As the country recovers from the shock of the murder of MP Sir David Amess and those of us in public roles face personal safety concerns, I can’t help but think of reports that the suspect was previously under Prevent – the counterterrorism strategy I have been speaking out against for years.
Indeed, my vocal critiques put my own safety at risk.
Without going into too much detail, my survival in the 7/7 attacks in London was called into question, I was the victim of horrific online abuse and threats, and I was subjected to smear campaigns.
While it is shocking beyond belief that this behavior is common in a so-called democracy, I know that I am not the only person in our industry to experience such treatment.
In recent years, the government and ruling party politicians have sought to portray critics or opposing views as “awake”, “traitors”, “extremists” or “leftists”, among other terms.
This is a clear strategy for deflecting legitimate concerns and criticism from policies and arousing supporters: but an inevitable consequence of the ‘us versus them’ rhetoric is an increase in division in society – often with undue consequences. or violent.
Charities and other grassroots organizations were no exception.
We have seen complaints filed with the Charity Commission about charities seeking to tackle the history of slavery, racial inequality, or revise the information in light of the struggling society. to become more equal and aware of the privileges we enjoy.
In a liberal democracy, disagreement is inevitable and, on the contrary, debates are healthy when they remain civil. It is not healthy to stifle debate and present the other side as a threat to society when no violence or danger of any kind has been suggested.
Prevent’s speech was particularly toxic in this regard.
The ineffective framing and implementation of the government’s counterterrorism strategy is inevitable and cannot be masked by examples of cases where a person has successfully de-radicalized.
There have been too many examples of terrorists or violent criminals who were known to the authorities for a long time before they committed their crimes.
There are too many examples of young Muslims branded as “potential future terrorists” for no logical reason other than entrenched Islamophobia and personal prejudice.
Even individuals with learning or behavioral difficulties become targets for their âatypicalâ behavior.
My fellow anti-extremism and counterterrorism activists – indeed, anyone who has tried to elicit information or a substantive response from the government – will know how difficult it is to productively engage with managers who cannot accept criticism or failure of their strategies.
It seems that any approach that may contain the slightest hint of concession or admonition from past generations is automatically rejected by the government.
What is clear is that those in power are neglecting to listen to grassroots organizations at their peril, and the country’s peril.
Creating strained relationships with children’s charities, organizations responsible for the maintenance of our historic sites and community groups has no other useful result than to further divide society.
As we have seen too often and too violently, the last thing this country needs is more division.
Charitable organizations and other grassroots groups exist for the sole purpose of focusing on a specific policy area, topic, or demographics. By default, we develop extensive expertise in our work and have no other goal than to serve our beneficiaries.
Sidelining and oppressing such perspectives seems like an extremely short-sighted and haughty approach – one that can only end with devastating consequences for all that is dear to us in society.
Sajda Mughal is Managing Director of Jan Trust