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Anti-terror scheme doesn't deserve the co-operation of people in Scotland

SACC has published a new briefing on the operation in Scotland of the Government's Prevent programme for tackling "violent extremism." The briefing says that Prevent doesn't deserve the co-operation of people in Scotland, and that it could actually increase the risk of terrorism.

A report issued last month on the operation of Prevent in England says that "there is strong evidence that Prevent-funded services are being used by counter-terrorist police for information gathering." It also says that "Prevent is discriminatory in its sole focus on Muslims, with other communities involved only insofar as it is necessary to support the core objective of a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign among Muslims." The report, written by Arun Kundnani of the Institute for Race Relations, is the result of a six-month research project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

The new SACC briefing is called "Preventing What? How the Prevent anti-terrorism programme will affect Scottish society." It says that Prevent is still at an embryonic stage in Scotland. The briefing highlights the differences between the situation of Muslim communities in Scotland and those south of the border, and says that the Scottish Government's attitude to Muslims has "evolved under conditions far removed from the overheated and security-driven atmosphere that prevails in London." But it also draws attention to the potential conflict between Scottish Government policy and Prevent, and says that this "creates the conditions for a uniquely Scottish version of the fog of multi-faceted suspicion that surrounds Prevent in England."

The briefing says that the local roll-out of Prevent in Scotland appears to have gone furthest in Edinburgh and Lothians. The vehicle for this, it says, is the Edinburgh and Lothians Racial Equality Council (ELREC), a voluntary body and charitable company founded in 1971. ELREC has created a forum called the ACT Network (All Communities Together). ACT is sponsored by the Scottish Communities Against Violent Extremism Network (SCAVEN), a network created by the Scottish Government unit responsible for implementing Prevent in Scotland. ACT was launched in Edinburgh on 30 March 2009.

Prevent is joined at the hip to the UK Government's escalating war in Afghanistan. It simply isn't possible to fight racism while acquiescing in a colonial war. Community organisations in Scotland should refuse to accept Prevent funding. Groups in receipt of Prevent funding will have to work very hard indeed to mitigate the damage that Prevent will inflict on the rest of their work. Prevent funding is a poisoned chalice. The only antidote is a cocktail of clear thinking, straight talking and forthright opposition to the war in Afghanistan.

Key points from the briefing

  • Prevent is a counter-terrorism programme aimed, according to the Government, at "stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting violent extremism."
  • Prevent involves extensive surveillance and intelligence-gathering.
  • Prevent is racist; it almost exclusively targets the Muslim community.
  • Prevent treats Muslim opposition to the war in Afghanistan as if it were linked to "violent extremism" - even though most people in Britain oppose the war.
  • Prevent exposes professionals involved in implementing it to indoctrination with Islamophobic and pro-war attitudes.
  • Prevent makes it more likely that some Muslims may turn to terrorism, because of the way it manipulates and censors Muslim participation in civil society.
  • Prevent undermines efforts by Muslims and non-Muslims to work together on shared values, such as opposition to the war in Afghanistan.
  • Prevent initiatives in Scotland include SPVEU (Scottish Preventing Violent Extremism Unit), SCAVEN (Scottish Communities Against Violent Extremism Network), the Voices Scotland website and the ACT (All Communities Together) Network.

Stand up for your rights

  • Refuse police requests for information about normal political activity.
  • Maintain professional ethics about confidentiality of information on political activities.
  • Don't accept Prevent funding.
  • If you do accept Prevent funding (not recommended), don't let the money gag you.
  • Engage with people of all communities, in a spirit of solidarity, to resist war, racism and terrorism

Preventing What? - How the Prevent anti-terrorism programme will affect Scottish society" - download the full briefing (pdf document)

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