UK counter-extremism project 'must be reviewed', says terror watchdog

UK counter-extremism project 'must be reviewed', says terror watchdog
Prevent, long criticised for spreading fear and mistrust, must be looked at again, says Britain's terrorism legislation watchdog.
2 min read
04 February, 2016
Prevent has been widle criticised by activists [Getty]
The UK's "Prevent" counter-extremism project should be thoroughly reviewed, a leading watchdog has said, following accusations it causes mistrust and fear within the British Muslim community.

The controversial anti-terror strategy has been described as a "significant source of grievance" among British Muslims, while marginalising the community and allowing "mistrust to spread and to fester", according to David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws in Britain.

The programme is "ineffective or being applied in an insensitive or discriminatory manner", he said.

Prevent was heavily condemned last year when it introduced "anti-radicalisation procedures" in schools to monitor children that could be "at risk", as fear grew over young British Muslim students leaving Britain to join IS militants in Syria.

"The British government made it a legal duty for every single public service provider in the country - that's doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, - to identify those who show signs of extremism, essentially making them informants," Lena Mohamed, advocate at the Islamic Human Rights Commission, told The New Arab.

Community leaders have accused the British government of forcing young Muslims to become spies - a move that many say has created an atmosphere of mistrust.

"The government defines extremism as 'opposition to fundamental British values', which in actual terms amounts to opposition to the state. What we're seeing then is anyone who is critical of the government could potentially be targeted by this policy, and be referred to a Prevent or police officer to undergo 'de-radicalisation training'," Mohamed added.
What it's doing is stigmatising whole communities

The policy was introduced after the 9/11 attacks in New York, as part of a broader British government strategy to tackle radicalisation.

In 2010, the programme received a major setback when it was revealed that 72 cameras were secretly placed in Muslim-concentrated areas of Birmingham to monitor the community.

"Prevent is seen by many educators... [and] by many in the community as being a blunt instrument," said Raheel Mohammed, the director of Muslim social enterprise Maslaha.

"What it's doing is stigmatising whole communities," he added.

Anderson agreed: "It is perverse that Prevent has become a more significant source of grievance in affected communities than the police and ministerial powers that are exercised... The lack of transparency in the operation of Prevent encourages rumour and mistrust to spread and to fester."

Muslim organisations such as the IHRC say they "welcome" the suggestion to review the policy and maintain that Prevent should be overhauled completely.