The Guardian is reporting that the government’s hugely unpopular Prevent counter-radicalisation strategy is to be toughened rather than scaled back despite criticism that it is a toxic brand designed to monitor British Muslims.
According to the newspaper, the Home Office has confirmed that a secret Whitehall internal review of Prevent, ordered earlier this year by Theresa May, has concluded that the programme “should be strengthened, not undermined” and has put forward 12 suggestions on how to reinforce it.
The overhaul of the programme is to be detailed as part of the government’s wider reworking of its counter-terrorism strategy, known as Contest, that is to be published before the end of the year. Ministers believe that Prevent is working and is safeguarding people from being drawn into terrorism.
Criticism of the Prevent strategy, under which more than 8,000 people have been referred for possible inclusion in the anti-radicalisation programme, has intensified in recent months. The programme has expanded rapidly over the last 18 months as more than 850 people have left Britain to go to Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq.
A major report published in October recommended that the government revoke Prevent in the healthcare and education sectors.
Eroding Trust: The UK’s Prevent Counter-Extremism Strategy in Health and Education was published by the Open Society Justice Initiative.
The report said the strategy is leading to a breakdown of trust in some of the most important societal relationships: between students and teachers, doctors and patients, police officers and citizens, particularly Muslims.
The report said Muslims are vital in efforts to defeat terrorism but recognized that they are being marginalized (and risk being discriminated against) by existing counter-terrorism policy.