The UK government’s Prevent scheme has been accused of unfairly targeting the UK’s Muslim community. Except for the “unfair” bit, it is fair to say it does exactly that – and that is what it was setup to do. Specifically to counteract those on the fringes of the Muslim community who target young Muslims and attempt to “radicalise” them in the hopes that they can be recruited into terrorism.
Young people tend to be passionate about what they care about, and that includes politics. They often want to see change at a faster rate than is realistic, which makes them vulnerable to extremists who want to use violence to achieve their ends. Imagine if an initiative such as Prevent were underway at the beginnings of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland in the 1960s – would the terrorism have lasted as long as it did ? Well we obviously don’t know, but it is a shame that it wasn’t tried.
The fact is that young Muslims are more likely to end up as terrorists than any other particular group of young people. Radical Christians might end up bellowing out that we all sinners, but that is just irritating and bad manners. Young hedonists may end up making a mess on the pavement at peculiar times of the night; whilst we might disapprove, it hardly compares to a suicide load of explosives.
Now of course most young Muslims are not going to wind up blowing themselves and lots of innocent people up; they are not even going to take a trip to the kind of summer camp where you learn how an AK47 works. But some are at risk of becoming radicalised and becoming terrorists.
If we can target those who are at greater risk of becoming radicalised and somehow persuade them that it is a bad idea, we can both protect ourselves and those young people. Those who say this is unfairly targeting the Muslim community are ignoring the fact that this benefits the Muslim community as much as it benefits the rest of us.
Perhaps they should ask the parents of those young people who have been killed whether persuading their sons and daughters to take another path is unfair.