James Forsyth James Forsyth

An extreme policy failure

The government’s signature policy for dealing with the Islamist challenge inside Britain is the Prevent policy. But Prevent is aimed only at preventing violent extremism. For this reason, it has—as a phenomenally important pamphlet from Policy Exchange, which will be released tomorrow, argues—done little to counter extremism and in a disturbingly large number of cases actually empowered extremists. As the report puts it:

“PVE is thus underwriting the very Islamist ideology which spawns an illiberal, intolerant and anti-western world view. Political and theological extremists, acting with the authority conferred by official recognition, are indoctrinating young people with an ideology of hostility to western values. This strategic error on the part of officialdom is born of a poverty of aspiration: the belief of the authorities that they cannot reasonably ask angry Muslims for much more than a pledge not to use violence in Britain. The effect has been to empower reactionaries within Muslim communities and to marginalise genuine moderates, thus increasing inter-community tensions and envenoming the public space.”

Tackling violent extremism effectively requires dealing with the extremist ideology that leads people to commit acts of violence. To view anyone who stops short of advocating attacks inside Britain as someone we can do business with would be to repeat the whole ‘covenant of security’ mistakes of the 1980s and 90s.

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