Pinakin Patel, the Chief Officer for Prevent and Communities at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, wrote to the Guardian in response to their article of 27 January. He noted the misguided and lazy reporting on Prevent that has been a staple of certain newspapers, and explained the need for concrete examples of how to improve Prevent, when engaging with the Government’s independent review of the Prevent programme. The full transcript of the letter is below:
An independent review of Prevent is a great opportunity to improve safeguarding practices, but it needs to be done in the right way. The review provides an opportunity to discuss Prevent fully and critically, differentiating hearsay from fact while even-handedly highlighting Prevent’s successes and any areas for improvement. This is a unique opportunity that should not be wasted. Lazy attacks on this complex and sensitive area of work will help no-one. As Security Minister Ben Wallace rightly put it, this is an opportunity for those who are critical of Prevent to ‘produce solid evidence of their allegations.’ Both the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s Prevent team and the community members that make up our Prevent Advisory Group (PAG) look forward to contributing to the review as much possible.
In this context, it has been disappointing to see this initiative being met by articles which either fail to provide balance to their stories or repeat some of the misinformation which has long plagued Prevent. For example, in this article it would have been welcome to see a few further details added to the examples provided. Discussion of the so-called ‘eco-terrorism’ case, for one, could have mentioned the fact that the mother’s case against the school was dismissed in court as ‘totally without merit’. In the case of the student allegedly referred to Prevent for wearing a “Free Palestine” badge to school, an acknowledgment of the school’s statement stressing that teachers ‘were not concerned about the nature of the badges’ would also have provided some useful context. Many articles also refer to a duty to report concerns, even though this is simply not something which features in the Prevent Duty.
In my view, misguided or incomplete reporting – especially at a time of unprecedented opportunity to thoroughly discuss Prevent – does a disservice to everyone. Not only does it make the work of those in community organisations and local authorities who seek to deliver Prevent much harder by requiring them to address these misconceptions, it also diverts the conversation away from concerns for which there is a real need for more discussion. Such reporting makes life harder for those who believe in the strategy and for those who have expressed genuine concerns and – understandably – want their questions to receive the airtime they deserve.
In over ten years working in this field, I am yet to come across anyone who claims that there is no room for improvement within Prevent. As I havepreviously argued, discussing Prevent openly is necessary and allows practitioners to either allay fears or rectify delivery when faced with founded criticism. To do so, such discussions must build upon credible information and tangible examples of Prevent’s work. For example, when discussing concerns around Prevent shutting down debate, there is value in considering my team’s partnership work with community organisations to foster opportunities to discuss sensitive topics, alongside studies such as this one which ‘found relatively little support among respondents for the idea that the duty has led to a ‘chilling effect’ on conversations with students in the classroom and beyond’.
It is important to stress the extent to which encouraging discussion is an integral part of our safeguarding work. Far from shutting down debate, I have overseen far right referrals where, through intervention providers or facilitated access to museums and discussions with historians, we have encouraged people who were toying with hatred and holocaust denial to engage critically with these views.
An open dialogue about Prevent is necessary and welcome. The media plays a key role in this discussion. But unbalanced and misinformed reporting does not do justice to the opportunity which the independent review presents. Any review of Prevent will need to be nuanced and upcoming discussions should not have factual inaccuracies or half-truths as their building blocks.
Pinakin Patel – Chief Officer, Prevent and Communities (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea)
In response to recent media reports linking Al-Manaar to extremism, the Prevent Coordinator for the local borough, Pinakin Patel, wrote to the newspapers which were covering the story to explain the anti-radicalisation work that the mosque has undertaken. The full letter is below:
As the Prevent Coordinator for the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea – and as someone who has worked to reduce the risk of terrorism in this area for over a decade – I struggle to recognise the depiction that has been made of Al-Manaar mosque in recent press coverage by the Telegraph and other newspapers. Indeed, although I cannot speak for all individuals working with the mosque, I have had the pleasure to work closely alongside Al-Manaar mosque for several years now. This work has led me to believe that Al-Manaar is committed to the values of equality and diversity.
Aside from ignoring its extensive record of interfaith work and the support it provided in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, these articles omit the fact that Al-Manaar plays a key role in tackling all forms of extremism. It has, for example, hosted counter terrorism training delivered by the Metropolitan Police which was attended by the mosque’s leadership alongside a dozen other community organisations, thereby ensuring that awareness of terrorism is raised among the community as whole. Al-Manaar has co-organised and hosted several of my team’s Community Questions events; events which seek to offer opportunities to discuss contentious or sensitive topics in a public setting, thereby denying extremists the opportunity to monopolise such discussions or exploit legitimate grievances. In addition, as a founding member of our Prevent Advisory Group, Al-Manaar has worked with my team since 2011 to provide us with the kind of critical feedback that is necessary to successfully undertake counter radicalisation work. Staff from Al-Manaar even met with David Anderson QC – the then Independent Review of Terrorism Legislation – to share their views and advice regarding counter terrorism initiatives.
Far from viewing this as someone else’s problem, Al-Manaar has also been unrelenting in its efforts to increase the Muslim community’s resilience to radicalisation. Through its supplementary school, Al-Manaar promotes discussion, education, and critical thinking and I also know that it has worked in partnership with the Council to ensure the effectiveness of its safeguarding policies. In addition, Al-Manaar has worked with my team to deliver local parenting projects, thereby empowering parents to safeguard their children from various risks, including radicalisation.
Al-Manaar is a powerful example of an organisation which is tackling these concerns head on and is clearly part of the solution and not the problem.
Chief Officer, Communities & Prevent, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Chair of the London Prevent Network and Kensington and Chelsea Prevent Advisory Group”
On 6 November BBC London News aired the first section of a two part story on Prevent. This first piece included some footage of our Prevent Advisory Group meeting and an interview with a Prevent Manager. It is available here.
The next morning a member of the Prevent team was interviewed on BBC Radio London. The interview featured discussion on the similarity of radicalisation and other forms of grooming, the importance of community engagement, and the growing threat of the far right. It is available here. (2:50:20)
On 18 September RBKC Prevent echoed Lord Evans’ calls for a greater role for Prevent in education in an article in the Evening Standard.
Education is critical to increasing resilience to extremism and we provide training to every school in the borough to help mitigate vulnerabilities to extremism. This includes sessions on topics like critical thinking and challenging stereotypes, as well as push and pull factors for joining extremist groups.
Here is the letter, and the Home Affairs editor’s reply, in full:
Continue reading “RBKC PREVENT EVENING STANDARD RESPONSE TO LORD EVANS ARTICLE”
On 6 September, at a RBKC Prevent Advisory Group meeting, members released a statement reflecting on the anniversary of the Parsons Green attack. PAG organisations have been at the forefront of anti-radicalisation projects for the past 7 years and members were directly involved in responding to the incident.
Here is the statement in full:
Parsons Green Incident: Statement from the LBHF/RBKC Prevent Advisory Group (PAG)
As we approach the anniversary of the Parsons Green attack, where an explosive device was detonated on an underground train, we are reminded both of the tragedy of such events and of the inspiring way in which our communities consistently come together in the wake of any challenge.
While the attack, thankfully, did not result in any fatalities, it is important to remember the physical and emotional trauma suffered by those caught up in the bombing. Victims of terrorist attacks are often too quickly forgotten and we applaud the UN’s decision to dedicate 21 August as the International Day of Remembrance andTribute to the Victims of Terrorism.
The location of the attack brought home the devastating consequences of radicalisation. The bombing took place near our homes, near our community centres, near our places of worship, and on a tube line that many of us use every day. Attacks of this nature can take place at any time, at any place, and highlight the need for vigilance and intervention against behaviour which seeks to divide us.
The varied background of the perpetrators of such violence – which span race, religion, ethnicity, and other chacteristics – shows the ease with which vulnerable people in every community can be radicalised. It is a sombre reminder for us all to work together to safeguard those who might be groomed for such ends.
The Prevent Advisory Group (PAG) is a growing group of local community and faith groups who have, for the last 7 years, been at the forefront of tackling radicalisation in our local communities. Whether it be by advising the local authority Prevent team or jointly designing projects to reduce the risk of radicalisation, we believe communities are a leading force to tackle hatred. While the Parsons Green attack directly impacted us all, it has also strengthened our resolve to oppose extremism in all its forms.
In the aftermath of the attack local residents kept their doors open and provided support to all of those affected by the tragedy. One of the only silver linings to come from last year’s incidents is the way in which communities have come together. Long may it continue.