7 JULY 2021
Issued by 7/7 Survivor Sajda Mughal OBE
Sixteen years ago, on that fateful day in July, I narrowly escaped death. If I had not been running late and had got on at my usual carriage, I would not have been so lucky. As we remember those whose lives were violently taken from them, I also want to reflect upon the last sixteen years and look towards the future.
Though some progress has been made, it is clear that Britain is still in a very dark place. The Prevent strategy is evidently not fit for purpose, and the review of the strategy will be little more than a simple box-ticking exercise, with multiple groups making it clear that they will take no part in the review. It is hard to think of any other government policy of such national importance that has been hampered by constant reports of dubious referrals, extremely low success rates, and dangerous consequences for the delivery of public services to vulnerable groups—particularly ethnic minorities and children.
Despite all this, there is still very little desire by those in power to engage with the legitimate concerns and criticisms expressed. Our country’s counterterrorism strategy exists in an echo chamber, where the government only listens to the voices of those that conform to their political agenda—there can be no improvement or innovation if it is just the same voices reporting repeatedly that everything is fine and everything will be ok when it clearly is not.
I have heard concerns from parents about referrals regarding recent political events. I have heard first-hand stories of Prevent’s discriminatory impact. I have heard too much to excuse these testimonies as simply ‘unfortunate collateral’ or fiction that must be accepted.
I have also noticed a clear rise in the prevalence of the right-wing extremist narrative. It seems almost part of life now that we regularly read about another minority group being murdered by extremists spouting far-right rhetoric. Far too many Muslims have had their lives ripped from them with no sign that solid action is being taken to counter this threat. Whilst this does make programmes educating and empowering the next generation against radicalisation and hateful rhetoric—of which JAN Trust’s own Another Way Forward™ is an example
No organisation or person likes to hear criticism, but it is a necessary part of maturing and learning from mistakes. Only by being told where we have gone wrong can we ensure that we do better in the future. Now is not the time for rose-tinted glasses.
Whether through a coherent online safety framework that includes serious incentives and sanctions from social media companies that do not uphold their responsibilities, or imposing standards upon prominent figures—both political and non-political—that require them to suffer repercussions for using racist or objectively false language, more must be done. If not, the powerful will be allowed to enjoy their privilege without limits, and the marginalised and voiceless will continue to suffer. Unless more action is taken, it does not seem like there will be any light at the end of the tunnel.