IslamismFebruary 10 2023, 8:58 am

Muslim Council of Britain, Amnesty International Protest Independent Review of British Prevent Strategy

On Feb­ru­ary 8, 2023, the long-await­ed inde­pen­dent review of the British government’s Pre­vent counter-extrem­ism pro­gram was pub­lished, trig­ger­ing rebukes from sev­er­al con­tro­ver­sial Mus­lim advo­ca­cy groups men­tioned in the doc­u­ment, includ­ing the Mus­lim Coun­cil of Britain (MCB) and CAGE. Accord­ing to the doc­u­ment’s fore­word:

Pre­vent must return to its core mis­sion – coun­ter­ing all those ide­olo­gies that can lead peo­ple to com­mit­ting or sup­port­ing acts of ter­ror­ism. This can only be done if Pre­vent prop­er­ly under­stands the nature of these ide­olo­gies and how they attract and sub­orn indi­vid­u­als. It is cor­rect for Pre­vent to be increas­ing­ly con­cerned about the grow­ing threat from the Extreme Right. But the facts clear­ly demon­strate that the most lethal threat in the last 20 years has come from Islamism, and this threat con­tin­ues. […] Pre­vent must address all extrem­ist ide­olo­gies pro­por­tion­ate­ly accord­ing to the threat each rep­re­sents. How­ev­er, my research shows that the present bound­aries around what is termed by Pre­vent as extrem­ist Islamist ide­ol­o­gy are drawn too nar­row­ly while the bound­aries around the ide­ol­o­gy of the Extreme Right-Wing are too broad. This does not allow Pre­vent to reflect accu­rate­ly, and deal effec­tive­ly with, the lethal risks we actu­al­ly face.

Read the review here.

Pre­vent is part of the broad­er counter-ter­ror­ism strat­e­gy called Con­test. It is fund­ed by the UK Home Office and designed to address all forms of ter­ror­ism equal­ly, pri­or­i­tiz­ing them accord­ing to the threat they pose to British nation­al secu­ri­ty. The British Counter-Ter­ror­ism and Secu­ri­ty Act of 2015 cre­at­ed a pos­i­tive duty for those work­ing in edu­ca­tion or health to report those they deem at risk of rad­i­cal­iza­tion. In 2021, near­ly 5,000 indi­vid­u­als were referred to and sup­port­ed through the program.

The 192-page review, com­mis­sioned in 2019 by the then Home Sec­re­tary Pri­ti Patel and whose pub­li­ca­tion date was delayed sev­er­al times, was authored by William Shaw­cross, a for­mer Chair­man of the British Char­i­ty Com­mis­sion. At the time, British Mus­lim advo­ca­cy groups called to boy­cott the review over what they felt were Islam­o­pho­bic com­ments made by Shaw­cross years ear­li­er. In the review, Shaw­cross accused the pro­gram of being too soft on extrem­ists, saying:

Whilst safe­guard­ing right­ly sits as an ele­ment of Pre­vent work, the programme’s core focus must shift to pro­tect­ing the pub­lic from those inclined to pose a secu­ri­ty threat.

He added that Pre­vent too often bestowed vic­tim­hood sta­tus on all who come into con­tact with it. Accord­ing to Shaw­cross, Pre­vent, and the gov­ern­ment in gen­er­al, con­tin­ue to make mis­takes in engage­ment with exter­nal part­ners, par­tic­u­lar­ly Islamist cam­paign groups. He list­ed sev­er­al such groups, includ­ing Mus­lim Engage­ment and Devel­op­ment (MEND), CAGE, and the Mus­lim Coun­cil of Britain (MCB), all tied to the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood (GMB) in the UK. Shaw­cross also urged con­fronting UK extrem­ists sup­port­ive of ter­ror­ist move­ments which tar­get Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties, such as Hamas and Hezbol­lah, and address­ing the anti-Jew­ish com­po­nent of Islamist and Extreme Right-Wing ide­ol­o­gy and groups.

UK Home Sec­re­tary Suel­la Braver­man accept­ed all of the report’s 34 rec­om­men­da­tions, announc­ing that the government’s strat­e­gy will shift its empha­sis to com­bat­ing the kinds of rad­i­cal­iza­tion that lead to ter­ror­ism more specif­i­cal­ly. Braver­man also announced that the gov­ern­ment sought to strength­en over­sight of the civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions it funds to ensure they chal­lenge extrem­ist and ter­ror­ist ide­ol­o­gy effec­tive­ly and that the gov­ern­ment doesn’t work, engage with, or fund extremists.

On the day of the review’s pub­li­ca­tion, the MCB pub­lished a state­ment warn­ing of the document’s poten­tial fall­out and alleg­ing it will “make Britain less safe and will make British Mus­lims feel par­tic­u­lar­ly vul­ner­a­ble.“ CAGE pub­lished a state­ment say­ing the review posed a renewed hard­line approach to bol­ster an infra­struc­ture of author­i­tar­i­an laws, adding that it high­light­ed the Pre­vent policy’s “inher­ent­ly flawed and big­ot­ed nature.” Oth­er groups have also crit­i­cized the review, with Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al UK say­ing it was deeply prej­u­diced against Mus­lims and had “no legit­i­ma­cy.” Rights and Secu­ri­ty Inter­na­tion­al, a UK human rights NGO whose board mem­bers include MCB spokesper­son Miq­daad Ver­si, said the report was based on “shod­dy research.”

Coun­ter­ing gov­ern­ment action against Islamist rad­i­cal­iza­tion and counter-ter­ror­ism poli­cies has long been an essen­tial pil­lar of GMB activ­i­ty in the UK and Europe. In August 2022, the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) report­ed that a study by three British extrem­ism experts had high­light­ed the role that British GMB groups have played in dele­git­imiz­ing the Pre­vent Strat­e­gy. The experts said that, since Prevent’s intro­duc­tion, sev­er­al inter-relat­ed, well-orga­nized, and media-savvy cam­paigns had sought to under­mine Pre­vent and counter-extrem­ism efforts more broad­ly, effec­tive­ly seek­ing to elim­i­nate the role of Islamist ide­ol­o­gy in ter­ror­ism from offi­cial analy­sis and policy.


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