Redbridge’s counter-terrorism panel will no longer benefit from the advice of a religious cohesion group amid disagreement over a new panel member.

Faith Matters representatives walked away in protest from Redbridge’s Prevent programme advisory group following a vote to admit the former co-ordinator for Islamophobia response unit at MEND, Tahir Butt, to the group.

The borough’s Prevent programme is its counter-extremism policy, which aims to stop people from being recruited, radicalised or encouraged towards terrorism of any kind.

MEND, or Muslim Engagement and Development, is a not-for-profit company that “helps to empower and encourage British Muslims within local communities to be more actively involved in British media and politics”, according to its website.

But MEND has received criticism for allegedly hosting extremist Islamist speakers in the past.

Fiyaz Mughal, founder and director of Faith Matters, pointing to statements on MEND social media pages and elsewhere, said: “Having divisive groups who have actively attempted to undermine the work of other organisations and who have even called projects tackling anti-Muslim hate as ‘Islamophobic’ is perverse.

“They twist and turn and use every argument to damage groups who work with the Government. Now that same public resourcing through local authorities is being used to allow them to advise local Prevent work in Redbridge after they have done much to undermine counter-extremism work.

“This Government has made a huge song and dance about British values that are fundamental to our society and which I agree with. Then how come some civil servants in the Home Office agree with bringing on such groups who have a track record of such divisiveness. It is perverse”.

Last year, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the main representative body for the Jewish community in the UK, criticised MEND while giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Anti-Semitism.

According to the Jewish Chronicle, the Board told MPs: “The approach taken by MEND risks increasing hostility and suspicion between the Jewish and Muslim communities, rather than building trust and empathy.

“While we have met representatives of MEND in the past, we would not intentionally meet with the organisation again until we are confident that it intends to promote a positive relationship towards Jews, the Jewish community and communal bodies and stands unequivocally opposed to extremism.

“As matters stand at present we are unable to work with MEND on any projects, and recommend that others look for alternative partners – such as Tell Mama – in the work of combating anti-Muslim hatred.”

A spokesperson for Redbridge Council said: “The Prevent Advisory Group has an independent chair and votes for its own membership. Its role is to ensure that the council and its partners hears voices from across the community and Faith Matters is a highly valued participant.

“We deeply regret their decision to leave the group and will be talking further with them and others to find a way forward.”

In a general statement published online in response to allegations of sharing platforms with extremist speakers, a spokesperson for MEND said: “Many of the events and platforms on which MEND volunteers, staff and representatives speak are very large events with many hundreds of participants and speakers. We, like any other speaker at these events, are not in control of whom else may or may not be invited by the organisers, nor what they may or may not say.

“Locational proximity is not an endorsement of every view held by another individual or group – as is the case with MEND’s shared platforms with other organisations cited in the press.”

On allegations of undermining counter-terrorism, the spokesperson added: “When it comes to criticism of current UK counter-terror strategies, certain groups often present legitimate criticism of the development, implementation and impact of such strategies as an attempt to ‘undermine’ government efforts.

“We firmly believe that government policies in all areas should be open to critical review for the benefit of ensuring their effectiveness and monitoring any unintended consequences such strategies may have.”

In response to allegations of MEND “undermining” other groups working with the Government, the spokesperson said: “MEND is not a theology based organisation. We concern ourselves with issues that affect all Muslims (hate crime, employment, education etc.), regardless of religious ideology, sect or


“We – like all organisations operating in any public arena – support the policies and positions advanced in our manifesto and may disagree with the analysis and political positions of others. A healthy democracy calls for healthy debate. Perhaps the accusation here is that we do not always agree with those that our opponents would like us to.”

To refute allegations of anti-Semitism within MEND, the spokesperson said: “MEND has developed a series of educational resources and training programmes to aid in the teaching of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred.

“The issues surrounding anti-Semitism were mentioned 11 times in our 2017 Manifesto, where we also called for better legal protections against homophobic and disability related hate crime as well.

“Furthermore, there have been numerous occasions when our working groups have shown solidarity and support to Jewish and other communities in times of crisis.”

The organisation’s full statement of “Rebuttals to all allegations” can be read here.