Comments From The Guardian
Tariq Ramadan (The politics of fear: how anti-extremism strategy has failed, 5 September) displays a complete lack of understanding of the Prevent programme that is designed to safeguard people who are vulnerable to radicalisation. The Prevent strategy has never conflated religious practice with radicalisation. Indeed, we are clear there is no single path to radicalisation, just as there is no single red flag that identifies it. In fact, Prevent’s multi-agency approach recognises that factors such as mental health, substance abuse and social circumstances are crucial factors. What is more, Prevent also deals with far-right extremism. Of course, this is difficult and challenging work, but the kind of grassroots education that Professor Ramadan calls for is already happening around the country. Civil society groups supported by Prevent ran 130 projects last year, reaching more than 25,000 people and countering radicalisation in numerous communities. For example, one such group – Kikit Pathways in Birmingham – succeeded in stopping two young men from travelling to Syria, even though they had tickets booked. We work with many other community groups, and mosques around the country, and more recently the NSPCC.
The UK is leading the world in preventing people being drawn into terrorism and many countries are starting to copy our approach. Irresponsibly fuelling the myths around Prevent makes this vital work harder and inadvertently helps those who seek to radicalise young minds. It is misleading and dangerous.
Ben Wallace MP
• Tariq Ramadan claims that by focusing on security, surveillance and criminalisation, counter-terrorism in Europe and the US targets all Muslims, and not just violent extremists, when a genuine partnership is needed instead. These are familiar yet unconvincing claims. What those who take this view consistently fail to explain is how such cooperation can be established when every official overture in this direction is so vehemently and noisily denounced as merely another exercise in securitisation, surveillance and criminalisation. The voices of Muslims and others who understand that partnership must go hand-in-hand with securitisation need to be heard more clearly above the uproar of denunciation created by those who don’t.
Professor Steven Greer Professor of human rights, University of Bristol Law School, Dr Lindsey Bell Lecturer in law, Royal Holloway, University of London
• Although Tariq Ramadan helpfully draws attention to the fact that political as well as religious issues play a part in the radicalisation of young people, he at one point suggests that jihadis “must be seen more as propaganda victims than as consciously responsible for their actions, however extreme”. This is problematic. For example, regardless of what propaganda he may have been fed, a man in Nice made a conscious decision to drive a truck into a huge crowd on Bastille Day. He intentionally killed many innocent people. The people Ramadan is talking about are autonomous moral agents, old enough to be held accountable for their actions, not passive vessels for extremist propaganda with no control over their moral choices. Framing terrorists as victims and suggesting that they are not consciously responsible for their actions is unhelpful and deeply disrespectful of the victims of the atrocities that they commit.
Christian Goulart Mc Nerney
• It is tragic that the US and Russia have failed to agree on strategy for fighting Isis in Syria (Report, 5 September). Apparently the difficulty is that US allied forces would be hard to “disentangle” from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorists and doing this would require “unprecedented” cooperation between the US and Russia in sharing intelligence. Is that too high a price to pay for peace in Syria?
Dr Brendan O’Brien