Leaked UK Prevent review calls for hardline approach to 'Islamist extremism'

Leaked UK Prevent review calls for hardline approach to 'Islamist extremism'
Leaked documents from a review into the UK's controversial Prevent counter-terrorism strategy have called for a hardline approach to Islamist extremism, arguing there's too much focus on far-right extremism.
3 min read
18 May, 2022
Prevent is one of four constituent parts of the UK's counter terrorism strategy [source: Getty]

The UK’s counter-terrorism strategy Prevent has focused too much on far-right extremism and should instead crackdown on Islamist extremists, according to leaked drafts from a government-commissioned review of the controversial programme. 

Leaked documents from William Shawcross’s widely criticised review said definitions of far-right extremism had become too broad “including mildly controversial or provocative forms of mainstream, rightwing-leaning commentary,” according to a report by The Guardian. 

Meanwhile, the programme is “ignoring Islamist narratives” by adopting a more narrow view of Islamist extremists, the British newspaper reported. 

“[Prevent has a] double standard when dealing with extreme rightwing and Islamism,” one extract reportedly said. 

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Prevent was conceived by the British government as a strategy to reduce the threat of terrorism by identifying individuals vulnerable to radicalisation and providing intervention to stop them from becoming radicalised. 

The policy has been repeatedly rebuked for targeting Muslims and fostering a culture of hostility and discrimination by the community group Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND) as well as other leading campaign groups, including Amnesty International. 

In response to the leaked documents, MEND told The New Arab: “Merely days after the Buffalo terror attack, revelations of a proposal to reposition the lens of counter-terrorism away from far-right extremism are deeply alarming.” 

“These revelations do not fill us with confidence that this report will be authoritative or evidence-based,” they added. 

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Other revelations from the leaked documents include allegations that Prevent-funded programmes “promoted extremist narratives, including statements that appear supportive of the Taliban”. 

There are also reports that vulnerable individuals who posed no terror threat were transferred to the programme when they couldn't access mental health services elsewhere. 

The Shawcross report has been completed, and awaits fact-checking and legal reviews, according to The Guardian. 

A number of human rights groups and Muslim activists agreed to boycott the government-commissioned review last year given Shawcross’s “long and proven track record of Islamophobia”.

 In 2012, as director of the neoconservative think tank the Henry Jackson Society, Shawcross said: “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future.” 

An alternative People’s Review of Prevent was released in February 2022. 

The 85-page report said: “Prevent involves a ‘pre-criminal space’ where no offences have been committed. [The strategy] is highly intrusive within British Muslim communities and among children and young people.” 

A Home Office spokesperson previously said: “Prevent remains a vital tool for early intervention and safeguarding. The independent review of Prevent, led by William Shawcross, will ensure we continue to improve our response and better protect people from being drawn into poisonous and dangerous ideologies.”