iCoCo response to the Government’s new Prevent strategy

The Institute of Community Cohesion (iCoCo) at Coventry University says that the UK Government’s new Prevent strategy is a missed opportunity and that a clear break with the past strategy was needed.

The coalition Government has failed to provide the clarity that it said was needed when it first took office and the new strategy does not provide create the necessary separation between counter-terrorism operations and the support which communities need to be able to refuse the lure of extremists who preach violence and anti-democratic agendas.

Consequently, the whole Muslim community will still feel that it is not trusted and is being spied upon by teachers, health workers, housing officers, voluntary agencies and many other professionals.

Professor Ted Cantle, founder and executive chair of iCoCo, said, “Instead of gaining the support of Muslim communities, the previous Prevent Strategy alienated the majority.

“This is exactly what we warned the last Government against and what the Select Committee accepted as being counter-productive, but it seems that the new Government has again failed to heed the advice and has followed the line of civil servants who seem wilfully to misunderstand the problems this approach is causing.

“This just drives the Muslim community – including the moderate majority – into the arms of militants and hardens their Muslim identity. The Government needs to defeat terrorism by focussing on intelligence led approaches and using real evidence to intervene, not targeting whole communities.

“It has at least listened to the advice to widen the anti-extremism work to include Far Right and other anti-democratic forces, but the problem is that this will simply be seen as window dressing all the time that the very good local cohesion and integration strategies are being drawn into surveillance and ‘spot  the future  terrorist’ speculative work.”

iCoCo is hosted by Coventry University and has led over 100 local reviews, including work with the many Muslim communities in England. Its recent report entitled Promoting Community Cohesion and Preventing Violent Extremism in Higher and Further Education was used in the review of the Prevent agenda and can be found here.

Professor Ted Cantle is executive chair of iCoCo and was responsible for the ‘Cantle Report’ in 2001. He was the first witness to give evidence to the Prevent Select Committee and is author of Community Cohesion: a new framework for race and diversity.