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Does Andy Burnham regret his opposition to the ‘Prevent’ strategy?

Perhaps we’re now past the moment of shock. Certainly we’ve moved fairly swiftly past the other stages of post-massacre grief. With the departure of Katie Hopkins from LBC it is good to see that Monday night’s attack in Manchester has not gone completely unpunished.

The desire to point fingers and scapegoat is a perfectly normal response to an outrage of course. It’s just people’s priorities I worry about. However, since people seem willing to start pointing fingers, perhaps I can suggest some candidates.

Andy Burnham. In order to get elected Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham made a tactical decision to cosy up to the Muslim communities of Manchester. One of the ways in which he did this was to call – almost exactly one year ago – for the government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy to be scrapped. Indeed he claimed it was ‘Today’s equivalent of internment in Northern Ireland – a policy felt to be highly discriminatory against one section of the community’.

As anyone who knows about internment will know, nothing that has happened in the UK in recent years has been anything like that policy. Ah, but it’s about perception, one can hear Andy say, while he flutters his eyelashes. If a policy is felt to be highly discriminatory by anyone then discriminatory it must be. So that for instance when the terrorist apologists of a group like Cage complain that Prevent is discriminatory, and tour campuses up and down the country telling Muslim students this is the case, then eventually the ‘feeling’ grows that it is discriminatory. Even when it isn’t.

Which brings one onto some of the other people who should have fingers pointed to them at the moment. From 2014, for two years, Salman Abedi was a student at Salford University. What waters did he swim in there? Investigations will still be ongoing. But among the things that are very much out in the open is the fact that the campus he was on was opposed to any and all cooperation with the UK government’s counter-extremism strategy. Indeed Salford is a campus on which myths and lies about ‘Prevent’ have been heavily peddled.

The Student Union at Salford has been notable in recent years for its concerted campaign against the Prevent strategy. It has not only campaigned against it, but openly boasted that it will not participate in it, and will boycott it, because it says Prevent targets Muslims. When running for Student Union President, Zamzam Ibrahim, campaigned on a platform of opposition to Prevent. Her campaign literature as well as her social media feeds show that opposition to Prevent was a major if not over-riding concern for Ibrahim. Here are some typical Tweets from last year:

Since one of their alumni chose to detonate a nail bomb on Monday evening Salford Student Union have not been silent. They have issued a statement about the attacks, telling students:

‘Please remember that it is ok to not be ok; talking about this week’s horrific events can help come to terms with what has happened.

‘We will not tolerate hatred on our campus and we refuse to fear for the future.’

Furthermore, they encourage students to: ‘report racist and xenophobic incidents.’

Over recent years these same students have been discouraged from reporting anything that might seem suspicious in the Islamist extremism area. Which is a shame because one of their number turned out to be an Islamist suicide-bomber.

Many of the boys and girls who were attending Manchester Arena last Monday night are not OK. Those who survived are having parts of nails, and metal bolts pulled from their bodies. They and their families have learned the hardest way possible about hatred and intolerance. If people want to point fingers, fine. But if we want to prevent further Manchesters then we should make sure we point them in the right directions.


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