ASIAN NEWS ARTICLE- Muslim Communities in the North Reject Government PVE strategy

Asian News Rochdale Pubished on the Asian News Website-

By Majed Iqbal- A report released last week by think-tank the New Local Government Network (NLGN) has criticised the flagship £70 million Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) programme launched by the government two years back because it alienates Muslims.

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Community groups across the North West and Yorkshire have refused to join a Government-funded scheme to prevent violent Islamic extremism because it “victimises” Muslims, it has been claimed.

The PVE programme was modeled to “promote shared values, support local solutions, build civic capacity and leadership and strengthen the role of faith institutions and leaders”.

The generic nature of the strategy was welcomed initially at the first look but rejected once the details became further apparent. The plans were considered divisive and an effort to divide the Muslim community on the lines of moderates and extremists by branding what ideas of Islam will be acceptable in Britain and what won’t.

This agenda was more clearly defined in the Government contest two strategy released late last year, stating that British Muslims would be considered “extremist” if they advocated non-participation in UK elections, called for the creation of a caliphate, promoted Shariah for the Muslim world and argued that homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of God.

Additionally, extremist views would include supporting armed resistance by Palestinians against Israel as seen in the January Gaza conflict – and a failure to condemn the killing of British service personnel in Iraq or Afghanistan.

A Bradford Muslim organisation said that although grants for community projects is positive, some groups have refused to apply as that would be admitting that ‘extremism’ is an exclusively Muslim issue.

Nazim Ali, general secretary of the Naqshbandia Active Development Association, which campaigns for inter-faith understanding, said: “I think the Preventing Violent Extremism agenda was a failure from the start because of the sole focus on Islamic extremism. It is a loaded phrase, and people in Muslim communities recognise that, so there is always going to be a lack of support.”

Many organisations have been under wraps for refusing to co-operate with local councils in dispensing the PVE plans in their towns.

The Rochdale Centre of Diversity, which is now being shut down, actively campaigned against the PVE proposals in Rochdale and stood at odds with the Rochdale council. In meetings with senior community leaders the plans were unanimously rejected and refused to participate in any programmes rolled out to carry out the PVE’s objectives.

RCD’s Chief Executive, Mohammad Naeem, said “RCD has had to take issue with the Council over the last eighteen months about its application of the government’s Preventing Violent Extremism policy and related funding”.

“Any research that has been commissioned by the government has concluded that the Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) strategy is divisive and instead more needs to be done at building better community relations”.

Many Muslims have felt that those organisations that have taken the funding have damaged the essence of the Muslim community as the strategy is at odds with Islamic values, rules and standpoints.

Many groups have therefore operated undercover not disclosing that they have taken government money for these projects. With few partners, many councils have had to rethink their positions.

RCD’s Chief Executive, Mohammad Naeem “This standpoint alongside many other organisations in Rochdale led to the funds being used to ‘donate’ computers to mosques to ‘further education’ and successfully ticking a box that extremism was an issue in Rochdale”.

The New Local Government Network (NLGN) report’s author, Anna Turley, said reform of the scheme is “vital” to re-build confidence in local communities.

She said: “While Islamist extremism remains a very serious threat to our security, this kind of extremism is not the only threat to the stability and security of our communities. Concern has also been acknowledged over the agenda’s impact on relations with Muslim communities and whether it unfairly stigmatises an entire community.”

An NLGN spokesman said: “While it is too early to assess the success of the Prevent agenda, the lack of support from within the Muslim community, as well as the changing threat of wider extremist voices, mean that it is time to review whether the separation of the Preventing Violent Extremism approach from wider community cohesion approaches is still relevant.”

Whilst the report released last week by the think-tank raises certain concerns, many Muslims are still unhappy with its conclusions as it fails to analyse the role of British Foreign policy adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan in playing a major role in the problems faced in Britain alongside the increased pressures on the Muslim community to be coerced with a set of ideals and values which conflict with their beliefs, political viewpoints and their vision.

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