A British government programme designed to prevent radicalization of young Muslims has become a “toxic brand”, a retired former Muslim police chief has warned.
Dal Babu, who was a chief superintendent with London’s Metropolitan Police before retiring in 2013, told the BBC that the ‘Prevent’ programme has become “less and less trusted” by most Muslims who believed that it is being used to spy on the community.
Mr Babu told BBC 4’s Today programme: “We’ve had situations where cameras have been implemented without the community understanding in Birmingham,” he said.
“A huge amount of money has been spent on this. At a time when we have limited resources we really need to make sure that we measure it.”
Prevent was introduced in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in New York and was aimed at stopping the radicalization of young British Muslims.
Many Muslims believe that the programme discriminates against them while critics have pointed to the lack of data on the effectiveness of the £40 million scheme.
According to Mr Babu, some of that money has been given to organizations such as the counter-extremism think tank Quilliam Foundation which he said was deeply mistrusted by the Muslim community.
“People had an open mind when [Prevent] first came in,” he continued.
“Over the years you’ve had the issue about cameras that caused a huge level of mistrust. But actually the organisations that the government have been prepared to talk to have been very, very challenging.”
Some of that money Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Babu said counter-extremism officials “should not be putting Muslim community in a separate box when it comes to safeguarding vulnerable young people”.
Mr Babu also blamed what he called a “spectacular lack of diversity” in police forces across the country which hampered efforts to effectively tackle radicalization.
Most police officers, he argued, couldn’t tell the difference between a Sunni and Shia Muslim.
That lack of understanding, he said, was one of the reasons that had led to police forces being caught off-guard in cases such as those of the three East London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria last week after being radicalized at home.
“This lack of knowledge is amplified considerably with the more junior officers who perform the role of implementing the Prevent strategy,” Mr Babu.
“Sadly, Prevent has become a toxic brand and most Muslims are suspicious of what Prevent is doing. This is unfortunate but a reality and the government needs to develop a co-ordinated strategy to safeguard vulnerable children who are being groomed by IS [Islamic State].”