When discussion and dialogue are driven underground, ‘extremist’ rhetoric will simply remain unchallenged.
First published in The New Arab on 31 October 2016:
The UK government’s controversial Prevent strategy has been criticised by community groups, think tanks and individuals. Concentrated on the precarious area of pre-crime and based on a contested methodology, much is wrong with the way individuals are identified as vulnerable to extremism.
But the problem is not only the erroneous foundations of the strategy, but that the strategy is actually likely to be completely counter-productive. Isolating Muslims by keeping a watchful eye over everything they say can lead to a culture of self-censorship, which ultimately means there is no safe space to explore ideas and distinguish between right and wrong, radical and moderate, religious and political.
Moving these debates into unprotected spaces could mean that “extremist” views go unchallenged or worse, are nurtured. As a result, individuals are more likely to be radicalised or cross over into violent extremist territory.