Scottish Charity may be Receiving Secret Anti-Terrorism Funds

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
21 December 2015

SACC has learned that a Scottish charity, Amina Muslim Women's Resource Centre (MWRC), may be secretly receiving funds from the Government's controversial 'Prevent' anti-terrorism programme, despite having pledged not to do so.

Amina MWRC has so far failed to confirm or deny that the funding it receives from the Scottish Government is linked to Prevent. This raises serious issues of trust, ethics and corporate governance. It also highlights the pressures that charities work under and the problems created by the Scottish Government's secretive approach to this kind of funding.

SACC is calling for urgent clarification from Amina MWRC and the Scottish Government.

The Prevent strategy is said to be intended to stop people turning to terrorism but has attracted widespread criticism. Prevent is Islamophobic. It undermines democracy by impeding campaigns against war and Islamophobia and casting suspicion on people who speak their minds. It is more likely to turn angry individuals towards terrorism than to turn anyone away from it.

Prevent is a UK-wide strategy. In Scotland it is headed by the Scottish Preventing Violent Extremism Unit (SPVEU), which is run jointly by Police Scotland and the Scottish Government.

Amina MWRC are listed as supporters of a statement launched on 30 September by the "Together Against Prevent" initiative that says:

"We recognise and condemn the damage that Prevent’s 'spot the potential terrorist' approach has made primarily in stigmatising and criminalising entire Muslim communities …"

The statement also says:

"We pledge to take no Prevent funds and support non-cooperation, wherever possible, with local Prevent programmes."

But Amina MWRC is currently running a series of workshops that SACC believes are very likely to be funded by the SPVEU, or otherwise funded by Prevent.

The workshops are called "Take Ownership" and are advertised as "discussing identity, islamophobia in the media, refuting ISIS and internet safety". They particularly target young Muslims and are presented jointly by Young Muslims Glasgow, the Islamic Society of Britain and Amina MWRC. One of the workshops was held at Masjid Al Furqan, in Glasgow, on 4 December. Others were scheduled to be held in Falkirk on 18 December and in Aberdeen on 20 December.

Safa Yousaf, of Amina MWRC, says that she designed, developed and delivers the workshops. When asked whether the workshops were funded by Prevent, she said only:

"Amina MWRC are funded mainly by the Scottish Government as well as other grant initiatives, RBS for example."

A further request for clarification, highlighting Amina MWRC's support for the statement against Prevent, has so far elicited no response.

Whatever the merits or otherwise of the "Take Ownership" workshops, Prevent's likely involvement should ring alarm bells. Prevent takes a very skewed approach to the issues dealt with at the workshops and usually tends to undermine engagement with progressive politics, and especially with the anti-war movement.

Prevent involves procedures for identifying individuals whose behaviour or attitudes are thought to indicate that they are at risk of radicalisation. These individuals can be referred through police to a "de-radicalisation" programme called Prevent Professional Concerns. This is the Scottish name for the programme called "Channel" elsewhere in the UK. Channel has proved extremely controversial, partly because of the flimsy grounds on which people have been referred to police, and partly because referrals have included very young children. No information is available on referrals to Prevent Professional Concerns in Scotland.

Prevent is widely regarded as toxic within the Muslim community. SACC understands that the Scottish Government is specifically asking organisations funded by Prevent not to display the Scottish Government's logo, contrary to the usual practice for projects that it funds. The Scottish Government has so far refused to disclose the names of organisations funded by Prevent.

Evidently the Scottish Government believes that some people would avoid involvement in activities linked to Prevent, and wishes to deny them the information on which to make that choice.

In the absence of further clarification, SACC cannot but conclude that it is much more likely than not that Amina MWRC is in receipt of Prevent funds.

Richard Haley, Chair of SACC, said:

"Amina MWRC has a long track record of valuable work. If it has indeed taken Prevent funds, its decision was very ill-judged. It needs to set the record straight.

"Amina MWRC was involved in a conference on Islamophobia that SACC and IHRC presented in Edinburgh on 12 December. Some of the organisations and individuals that supported the conference do not altogether support our views on Prevent. But our specific invitation to Amina MWRC to participate in a potentially sensitive conference session on Islamophobia in schools was prompted by our belief that Amina MWRC shares our refusal to work with Prevent. We feel let down.

"Because of the Scottish Government's policy of secrecy, the whole of Scotland's third sector is at risk of becoming infected by the distrust that already surrounds Prevent. If confidence is to be restored, the Scottish Government needs to come clean on who it is giving Prevent funds to.

"I hope that Amina MWRC will recognise its mistake, put its house in order and make a firm commitment to accept no funds from Prevent in the future."

SACC supports the "Together Against Prevent" statement. We have never taken any funds linked to Prevent (in fact, we have never received any government funding at all) and will not do so in the future. Glasgow-based charity Positive Action in Housing has confirmed to us that it supports the statement and that it takes no Prevent funds. The Muslim Women's Association of Edinburgh (MWAE) has also confirmed to us that it takes no Prevent funds.

[ENDS]

Notes For Editors

  1. SACC campaigns against Britain's anti-terrorism laws and on a variety of other human rights issues. SACC has argued for many years that Prevent should be scrapped and that people should not cooperate with it.
  2. The "Together Against Prevent" statement is at http://togetheragainstprevent.org/
  3. Our 2009 briefing on Prevent can be read at http://www.sacc.org.uk/sacc/docs/preventingwhat.pdf
  4. Our open letter to the Scottish Government on Prevent is at: http://www.sacc.org.uk/articles/2015/open-letter-scottish-government-prevent
  5. Our current policy on resisting Prevent is set out at http://www.sacc.org.uk/press/2015/resisting-prevent-sacc-statement . It says:
    "SACC shares the concerns felt by many people over recruitment to the Islamic State, especially of young people. We believe that this issue is best dealt with through free, open and informed discussion of all the issues surrounding the Islamic State and British policy in the Middle East and North Africa, conducted in an environment that is as safe as possible for all the participants. This cannot be done except in spaces from which Prevent has been excluded."