Prevent Review Leaked Attacks ‘Double Standards’ Against Far Right and Islamists | prevention strategy

The government’s counterterrorism program has focused too much on right-wing extremism and should now crack down on Islamist extremism, according to leaked excerpts from the draft of a landmark review of the Prevent strategy.

In a particularly provocative recommendation, seen by The Guardian, the review claims there has been a “double standard” approach to tackling different forms of extremism, with individuals targeted for expressing right-wing views because the definition of neo-Nazism has been expanded. too much, while the focus on Islamist extremism has been too narrow.

The leaks, from the government-commissioned Prevent review carried out by Sir William Shawcross, are likely to be deeply controversial. It comes days after a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, where an avowed white supremacist shot 11 black and two white victims in what authorities described as a “racially motivated hate crime.”

Sir Peter Fahy, a former Prevent police leader, said excerpts from the review suggested that Shawcross’s findings were an unwarranted attempt to “politicize counter-terrorism policing” and that it was “quite dangerous to pit one ideology against another”.

Shawcross’s draft review also states that:

  • a renewed focus on Islamist extremism is needed, even as people have not yet reached the threshold of terrorism.

  • People have been referred to Prevent, the government’s anti-extremism program, to access mental health support even when there is no evidence of extremism.

  • some Prevent-funded groups have promoted extremist narratives, including support for the Taliban.

The long-delayed review of Shawcross, which was handed over to the Home Office in late April, has already drawn criticism from civil society groups, dozens of which have refused to take part.

Shawcross, a former head of the charity watchdog, has made controversial comments about Islam. In 2012, as director of the neoconservative think tank Henry Jackson Society, he said: “Europe and Islam is one of the biggest and most terrifying issues of our future. I think all European countries have very rapidly growing Islamic populations.”

The number of references to Prevent related to far-right extremism surpassed that of Islamist radicalization for the first time last year. Far-right threat references from the Prevent a Channel program, which provides more intensive intervention, had already surpassed Islamist radicalization since 2020.

In Shawcross’s draft review of Prevent’s program, he argues that its purpose needs to be refocused, saying that its first objective, addressing the causes of radicalization and responding to the ideological challenge of terrorism, “is not being sufficiently met.”

He argues that the show needs to re-engage with people who do not yet pose a terrorist threat but can “create an environment conducive to terrorism.”

One excerpt says that Prevent has “double standards when it comes to the far right and Islamism.” He says the show has taken an expansive view of right-wing terrorism, which “has been so broad that it has included mildly controversial or provocative forms of mainstream right-leaning commentary that have no significant connection to terrorism or radicalization.”

However, he says a more hard-line approach should be taken towards Islamist extremism, and that the program has concentrated on proscribed organizations, “ignoring Islamist narratives”.

The review draft is also critical of the civil society organizations and community projects funded by Prevent, suggesting that funds are misallocated to “generic” projects and few “could be seen to publicly challenge extremist discourse.”

It found that some Prevent-funded programs “have promoted extremist narratives, including statements that appear to support the Taliban.” The draft says: “As a core principle, the government must stop engaging with or funding those aligned with extremism.”

Another excerpt says that Prevent is “carrying the weight” of overburdened mental health services and that vulnerable people have been referred to access other forms of support, even when they do not pose a terrorist threat.

The report is understood to have been finalized by Shawcross and his team. It still needs to be checked before undergoing legal checks in case any person or group could claim to have been defamed, which could expose the Home Office, which cast Shawcross in the role despite much doubt, to pay legal damages. . .

Fahy, a former Greater Manchester Police chief constable and director of Prevent until 2015, told The Guardian: “There is a danger in thought policing rather than a risk of violence. It is not about ideology but about the risk of someone crossing into violence.

“It is about threats, risks and damages. We know that there has been a rise in far-right extremism in the UK. The worst terrorist attack in Europe was carried out by a right-wing terrorist, Anders Breivik.

“I find it quite dangerous to pit one ideology against another. There is a danger that this is an attempt to politicize counterterrorism surveillance. How are the police supposed to judge what is conventional? The police operate on how likely this person is to be involved in violence, not whether his views are mainstream.”

Excerpts from the draft are likely to draw attention to the intelligence services as well. Ken McCallum, director general of the national spy agency, recently warned that far-right terrorism accounted for one in five of all counterterrorism investigations, a threat that had “substantially grown and transformed in the last five to 10 years.”

He said a particular problem was the “high prevalence” of teenagers in right-wing terrorism investigations, which he suggested was because young people were being swept up in a “toxic ideology” of “online extremists and echo chambers”.

The Interior Ministry has banned a number of far-right groups in recent years, including the neo-Nazi group Sonnenkrieg Division, whose members have been jailed for serious crimes. He also recognized the far-right group Red de Resistencia del Sistema as an alias for the now-banned organization Acción Nacional.

Prevent came under renewed scrutiny following the assassination of Conservative MP David Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency surgery by Ali Harbi Ali, who said he was motivated by Islamic extremism. His murder last year was followed by another Islamist attack on Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Prevention remains a vital tool for early intervention and protection. We will not allow extremists or terrorists to spread hate or sow division, and Prevent remains an important factor in helping to steer people out of harm’s way.

“The independent review of Prevent, led by William Shawcross, will ensure that we continue to improve our response and better protect people from being lured into dangerous and poisonous ideologies. The report is currently being finalized and once formally received and after full consideration, the report and government response will be published.”

Leave a Comment