We within Faith Matters, have made the decision to disengage from any further association with the Redbridge Prevent Advisory Group. This group, which is meant to provide advice, support and scrutiny where possible on local Prevent programmes, now constitutes of some individuals who are part of groups who see nothing positive in Prevent and who regularly lambast counter-extremism work at every turn. Their position is nothing more than a form of posturing against the Government, whilst seeking to build a culture of victimisation within local communities.
Depressingly, allied to this, is the fact that the Home Office has an advisory role with Prevent Advisory Groups on a national basis. It seems that Home Office civil servants don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ around what is taking place in Redbridge and this highlights a depressing approach to countering extremism. It is the old tactic of seeking to ‘win over’ groups who frankly, want the legitimacy of being able to attack the Government through such platforms. It simply plays to their audiences that they have nurtured with a steady diet of fear mongering and victim baiting.
One of the representatives now being included is from a group that has actively attacked other projects, had a history of staff making antisemitic comments and which has sought to attack Prevent at every opportunity. It has also had associates promote the return of Hamas operative Khalid Meshal to Gaza with a narrative using Islamic verses. Another former supporter of the very group that is being invited to be on the Redbridge Advisory Group, promoted material that suggested that Israel should be ‘relocated to the United States’. Both had played a significant set of roles in the organisation that is now being given a seat at the table of the Redbridge Advisory Group.
The leader of Redbridge Council, Cllr Jas Athwal, has been steadfast in his desire to challenge and counter extremism and he has repeatedly said that all forms of extremism must be challenged. He has shown leadership in this matter and it is therefore concerning that officers and their counterparts in the Home office have approved the inclusion of an individual associated with such a group. This not only sends out the wrong message to those Muslims who have been attacked by such groups, it also sends a huge message to Jewish communities who have repeatedly spoken out against such groups. It says that their voices are being set aside in the battle against extremism, in order to ‘tick box’ engagement, whilst undermining the very values of tolerance, fairness and balance that we all seek to defend.