Many of those who have heard me speak or present will have heard me suggest my annoyance at the flurry of Muslim organisations that are willing to ‘apologise’ for every Muslim incident wherever it might occur around the world to appease politicians. In fact, I’ve written about it on this blog a few years ago.
Admittedly, this is not always the fault of Muslim organisations: both the previous New Labour and present Coalition Government are guilty of dangling carrots in front of Muslim organisations asking them to leap through whatever hoops are put in front of them in the hope of eventually securing some of that carrot. In other words, to get a share of Government’s funding.
Not only does this internalise the problem for ordinary, everyday Muslims – the people the organisations allegedly ‘represent’ – but so too does is smack of insincerity. As the queue forms of Muslim organisations lining up to tell government – and indeed anyone else who’s listening – that they are ‘moderate Muslims’ so the next organisation is already preparing to set out their ‘moderate mainstream Muslim’ credentials whilst the next in line has planned to state that how they represent ‘moderate mainstream middle-of-the-road Muslim’. The next in line probably deny they are Muslims at all…!!!
Given this week’s widely criticised Prevent review and the assertion by the Coalition Government that it will only fund those (Muslim) organisations that subscribe to key ‘British values’ (whatever these may or may not be – the Coalition haven’t set them out as yet). As such, I presumed it would only be a matter of time before a queue began to form made up of those organisations ready to bend over backwards to commit to these unknown ‘values’.
And so it was no surprise to receive an email from MINAB (the Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board) entitled, ‘MINAB ready to support Integration and Prevent Strategy’. Of course, it is up to MINAB – and indeed every other organisation, Muslim or otherwise – to make their own decisions: I recognise that it has little to do with me. But when the review and the new strategy has been so roundly criticised, it does make me question whether the funding or the people/ institutions being represented are the most important to the organisations in question. Especially when MINAB – in this instance – is signing up to a set of ‘British values’ that it does not know what they are or even might be.
I accept that I may be being unfair so to enable you to make up your own mind, I reproduce MINAB’s statement below:
The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) welcome the refocused Prevent Strategy. This Strategy correctly highlights that Mosques can play an important part in supporting those vulnerable in society and in particular those who are being groomed for terrorism. The Prevent Strategy includes interventions to stop people moving from extremism into terrorist-related activity.
The Review highlights that significant progress has been made by communities to equip faith leaders with the skills and the qualifications to reach out to young vulnerable people.
It would be incredibly naïve for anyone to say that there is no further work required.
Maulana Shahid Raza OBE Chairman of the MINAB said:
“Mosques are not the problem. Like other faith institutions, they can play a substantial role in building a better society – provide safe places for those who are vulnerable, promote greater citizenship and challenge those who support hate and terrorism.”
There is no doubt that Mosques, Imams, other faith leaders and volunteers can play an important role to promote stronger integration and challenge ideologies that provide theological justification for hate and terrorism.
Terrorist recruiters target vulnerable people. By working together, the Government, voluntary and faith bodies can reduce the risk of radicalisation in our communities. We urge the Government to facilitate greater joint up working between voluntary organisations and other partner agencies to prevent radicalisation.
Faith institutions can play an important role in supporting schools, universities, health sector, police, social services, and the criminal justice system to stop radicalisation and create positive opportunities for individuals at risk of any form of harm or criminality.
Safeguarding the interest of the State and individuals targeted by terrorists is a duty of all people of faith and non-faith. We must learn from the past. Intra-community conflict, sectarianism, party politics and competition for resources must not undermine our commitment to safety of our communities.
As outlined in the strategy, the delivery of Prevent requires more robust evaluation and monitoring to ensure effectiveness.
The Government must engage all communities. Engagement must be meaningful, and communication must be two-way. Poor communication in the past has resulted in the breakdown of relationships with important stakeholders feeling suspicious about the previous Prevent strategy.
Injustice and distorted ideologies that promote hate and terrorism are the key drivers for terrorist activities. Foreign policy misadventures of the previous Government should be addressed to support the Prevent Strategy.
Of course, beyond the scope of Prevent, Mosques and other faith institutions make a positive contribution by helping to create a society. Our Neighbourhoods project, to be launched soon, will demonstrate this very clearly. Put simply, mosques and Imams have the authority, know how, credibility and reach to Muslim communities that is just not available elsewhere.
In the past, MINAB was allocated Prevent funding on the basis that better-governed mosques and more capable Imams would increase community resilience to all forms of criminality, including terrorism. Met by exceptional commitment from grassroots Muslim communities, MINAB has been privileged to make a vital contribution in serving British mosque to build community resilience and better engagement of young people and women. Examples of our work are available on our website (www.minab.org.uk/youthengagement).
MINAB is unequivocal in its condemnation of any form of violence, or threat of violence, towards individuals or communities. These principles are embedded in our broad ranging programmes of support for mosques and mosque leaders.