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Government warned that review of Prevent risks becoming a “whitewash”

The Government has been warned that a review of its counter-extremism strategy, Prevent, is at risk of becoming a “whitewash.” [1]

In January, the Government announced an ‘independent review’ after years of rejecting concerns from a range of people and organisations on the impact of the Prevent strategy.

Many groups have criticised, opposed, and called for the repeal of the Prevent strategy. These groups include the National Union of Students (NUS), Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), University and College Union (UCU), National Union of Teachers (NUT), several faith groups, academics, and activists. [2]

A coalition of 10 human rights organisations and community groups have accused the Government of recruiting the ‘independent’ reviewer behind closed doors. The coalition consists of groups including Rights Watch, Liberty, Index on Censorship, CAGE, and the Muslim Council of Britain.

In a letter to the new security minister Brandon Lewis, the coalition stated:

“The position has not been advertised, nor have the selection criteria been published, despite your predecessor stating that the Reviewer’s appointment would comply with the Code on Public Appointments.

“This is purportedly due to time constraints, yet we note that there was sufficient time to publicly advertise the role of Head of the Prevent Review Team.”

The group further added that:

In combination, these omissions do not inspire confidence that the government is seeking to appoint a reviewer with the expertise and independence required to thoroughly scrutinise the logic, remit and impact of Prevent.”

The very essence of Prevent is based on ancient myths and stereotypes of the causes of non-White violence. As such, for many years, Prevent has been criticised as being Islamophobic and racist. It is said to have targeted the Muslim community and, over the years, its implementation has deteriorated civil liberties, thereby restricting political opposition and constraining any possible room for essential dialogue within schools, colleges, and universities.

According to a report published by the racial equality organisation JUST Yorkshire, the Prevent strategy is having disturbing consequences on society. The report stated that the strategy is “built on a foundation of Islamophobia and racism.” The report also highlights that the strategy is “ineffective and counterproductive,” and should be repealed. [3]

The Liberal Democrat’s Spokesperson for Home Affairs, Ed Davey, also accused the Government of failing to consult appropriately on the so-called ‘independent’ review. He said:

“It’s bad enough the Conservative government had to be forced by parliament into a review of the Prevent strategy, but it’s even worse that Tory ministers now appear to be trying to rig the outcome.”

He further added:

“Unless the government changes its approach, there is a very real danger that this review will be seen as a whitewash and will actually worsen public concerns about counter-extremism policies.”

In late June, the advocacy director of the human rights organisation Liberty, Corey Stoughton, stated that the biggest threat to free speech in universities is Prevent. [4]

Stoughton noted that Prevent has had a “chilling effect” as a result of the tactics of the strategy for monitoring campus activism. She said it particularly impacted students of black and Muslim backgrounds and provoked self-censorship due to the of fear of being labelled as an ‘extremist’.

Stoughton said:

“There is a substantial irony in the government spuriously accusing today’s students of threatening free speech when, in fact, the true threat to free speech on campus is the government’s own policies.”

Figures published by the Home Office display an increase in Prevent referrals across the country overwhelmingly targeting Muslims. The figures show that 65% of the 7,631 referrals were Muslims, despite Muslims composing approximately 5% of the British population. The figures also show that 56% of the total referrals were aged 20 or under, whilst a quarter of the referrals were of under-15s. Most of the referrals came from the education sector, followed by the policing sector. [5] [6]

Muslims comprise approximately 5% of the United Kingdom [7] and less than 5% of the perpetrators of “successful and foiled” terror plots, [8] yet they are vastly overrepresented in the counter-terrorism matrix — from Prevent referrals to Schedule 7 stops and searches to “terrorism” convictions. Not only does this lead to unjustified fear and panic from the broader population, it also contributes to the alienation and disenfranchisement of many young or mentally vulnerable Muslims. [9]

This is one of the reasons that an increasing number of researchers and activists have been warning that Prevent is not just ineffective but actually counterproductive. A sense of alienation, disenfranchisement, and experience of racist double standards have long been significantly empirical causal factors involved in the likelihood of some people to be drawn into political violence and terrorism, and emphatically not the non-violent beliefs and opinions — whether ‘radical’ or not — that the Prevent programme has been focusing its attention on. [10]

Source: www.islam21c.com


[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/extremism-muslims-spying-far-right-human-rights-review-a9050666.html

[2]  https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/prevent-strategy-is-built-on-a-foundation-of-islamophobia-and-racism/

[3] https://justyorkshire.org.uk/2017/08/22/rethinking-prevent-a-case-for-an-alternative-approach/

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/jun/27/uks-prevent-strategy-biggest-threat-to-free-speech-on-campus

[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/658004/individuals-referred-supported-prevent-programme-apr2015-mar2016.pdf

[6] https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/new-home-office-stats-highlight-failure-prevent/

[7] According to the 2011 Census, Office for National Statistics.

[8] https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/new-home-office-stats-highlight-failure-prevent/

[9] https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/new-home-office-stats-highlight-failure-prevent/#_ftn9

[10] https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/new-home-office-stats-highlight-failure-prevent/#_ftn9

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