The reaction in some quarters to William Shawcross’s review of Prevent, the UK’s counter-extremism programme, has been predictable. The Muslim Council of Britain, Amnesty International, the Guardian and Cage have all criticised the report and the author, with Amnesty launching a particularly unpleasant ad hominem attack on Shawcross, describing him as ‘bigoted’.
None of the above consider that Shawcross was the right man to lead the report because of a remark he made a decade ago stating that Europe’s relationship with Islam ‘is among the greatest, most terrifying problems of our time’.
Shawcross was speaking after the Madrid and London bombings of 2004 and 2005 that claimed 245 lives, and before the atrocities in Paris, Nice, Barcelona, Brussels, Manchester and London Bridge that resulted in hundreds more deaths. It is, therefore, difficult to understand what exactly it is about this honest and accurate statement that has caused so much anger. When one schoolteacher has his head cut off on a suburban French street and another in England is forced into hiding for the crime of blasphemy, then you have a terrifying problem on your hands.
In the last 48 hours, Cage has retweeted a claim that ‘Muslims working with Prevent are native informants’ and another from the Lewisham Mosque accusing the Prevent review of being ‘Islamophobic’, along with the hashtag ‘Whitewash’. It has also expressed its indignation at the Home Secretary. The distaste is mutual. In her statement to the House on Wednesday, Suella Braverman praised the Shawcross report. She took aim at its critics, including Cage, which she described as ‘an Islamist group’ that ‘has excused and legitimised violence by Islamist terrorists’.
Cage first came to public attention in 2015 when Asim Qureshi, its research director, described Mohammed Emwazi as a ‘beautiful young man’. Emwazi had recently been unmasked as ‘Jihadi John’, the Islamic State executioner who beheaded prisoners – including fellow Britons – on camera.