One of Scotland Yard’s most senior police officers has said criticism of the government’s controversial Prevent counter terrorism programme is based on “ignorance.”
Several prominent Muslim organisations, human rights groups, trade unions and hundreds of academics have labelled Prevent a thinly-veiled monitoring and spying exercise on the Muslim community which is discriminatory and has had a chilling effect on freedom of speech.
But Commander Dean Haydon told the BBC that critics “don’t understand properly how Prevent works.” He added that some criticism came from parts of the community that “don’t want Prevent to work in the first place.”
Supposedly designed to support people at risk of joining extremist groups and carrying out terrorist activities, Prevent is focused on schools, faith organisations, prisons and other communities where people can be at risk of radicalisation.
Cdr Haydon told the Asian Network that the counter-terrorism programme was not about spying on people but about keeping them safe, claiming it had achieved “fantastic” results.
“Some of the criticisms come from sections of the community that, for a variety of different reasons, political or otherwise, just don’t want Prevent to work in the first place,” he said. “Prevent is not just about the Muslim community. It goes across all communities.”
He said a third of the cases related to domestic extremism and involved tackling the threat from right-wing extremists.
“I have seen the positive work of Prevent,” he said, adding it had stopped people from being radicalised or going abroad. “It’s a fantastic tool and it’s here to stay.”
Government figures say 150 people were stopped from entering conflict zones in Iraq and Syria in 2015 because of the programme, but these claims have not been independently verified.
In response to Hayden’s comments advocacy group CAGE said concerns surrounding Prevent are well-grounded in facts and case-based research that clearly show it is a toxic policy.
Dr Adnan Siddiqui, Director of CAGE, said: “Prevent is part of the state’s ever increasing intelligence and monitoring programmes as admitted by the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd. Statistics show that Prevent overwhelmingly targets Muslims.
“Prevent has had a destructive effect in families and has isolated and traumatised children, causing deep mistrust. Its implementation has had an influence on the UK plummeting from a ranking of 11 to 156 in global children’s rights rankings.
“Additionally, the policy has a counterproductive effect. It has been accused of fuelling extremism by the former UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
“The rightful rejection of the policy by communities stems from this reality, one that its interest-driven advocates would rather ignore in favour of creating further myths.”
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