The Guardian reports that six writers and activists have pulled out of the Bradford Literature Festival, because it received funding from the Government’s Building a Stronger Britain Together programme.
Responding to the story, Sara Khan, Lead Commissioner for Countering Extremism said:
“Challenging extremism, hatred and prejudice is vital and important work in our society.
“I am working on a report into the current threat of extremism and what more we can all do to challenge it.
"I’ve toured the country, held numerous workshops, received 3,000 responses to a call for evidence and have commissioned almost 30 academics to write about extremism. I am in the process of reviewing the counter extremism strategy and looking at how it can be improved.
“I’m independent of Government and not involved with the Building a Stronger Britain Together (BSBT) programme. This makes me well-placed to comment on the Government’s counter extremism strategy and BSBT .
“Firstly the strategy itself is about bringing communities together to promote shared values and tackle the spread of all forms of extremism – including challenging the Far Right and rising anti-Muslim hatred, which disproportionately effects Muslim women. It has nothing to do with Prevent.
"I have seen absolutely no evidence to suggest, as one of the critics does, that it “relies on the premise that Muslims are predisposed to violence and therefore require monitoring and surveillance”. While it is right to scrutinise – as we are – if the funding is being used appropriately and as effectively as possible, it is alarming that such sweeping statements can be made.
“I’ve met many groups that do receive BSBT funding on my tour of the country. They are mostly small, community-led organisations who do inspiring work on a shoe-string.
"Many are Muslim civil society groups. I’ve met groups that give young people the safe space to have difficult conversations, building resilience against intolerance. I’ve met groups that bravely take a stand against hatred of all forms. I’ve met groups that work hard to build bridges between communities. Their work should be supported and praised, not denigrated.
“Unfortunately, instead they receive abuse and smears for doing this work. An Islamist website recently published the names of Muslim organisations being funded, leading to some of these groups facing harassment and hate.
“Extremism is a threat to our democratic way of life, these organisations make a huge difference and I believe they should be celebrated not castigated.”