New Humanist on drawbacks of “Preventing Extremism”

Mills and minarets (New Humanist)

A highly interesting piece (and not just interesting in the sense that it’s in this magazine and isn’t full of sneering at religious people) in the New Humanist, published by the Rationalist Association, on the failures of the government’s “Preventing Violent Extremism” policy in reaching young Muslims in places like Blackburn:

With citizenship comes the notion of having a voice in society, something Bano Murtuja believes young people of all ethnic backgrounds are denied. “At the moment, young people are learning that violence is an option, partly becuase they are constantly being told that they are, or people are scared that they will become, violent. The expectation for many kids is that they will end up with ASBOs; for other ethnic minorities it is knife crime, for Muslims the anxieties are all about Islamic radicalism. Those are the messages we convey to them on a daily basis. The problem is the fear that these kids will become violent also serves to present violence as an option. The government itself is radicalising Muslim youth.

“What we need is a complete change in tactics. We’re not going to change our policy on Iraq and Afghanistan, nor should we. We screwed up those countries and it’s our moral responsibility to sort them out. But we need to stop saying to kids who are angry, ‘You’re all going to become terrorists’, and start saying, ‘I hear you’re vexed. Let’s sit down and talk about it.’”

The disaffected youth who so struggle with identity often come from relatively deprived backgrounds, and in this respect the contrast between the US and UK Muslim communities that Aslan identifies could not be clearer than in Blackburn. “Muslims are from the 88 most socio-economically deprived wards in the country,” says Murtuja. “So why isn’t the government looking at education and health? The Muslim community is the youngest in the country, with the highest birthrate, so over the next 15 years a massive proportion of the British workforce will be drawn from that community. This requires the government to put resources into education, but they’re failing to do that. Rather than putting money into the education of Muslims for the sake of education, they’re doing it solely to prevent them becoming terrorists.”

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