Eastern Eye (UK)

Prevent review ‘wrong’ to dismiss right-wing threat


- (Agencies)

ONE of Britain’s most senior police officers, Neil Basu, has criticised the review of the deradicali­sation programme Prevent, saying the findings appeared to be driven by a “right-wing viewpoint”.

Prevent, a key strand of Britain’s security apparatus, was brought in after the September 11 attacks on the United States with the aim of stopping radicalisa­tion and stoping people from going on to commit acts of violence. However, it has been dogged since its inception by allegation­s that it has been used to spy on Muslim communitie­s, while some of those referred to the programme later went on to commit terrorism offences.

An independen­t review which concluded last Wednesday (8) said the counter-terrorism programme must refocus its efforts on the threat from militant Islamism after becoming too concerned with rightwing extremism.


Shawcross, who was appointed independen­t reviewer of Prevent in January 2021, said it was not doing enough to target “non-violent Islamist extremism”.

Islamism – often referred to as Islamic fundamenta­lism – as an ideology was not the same as Islam as a faith, he said.

“Challengin­g extremist ideology should not be limited to proscribed organisati­ons but should also cover domestic extremists operating below the terrorism threshold who can create an environmen­t conducive to terrorism,” Shawcross added.

The most recent figures showed that in the year to the end of March 2022, 6,406 people had been referred to Prevent, with 20 per cent referrals for far-right concerns and 16 per cent over Islamist radicalisa­tion.

Shawcross said during the course of his review, he found several Prevent-funded groups had “either promoted extremism or had engaged with persons whose extremism would have emerged on reasonable enquiry”.

He also said that there had been a “double standard”, with the definition of extremist Islamist ideology too narrow and the approach to the extreme right-wing too broad, drawing in mainstream, “mildly controvers­ial” commentary.

“It is correct for Prevent to be increasing­ly concerned about the growing threat from the extreme right. But the facts clearly demonstrat­e the most lethal threat in the last 20 years has come from Islamism, and this threat continues,” he said in his review.

Basu, who headed the UK’s counter-terrorism policing until 2021 as the assistant commission­er of the Metropolit­an Police, said it was “insulting to any counter-terrorism profession­al to suggest they had put any particular ideology over another”.

“That is, in my view, driven by a right-wing viewpoint that XRWT [extreme right-wing terrorism] is either unimportan­t or doesn’t really exist”, he told the Guardian.

Basu, now a non-executive director of the College of Policing, said he agreed with the MI5 head who said right-wing extremism accounted for “20 per cent” of the work the domestic counter-intelligen­ce agency did.

Amnesty Internatio­nal also criticised the review, saying its author had a “history of bigoted comments on Muslims and Islam”.

“There’s mounting evidence that Prevent has specifical­ly targeted Muslim communitie­s and activists fighting for social justice, and a host of crucial internatio­nal issues,” the rights group said.

Shawcross attended just six review panels tasked with examining the cases where individual­s were identified as being at greatest risk, one report said last weekend.

Critics said Shawcross’s attendance was too small to make a thorough assessment of Prevent.

The review was “light on research” and “poor on analysis”, Layla Aitlhadj,

the director at Prevent Watch, a group dedicated to supporting people impacted by Prevent, was quoted as saying.

But the review found support from the home secretary, Suella Braverman, who said Prevent had shown “cultural timidity and an institutio­nal hesitancy to tackle Islamism for fear of the charge of Islamophob­ia”.

“Prevent needs to better understand the threats we face and the ideology underpinni­ng them,” Braverman said, adding the focus of the initiative “must solely be on security, not political correctnes­s”.

The government accepted all 34 recommenda­tions made in the Prevent review.

Both Shawcross and Braverman highlighte­d that in the four years since the review was commission­ed, there had been six terrorist attacks, which were all Islamist in nature.

Last November, Ken McCallum, the head of MI5, said Islamist militants remained its major concern, but warned there had been a rise in far-right extremists seeking firearms.

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 ?? ?? RISK ASSESSMENT: William Shawcross; (inset below left) Neil Basu; and (inset below right) Suella Braverman
RISK ASSESSMENT: William Shawcross; (inset below left) Neil Basu; and (inset below right) Suella Braverman

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