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LMN Briefing - Prevent Review

The Prevent Strategy Review

Executive Summary In January 2019, the government was forced to accept calls for an independent review into the Prevent strategy. This followed long standing pressure by civil liberties and human rights organisations who, alongside Muslim communities, had highlighted that the programme ​​fosters discrimination against Muslims and inhibits freedom of expression. The independent review stated goals was to consider the strategy, delivery and future of the Prevent programme. With this review now complete, we are disappointed to see the government has wasted a serious opportunity to build trust and work within communities to tackle terrorism. It has instead chosen to take a purely ideological approach led by an independent reviewer who has a long history of divisive and offensive comments on the public record. Both in their appointment of William Shawcross as lead reviewer and their refusal to consult a wide range of groups who maintain concerns around the strategy, the government has once again lost the trust of our communities. The Labour Muslim Network rejects this so-called “independent” review in its entirety and condemns its dangerous and divisive recommendations - which includes refocusing the strategy on Muslims and creating a McCarthyite blacklist of Muslim groups. We urge the government, and everyone in the Labour Party, to reject this ideological and dangerous move and instead join the Muslim Council of Britain in calling for a real independent review, rooted in evidence and aiming to bring our communities together. What is Prevent? PREVENT is the government’s anti-radicalisation strategy and includes a statutory duty for schools, NHS trusts, prisons and local authorities to report concerns about people who may be at risk of turning to extremism. There have been broad criticisms of the Prevent strategy since its inception. It has been accused of disproportionately targeting Muslims, lacking transparency and accountability, breaking down trust between Muslim communities and the security services and undermining freedom of speech. William Shawcross - “Independent Reviewer” As the Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill made its way through Parliament in early 2019, the government accepted an amendment for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. Initially, Lord Carlile was appointed as the independent reviewer, however, following concerns around his public support for the programme and legal challenges by Rights Watch UK (now Rights & Security International) Lord Carlile was removed and replaced with William Shawcross. The appointment of William Shawcross was met with widespread concern and condemnation as a result of his previous public comments relating to Islam and Muslims. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Writing an article headlined “Yes, the problem is ‘Islamic Fascism.’” In this article he denounces the fact “Muslim” was not emphasised more in reports about terrorism.(F1)

  • In 2010, he said: “The only force of which Labour (like most EU ruling parties) seems to be in awe is Islamism. No Foreign Office official would have drawn up a document mocking Islam.”(F2)

  • In 2012, he claimed: “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations.”(F3)

  • In 2014, he said Islamic extremism is the “most deadly” threat to charities in England and Wales.(F4)

  • In 2014, the Charities Commission under his tenure was accused of institutional bias against Muslim charities, leading to “38% of all disclosed statutory investigations” being about Muslim charities (vs 5% of the population).(F5)

  • Following Shawcross’ appointment, more than 450 Muslim organisations stated their intention to boycott the review. A statement signed by many of the organisations boycotting read: “William Shawcross has a track record of hostility to Islam and Muslims. No serious, objective, critical review can be undertaken by someone with such a track record – rather we should expect him to promote a hardening of policies towards Muslims. So, if Muslim organisations engage with this review, it strengthens its legitimacy and its power to recommend policies more harmful to the community.”(F6)

Concerns on the Review and Recommendations Since the announcement of William Shawcross, a broad group of Muslim and non-Muslim civil liberties and human rights organisations have expressed concerns about the outcome of this review. Given the track record and public statements of Mr Shawcross, it was clear that this would be a biased view into the programme. With the conclusion and recommendations of the review now final, these concerns have been justified. The recommendations of the report reinforce the view from within Muslim communities that Prevent targets Muslims as a security threat. An example of this view is Gavin Robinson who in 2016 said: “When I asked why Northern Ireland, which has a fair number of extremists, was not included in the strategy, I was told, ‘Don’t push the issue too far. It is really a counter-Islamic strategy.”(F7) A McCarthyite blacklist of Musilm groups is dangerous and divisive. The government risks tarring Muslim groups without fair due process and risks further decreasing trust and harbouring collaboration. Former Policing lead of Prevent (Sir Peter Fahy) is just one of a range of high profile figures who considered the approach proposed as “quite dangerous” and an attempt to “politicise counter-terrorism.” Sources (Footnotes) F1: F2: F3: F4: F5: F6: F7:

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