Muslims are boycotting Prevent, the British government’s anti-radicalisation programme, with community leaders accounting for less than a tenth of extremism tip-offs.
The vast majority of tip-offs are instead coming from public services, such as schools and hospitals, or the police.
The Times reports that although the figures include extremism of different varieties, including far right, they show the hostility in Muslim communities towards the so-called Prevent programme, and raise concerns that police are being denied information that could prevent terror attacks.
Earlier this month, the Waltham Forest Council of Mosques, which represents tens of thousands of worshippers in east London, said was boycotting the scheme, while Muslim leaders in neighbouring Newham accused the scheme of “spying on our young people”.
The Prevent programme aims to identify individuals at risk of radicalisation and sends them to support schemes. An essential part of the programme involves people reporting friends and neighbours they believe to be showing signs of extremism.
However, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) says that of 3,288 referrals in the first half of 2015, only 280 (8.6 per cent) were from local communities.
Muslims have accused the programme of being “McCarthyite” and turning people against one another. They highlight a number of cases they claim show the scheme going over the top, including one instance where a boy was quizzed about extremist links after using the word “écoterrorisme” in a French lesson.
In July, a number of Islamist sympathisers signed an open letter to The Independent calling for the government to scrap the programme. The letter said it “reinforce[s] a prejudicial worldview that perceives Islam to be a retrograde and oppressive religion that threatens the West.”
However, police say it is essential that Muslim communities get involved in reporting extremism, or else it will likely go unnoticed.
Simon Cole, who speaks for the NPCC on Prevent, defended the scheme and claimed the figures may be low because some Muslims report extremism to the police first:
“At a time when the threat level is severe, it is encouraging that the police are highly trusted as an agency for reporting concerns about radicalisation. The figures may not accurately capture the nature of the original source because in many cases members of the community will report in the first instance to the police.”