker said.
The head of MI5 warned in October 2020 that violent right-wing extremism is a major threat facing the the UK, with more than a quarter of serious terrorist attacks stopped in the final stages linked to neo-fascist and racist groups.
“There needs to be a complete shake-up of the whole counter-terrorism strategy in order to make the UK a harmonious place,” Mughal said.
Mughal, who previously worked with the Home Office through her role at JAN Trust, slammed the Prevent strategy and said “it is not fit for purpose.”
“We’ve had Prevent for 16 years and finally it’s being reviewed, but as someone who’s worked previously with Prevent, I have no faith in the current review, it’s a tick-box exercise,” she said.
The program has been accused of criminalizing and stigmatising those it seeks to protect, such as an 11-year-old boy who was referred to the program after he told his class he wanted to give “alms” to the needy, which his teacher mistook for “arms.”
“It should be about the public’s lives being put first, but unfortunately that’s not that the case. On the inside, the Prevent department is about egos, promotions and personalities. You change things through the better through listening to criticism, if you don’t you just live in your echochamber, and that’s exactly what’s happened within counter-terrorism,” Mughal added.