Eastern Eye (UK)
Prevent review ‘wrong’ to dismiss right-wing threat
PROGRAMME MUST TACKLE ALL IDEOLOGIES, SAYS BASU
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.