The home secretary has just equated critics of the government’s Prevent scheme to extremists

Sajid Javid
Support us and go ad-free

Home secretary Sajid Javid has taken a swipe at critics of counter-terrorism scheme Prevent. The Telegraph said he claimed some groups are spreading false information to “warp young people’s minds”. He also said that people attacking the scheme are “on the side of extremists”. These comments have not only provoked outrage but don’t stand up to basic fact-checking.

‘Ad hominem attacks’

The government states that we need Prevent to stop people “from being drawn into terrorism”. This is done by requiring staff in public services such as education and healthcare to refer suspected individuals to a programme called Channel. This then attempts to turn these people away from terrorism. As a result, Javid claimed Prevent is part of “making Britain safer”. But Javid’s comments have come under fire from a wide range of people.

Muslims have been the primary targets of Prevent, with 61% of all referrals in 2016/17 being for “Islamist extremism”. It’s no surprise then, that Muslim groups and their representatives have shown particular anger at Javid’s comments:

Criticism also came from across the board, including journalists and academics :

Social justice groups were also critical:

The real critics of Prevent

The problem with Javid’s comments is that they don’t stand up to scrutiny. Criticism of Prevent has come from a wide range of sources. In June, for example, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott panned it as “tainted”. And teachers across the country have expressed concern about its effect on Muslim students. It’s also faced criticism from NHS staff, university lecturers and even the UN.

And there’s good reason for this criticism. The government’s own figures suggest a very ineffective scheme. Javid admitted that, since 2015, only 500 people have been through Channel and then assessed as no longer of concern. By comparison, more than 6,000 people were referred to Prevent in 2016/17 alone.

The impact of this scattershot approach is wider than just a few misidentified people. The Independent reported on 2 December, for example, that Prevent is limiting freedom of expression and stifling debate in universities. A study by Warwick University in March found that at least four NHS Trusts are screening all mental health patients for “radicalisation”. And in May, The Canary revealed how Prevent is putting social justice movements on the same footing as banned terrorist organisations.

Meanwhile, Javid appeared to offer no examples of the “false information” being spread, nor by whom it is allegedly being shared.

Dividing communities

Prevent is a scheme that imposes paranoia and division on communities. It wants us to police one another while using the language of “safeguarding“. And, most insidious of all, Prevent reinforces harmful notions about who the ‘enemy’ is.

The government is about to introduce the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security bill. It will, among other actions, allow local authorities to refer people to Prevent. Human rights group Liberty said this poses “several significant threats to civil liberties and human rights”. But the plan has already been slated by Abbott and a coalition of press bodies.

It’s no surprise, then, that Javid is currently touting the alleged advantages of the scheme. But we mustn’t let him or anyone else spread ‘false information’ about its true impacts.

Featured image via Ministry of Housing/Flickr

Support us and go ad-free

Get involved

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us