SHAFAQNA –With the General Elections only a few days away, Prime Minister David Cameron has been keen to defend his government’s attitude towards Muslims in the UK and prove that his party – Conservative – are in no way Islamophobe, as the opposition suggested.
Prime Minister, David Cameron, insists that it is not his view to see Britain’s Muslim community through the prism of counter terrorism after his Government for the first time put the discredited Prevent extremism programme on a statutory footing.
“I do not see the Muslim community through the prism of counter terrorism. I see the Muslim community in Britain as making a fantastic contribution in our economy, in our health service, in our culture, in our sport, in our media and increasingly in politics,” Cameron said.
“I am proud to have a British Muslim man Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Sajid Javid, round the cabinet table. I see the British Muslim community that way.”
The controversial Prevent strategy has been criticised by the likes of former MI5 chief Baroness Manningham-Buller and National Union of Teachers for putting Muslims under surveillance virtually from the cradle to the grave by making extremism as a statutory duty across local councils, universities, schools, healthcare trusts, probation services, prisons and even nurseries.
“We should not criticise British Muslims for a small number of people that are involved in extremism and terrorism. The answer is to deal with the people involved in extremism and terrorism,” the Prime Minister asserted.
He explained that they inherited the Prevent programme, “which was not working, where there was confusion between countering terrorism and encouraging integration.”
“We separated the two programmes on the advice of Lord Carlyle who carried out a review for the Government. He said the previous policy was not working. So we are making sure that there is proper integration work being done through the Department of Community and Local Governments and Prevent is the programme to counter radicalisation and extremism.”
In the Conservative manifesto, the Party says it will bring in more legislation including the introduction of new Banning Orders for extremist organisations that fall short of the existing thresholds for proscription.
Extremism Disruption Orders are also to be created with new online powers as well as even further measures to tackle the “infiltration of extremists into our schools and public services,” including strengthening Ofcom’s role, enabling employers to bar extremists working with children and ensuring colleges and universities do “not give a platform to extremist speakers.”
During what turned out to be a lively interview, he also defended the approach towards schools in Birmingham with a Muslim majority intake following allegations of a so called Trojan Horse conspiracy.
The episode demonised the Muslim community across the country as the media and politicians alleged Muslim extremists wanted to take over schools in Birmingham to advance extremism in schools.
“In all of this is that there clearly was a problem in some schools and some people with extreme views,” the Conservative Leader argued, saying that Peter Clarke’s report did find “a problem with some individuals in some schools.”
“My answer to that is that let us sort it out and let’s make sure we have good schools in Birmingham. Let us make sure inappropriate individuals can’t be involved in schools.”
He declined to respond to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Education Select Committee, Graham Stuart, who said that apart from one incident in one school “no evidence of extremism or radicalisation was found by any of the inquiries in any of the schools involved.” The Trojan horse affair, added Stuart, “is less about extremism than about governance”.
“I don’t want to tar the rest of the Muslim community with that brush (of extremism). It is completely unfair. Muslims in Britain want good schools and good education for their children,” Cameron said.
In the general election, the Conservatives have selected 18 Muslim candidates but only one new person is in a winnable seat, Nusrat Ghani. This will increase the Party’s number of Muslim MPs to three [the other incumbent are Sajid Javid and Rehman Chisti]
The Prime Minister insisted that this represented progress and that he wanted to “see more British Muslims on the benches in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords.”
“We are the first Government ever to have a Muslim woman in the Cabinet, Sayeeda Warsi. We have Sajid Javed, second generation immigrant to Britain sitting at the cabinet table doing a very important job.”
“Nusrat Ghani, we have chosen her in a safe seat. So we are making a progress. We have, if you look at ethnic minority representation more broadly, one in five of the replacement MPs in the safe seats have come from ethnic minority communities. I want to see more. So we made progress this time and will make progress in the future.”
Last month, Home Secretary, Theresa May, said the Tory Government would record instances of Islamophobic attacks. “Future Conservative Government would require the police to record anti-Muslim incidents as well as anti-Semitic incidents.”
In the Manifesto, the Party says it wants “people to integrate fully into British society, but that does not mean they should have to give up the things they hold dear in their religion. So while we will always make sure the Food Standards Agency properly regulates the slaughter of livestock and poultry, we will protect methods of religious slaughter, such as shechita and halal.”