Leeds community leaders call on Leeds City Council to stand up to Islamophobia and demonisation of children

24 March 2016

L-R: Mothin Ali, Robina Mir, Joe Salmon, Shahab Adris

L-R: Mothin Ali, Robina Mir, Joe Salmon, Shahab Adris

Local community leaders from Muslim groups and Leeds Green Party are urging Leeds City Council to stand up to Islamophobia and help promote cohesion across Leeds’ communities by ensuring the government’s Prevent programme is not applied here as it has been in other areas.

Today (Weds 23 March) a delegation of concerned Leeds residents and community leaders are expressing their concerns to Leeds City Council, including Shahab Adris regional manager for Yorkshire & Humber of Mend (Muslim Engagement and Development), Mothin Ali, a Leeds member of the UK Imams Forum, and Joe Salmon, Headingley resident and prospective candidate for Leeds Green Party. Picture L-R: Mothin Ali, Robina Mir, Joe Salmon, Shahab Adris.

They are calling on Leeds City Council to consider how Prevent is implemented at local level, and introduce proper independent reviewing and wide involvement of local Muslim communities in understanding and challenging the root causes of radicalisation. They are urging the Council to help ensure that frightening incidents that have been seen in other parts of the country involving young children are not repeated here.

They are also encouraging Leeds City Council to pass a motion to lobby national government to abolish Prevent, and replace it with evidenced-based, well-researched measures.

The Prevent programme, stepped up by the government last year in an attempt to kerb extremism, has met with serious concerns by community leaders in Leeds, and many others across the UK, that it is demonising Muslim children and causing tensions. Teachers, academics, lawyers and police chiefs have voiced concerns [1] [2]. Former head of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller and former chief superintendent with the Metropolitan Police Dal Babu have both expressed fears about how counter productive Prevent is [3]. 

In 2015, the government made Prevent a statutory duty for schools, as well as local authorities, NHS trusts and prisons. The programme has resulted in a string of alarming incidents, many involving young children. Half of those targeted by the programme since 2012 are reported to be under-18, as young as three [1]. In one incident, it was reported that a 10 year-old child was interviewed by the police for misspelling terraced house as terrorist house [4]. 

Joe Salmon, Headingley resident and prospective candidate for Leeds Green Party, said: “Prevent is a knee-jerk, discriminatory policy that risks everyone’s safety, and The Green Party has been campaigning for its replacement with a more effective, well-researched strategy. Prevent is undeniably Islamophobic, and it overwhelmingly targets Muslims without any real focus on other types of extremism. Prevent risks doing real damage here in Leeds, to individual children and families, and community cohesion as a whole. We hope the Council will listen to our pleas and stand up to discrimination, by ensuring the programme is better implemented here than in many other areas, and lobbying national government to find a better way forward. We need to recognise that the Muslim community and their community partners need to be in the driving seat when it comes to finding solutions to the problem of radicalisation.” 

Shahab Adris, regional manager for Yorkshire and Humber of Mend, said: “The many shocking incidents we have heard about across the country to do with children being targeted and questioned through the Prevent programme highlight its absurd and destructive nature. We, alongside many legal experts and community leaders across the country, are deeply concerned about Prevent, and we’re worried now about its implementation in Leeds. We’re urging the Council to take steps to ensure it’s not implemented as it has been in many other areas without proper review and the engagement of Muslim communities. Ultimately, we want Prevent to be replaced with a more evidenced approach, with genuine involvement of Muslim communities, but in the meantime there are steps Leeds City Council can take now to reduce the risks of local children being demonised and tensions being provoked.”

Last month, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett spoke out about Prevent at an ‘End Discrimination’ meeting in Headingley alongside Mend and Leeds Green Party. Bennett has called the Prevent strategy “deeply misguided and dangerous”.

For more info:

Leeds Green Party: leedsgreen.party @LeedsGreenParty
National Green Party policy: https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/
Or contact: leedsgreensnews@gmail.com

End notes:

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/sep/23/prevent-counter-terrorism-strategy-schools-demonising-muslim-children

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/oct/19/government-extremism-crackdown-hurt-uk-values-peter-fahy-manchester

[3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/11344281/MI5-chief-Blairs-anti-jihadist-programme-has-failed.html

[4] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016/01/20/muslim-child-terrorist-house-spelling-error_n_9025336.html