THE government’s racist Prevent snooping strategy is fuelling distrust among Muslim communities, an independent reviewer of terror legislation said yesterday.
Ministers are facing renewed calls to reform its so-called “anti-extremism” scheme after David Anderson QC said some Muslims felt it was targeting the practices of Islam itself.
These included everyday factors such as praying and wearing a headscarf, he added.
His concerns follow criticism of the Prevent programme by leading opposition figures, including shadow home secretary Andy Burnham.
Mr Burnham has said: “I do feel that the brand [Prevent] is so toxic now that I think it’s got to go.”
Mr Anderson called for better engagement with Muslims, saying it was “extraordinary” that there was no dialogue between the government and the Muslim Council of Britain.
“There is a strong feeling in Muslim communities that I visit that Prevent is, if not a spying programme, then at least a programme that is targeted on them,” he told BBC Radio 4 Today.
He added: “In some cases it is even felt that it is targeted not just at Islamists and terrorism or extremism, but at the practice of Islam — people who pray or wear the veil, for example, are sometimes felt to be under suspicion.
“I am sure those fears are exaggerated — and they are certainly not what the programme is supposed to be about — but the fact is they are very real.”
He continued: “That means the government has to be more open about what it is doing and it has to subject itself to some kind of independent scrutiny that can judge whether it is effective or whether it isn’t.”