Britain is reviewing its cornerstone anti-terror programme. As the name implies, Prevent is a strategy designed to stop radicalisation before it metastasises into killer intent. But how well is it working?
There have been accusations that Prevent is discriminatory. Groups such as Liberty and the Muslim Council of Britain have criticised the anti-terror strategy for targetting Muslims, arguing that it has caused hurt to Britain’s Islamic communities. But there are also criticisms that, even on its own terms, the Home Office programme isn’t working as well as it should. Dame Sara Khan, the social cohesion tsar, last week warned that efforts to tackle Islamist extremism are being hampered by ‘political correctness’. The fear of being called a racist, she explained, is hampering our ability to avert deadly extremism.
Khan is of course right, as anyone who has followed Britain’s numerous terror attacks will have heard. Remember the Manchester Arena bombing and the security guard who spotted the Salman Abedi behaving suspiciously with his rucksack? Kyle Lawler, then aged just 18, claimed that if he had confronted Abedi, his career might have been ruined by an accusation of racism. This is far from the only case. Khan herself has given the example of an unnamed local authority in which councillors were ‘very comfortable’ talking about the far-right but altogether more coy when it came to the Islamist threat – which, regardless of what some media outlets might have you believe, is still by far the greater danger to Britain’s streets
And it isn’t just local government that’s the problem. Hannah Stuart, a terrorism expert who previously worked at the independent Commission for Countering Extremism alongside Dame Sara Khan, has spoken of how common it was to sit through hours-long meetings with government departments only for Islamist extremism to be studiously avoided.