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'Preventing Violent Extremism?' conference: event report

IHRC's "Preventing Violent Extremism?" conference was held on Saturday 13 June 2015 at the Amanah Centre in the heart of East London.

The conference was organised with several aims: to question what the government's Prevent programme really prevents or protects, explore how voluntary organisations and public-sector employees should respond to its pressures, discuss how we can all collectively resist its attacks on free debate and findways to undermine the state's efforts to enforce the programme.Long before the conference, the racist, repressiverole of the Prevent programme had been well documented (Kundnani, 2009; Cage UK, 2014). Its various critics needa clearerbasis for joint resistance, which has been growing, especially since the programme was put on a statutory basis.


Background to the conference

Formulated by the New Labour government to tackle 'extremism',the Prevent programme is the second strand of a 4-prong strategy within CONTEST, central to the UK's counter-terror strategy. The Home Office has funded this for many years, supposedly to prevent violent forms of extremism. The basic rationale is that people advocating 'non-violent extremism' create an environment in which terrorists can operate and so encourage 'violent extremism'. Thus entire Muslim communities (and communities from specific ethnic backgrounds)are being monitored for 'extremist' ideas or ideas that oppose the government's policies– officially defined as hostility to 'British values'. This phrase conflates universal human values with the British state, whose foreign policy regularly contradicts these supposed values. In practice, the Prevent programme has interpreted 'extremism' to encompass any Muslim criticism of UK government policies.

This practice has spread fear within Muslim communities, as well as among voluntary organisations and public-sector employees who are expected to implement the programme. Worse still, under the last coalition governmentthe programme was given a statutory basis by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act. This imposes dutieson all public-sector institutions, thus furthers the promotion and normalisation of Islamophobia.


Read the full conference here: