Prevent review slammed by experts after controversial inquiry head praises scheme

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Sir William Shawcross’s review of the Prevent counter-extremism scheme has finally been released. Barring a few minor adjustments, Shawcross, who was a terrible pick to lead the review, seems to think it is in working order. However, it has to be said that not everyone seems to agree.

The review’s executive summary talks up Prevent’s “noble motive”. Shawcross claims:

The government should be proud of Prevent’s positive impact in this regard.

He rejects the charges levelled at the scheme for years, that it is draconian and prejudiced:

The caricature of Prevent as an authoritarian and thinly veiled means of persecuting British Muslims is not only untrue, it is an insult to all those in the Prevent network doing such diligent work to stop individuals from being radicalised into terrorism.

The review also claims there is:

a concerted campaign by some, including a number of Islamist groups, to undermine and delegitimise Prevent through the spread of disinformation, misinformation and half-truths.

Read on...

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No legitimacy

Among the review’s critics was Amnesty international. The charity’s UK racial justice director Ilyas Nagdee said:

This review is riddled with biased thinking, errors, and plain anti-Muslim prejudice – frankly, the review has no legitimacy.

Nagdee added:

William Shawcross’ history of bigoted comments on Muslims and Islam should have precluded his involvement in this ill-starred review in the first place.

While the Child Rights International Network (CRIN) said the review “doubled down” on the worst parts of Prevent:

Prevent Watch pointed out that the review failed to account for the harm that Prevent does against children:

Sidelining the far-right

One of the review’s key claims was that more attention was due to Islamic extremism than to far-right threats:

Islamist extremism represents the primary terrorist threat to this country – consistently accounting for the majority of terrorist attack plots both carried out and thwarted by the intelligence services.

The civil liberties organisation Open Rights Group did not agree, warning that the review “dismisses” the real and dangerous threat of far-right extremism:

And the Guardian‘s Sunder Katwala wrote that far from improving Prevent, the Shawcross review:

is already reheating and repolarising the debate around Prevent, engaging in a stale tug-of-war about which threats from extremism really matter.

More of the same

Everything seems to be wrong with this review. It does nothing to alleviate the targeting of Muslims – if anything it promises to focus even more narrowly on the community. Even the selection of Shawcross – who is seen as an antagonistic figure to many in the debate – calls into question what manner of outcome were expected.

Add to that the reduced focus on far-right extremism and the review sends a message to a vulnerable, marginalised, and maligned community that it is they, not the violent far-right, who are an enemy within.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Tony Hisgett, cropped to 770 x 403, licenced under CC BY 2.0.

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