Labour councillor denounces the anti extremism Prevent strategy

de'athThe last Labour Government launched the Prevent strategy designed to combat Islamic extremism and violence. It aims to limit the risk of radicalisation of Muslims and the resulting terrorist threat.

The programme has continued under the Conservatives and has cross party support.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council says:

“We are fortunate to have dedicated tools available to support schools with this duty, and to help them tackle radicalisation and extremism.”

It adds:

“What is the Prevent Strategy?

Prevent is part of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy and aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. Prevent works at the pre-criminal stage by using early intervention to encourage individuals and communities to challenge extremist and terrorist ideology and behaviour.

The Prevent Strategy makes clear the important role that schools have to play in achieving these aims. It is an extension of the same safeguarding processes which the education sector already employs in order to effectively safeguard children from drugs, gang violence, alcohol abuse, and other forms of harm and crime.”

So it was disappointing that at the Council meeting on Wednesday evening one Labour councillor – Cllr Alan De’Ath – attacked the programme as “Islamophobic”. Of course he is entitled to attack Council policy – he is not a Cabinet member and thus not bound by collective responsibility. Constructive criticism is always welcome. But to undermine the Council’s work in this particular way was pretty irresponsible. His comment was absurd – the strategy involves boosting mainstream, moderate Muslim groups.

Ian Heggs, the Council’s Director for Schools emails me to confirm:

“We do indeed fully support and participate in the Prevent strategy.”

Not that De’Ath’s outburst was the worst of the evening. His fellow Fulham Broadway Labour councillor Ben Coleman made some astonishingly crass comments during a discussion on anti-semitism.

In a brave speech by Cllr Joe Carlebach about his personal experiences. “I know what it is like to stand outside a synagogue and have sharpened coins thrown at you,” he said.

Coleman’s speech immediately followed. He said: “Sometimes people in the Jewish community think they are the only Jew in the village.” For good measure he then said that concern about anti-semitism in the Labour Party were “overblown”. Really disgraceful.

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