Commenting on Crest Advisory’s report Listening to British Muslims: policing, extremism and Prevent released today, Sara Khan said “This important report based on quality research involving polls of over 1000 British Muslims, a control group of over 1000 of the general population and twelve focus groups held across England, Wales and Scotland, confidently challenges widely held assumptions about British Muslim attitudes towards counter-extremism.
Over the years repeated suggestions by politicians, so-called Muslim representative bodies and sections of the press that ‘the British Muslim community do not support Prevent’ have been categorically untrue. Instead a majority (56%) of the 1000 British Muslims polled had not even heard of the Prevent programme and when offered a neutral explanation of the programme 80% of them offered either qualified or unqualified support.
“When it has also been suggested that Muslims are indifferent to Islamist extremism and would not play their part in referring people to Prevent, again the evidence paints a different picture. The polls showed that the British Muslims surveyed shared the same level of concern as others about Islamist extremism with 63% being very worried or fairly worried. They would also be more likely to refer someone (66%) they know to the Prevent programme than the rest of the general population (63%) if they suspected they were being radicalised.
“When those on the Far Right often argue that Muslims hate Britain, are anti-Western and are engaged in “Islamisation,” Crest’s report disputes such an argument. On the contrary more than 76% of the British Muslims surveyed consider Britain to be a good place to be Muslims.
“When Islamists suggest Britain denies Muslims the ability to practice their faith or that Britain is an Islamophobic country, this survey showed British Muslims refuting such an argument, believing that Britain is a good place to live precisely because of our country’s commitment to freedom of religion.
“Crest’s report paints a striking picture of how the vast majority of British Muslims resoundingly reject the extremist views ascribed to them by both the Far Right and Islamists, yet too often their voices are drowned out by the extremists on both sides.
“These are important findings and complement the Commission’s own evidence. I have met many Muslims across the country who do support Prevent, are concerned about the threat of both Far Right and Islamist extremism and believe more needs to be done to counter extremism. Many are also playing their part in helping to build resilience against extremism and are defending the values of tolerance and freedom which extremists threaten.
“However questions need to be asked about the divisive role played by those politically or ideologically motivated organisations and Muslim leaders who have repeatedly presented a dogmatic and monolithic view about British Muslims and their attitudes. Some have even promoted the dangerous narrative that counter-extremism is ‘structural Islamophobia.’
“It has been unfortunate to then see some politicians, human rights organisations and sections of the press blindly accept such narratives and as a result inadvertently misrepresent the genuine diversity of views that exist among British Muslims. I am concerned to see how easily misinformation can make its way into the mainstream, be presented as fact and even influence policy. This is having serious consequences on how British Muslims are perceived.
“Crest show that some Muslims do have concerns about Prevent and would like the authorities to better listen to them. Engaging with these concerns is a vital part of building an effective counter extremism response. The report also highlights high levels of anxiety about Islamophobia and how the media portrays British Muslims. This was a concern I repeatedly heard across England and Wales and is presented in my report, “Challenging Hateful Extremism”.
“If Crest’s report tells us anything it is that those in power and influence need to get better at listening to the diversity of Britain’s 3 million Muslims as opposed to those who are shouting the loudest, many of whom are political activists or ‘community leaders’ who misuse their positions to promote their own worldview. There is no singular ‘Muslim community’ who hold a monolithic set of views; to suggest so is an attempt to erase the pluralism that exists among Muslims in our country and to deny their views as equally valid. National and local policy must always reflect this.”