Alex Webb, poet, co-founder of Sleepy House Press and member of M20 Collective, shares his piece Prevent, written for our Voices event with Archives+.
When I signed up for First Draft: Voices, I wasn’t sure what direction to take with my piece. The irrationality behind ‘How to identify a witch in Lancashire and what to do if you see one’ reminded me of the scapegoating and fear mongering targeting some of our communities.
Campaigns like Prevent are set up to help keep us safe but unfortunately do the opposite; they feed stereotypes about terrorists. I wanted to turn this ignorance on its head and point out the toxic effects they can have on communities.
Prevent focuses more on Islamic terrorism, rather than showing us that anyone could be a terrorist. Prevent feeds into stereotypes of who is and isn’t a terrorist with horrendous consequences for the wider BAME community. Intolerance increases if we don’t counter prejudices and assumptions about who is and is not a terrorist.
A few weeks ago a tweet about a man who confronted a Muslim woman about the Brussels bombings did the rounds. Whilst in this instance the man’s Islamophobia was challenged there are thousands of instances that aren’t challenged.
Efforts like Prevent, unfortunately, only reinforce these prejudices. I’m not trying to say we should be passive and let terrorist groups do what they want. Not at all. What I’m trying to say is that if we actually educated people about how diverse terrorism has been we might reduce irrational fear and hate towards minority communities. Just as Christian terrorist groups do not represent the vast majority of Christians, Muslim terrorist groups don’t represent all Muslims.