MUSLIMS across Birmingham believe the police and security services are constantly monitoring their movements and feel “imprisoned in their own city”, a performance report into government anti-terrorism projects claims today.
An independent analysis into 11 community-based projects under the Preventing Violent Extremism initiative warns that law-abiding Muslims worry about being demonised by the way violent extremism is routinely associated with Islam in the media and by those in authority.
The report, by Waterhouse Consulting Group, based on interviews with individuals and organisations, praises most of the council-run projects aimed at discouraging young people from drifting into terrorist activity, but adds that extreme tensions are not far beneath the surface.
The document adds: “A number of respondents felt that the police and security services were watching their every move due to the focus on the Muslim community and, therefore, felt imprisoned in their own city because they had to watch their every step, what they uttered, the clothes they wore, the people they associated with and the mosques they attended.
“Central government and local authorities must understand the extent of the deep anger and concern among Muslims at grassroots level over the linkage of violent extremism with Islam.
“This has helped to demonise and vilify Muslims in a climate where Islamophbia is already heightened.”
Even the name given by the government to the £525,000 year-long programme provoked anger among the Islamic community.
The Waterhouse report suggests abandoning the Preventing Violent Extremism title for “more acceptable phraseology”.
Almost 400 young Muslims benefitted directly from the first phase of PVE.
The analysis fully supports plans for 12 more projects in Birmingham, at a cost of £2.4 million and calls for more to be done to tackle the radicalisation of mosques, bring Islamic schools into the “mainstream” and to empower Muslim women.
Imams – preachers in mosques – are said to need help to re-connect with young people.
The report adds: “Imams are best placed to provide the theological leadership but are not always able to convey their arguments to the most vulnerable or violent extremists because of either language barriers or cultural differences.
“There is therefore a key role in Birmingham in providing support and encouragement in the development of robust religious leadership capable of engaging effectively with all members of Muslim communities and the wider society.”
Muslim women are described as facing a “triple-whammy” from their negative portrayal in the media, the negative cultural attitudes of their community and discrimination in wider society because of their gender and ethnicity.
The next round of PVE funding should be broadened to cover the “critical area” of all aspects facing the life of Muslim women in Birmingham, the report recommends.
City council equalities and human resources cabinet member Alan Rudge said he wanted to build “strong cohesive communities”.
Coun Rudge (Con Sutton Vesey) added: “I share my sadness with the majority of our population, particularly the mainstream Muslim communities who feel that a tiny number of people are distorting the peaceful religion of Islam and using it to propagate violence and extremism.”