Quilliam welcomes the government’s new ‘Prevent’ review and strategy that is to be published later today (which Quilliam has read).Quilliam regards Prevent’s renewed focus on tackling pro-terrorist ideologies and on challenging extremism in schools, universities and on the internet as much-needed and long-overdue.
At the same time, however, there are many problems in the strategy that may undermine its effectiveness if left unresolved –particularly its weak understanding of Islamism and extremism and its lack of clarity over how key parts of the strategy will be actually implemented on the ground. Unless resolved, these intellectual and practical weaknesses may fatally undermine the new strategy’s positive aspects.
Maajid Nawaz, the executive director of Quilliam, said:
‘The new strategy is a step in the right direction. It is good that the government has recognised that extremism lies at the root of terrorism and that extremism must be tackled as a result. It is also right that the government has acknowledged the problem of radicalisation at universities and that action is needed against campus hate-preachers.
‘At the same time, however, the strategy is plagued by muddled thinking that risks undermining its positive achievements. In particular its definition of Islamism is so broad that it fails to distinguish between Islamists and politically active Muslims inspired by Islam,this unnecessarily smears ordinary politically active Muslims and works to the favour of Islamists who benefit from hiding behind such blurred distinctions.
‘It is troubling that the strategy reveals that so much previous ‘Prevent’ money has been wasted on futile projects and initiatives with some Prevent money ending up in the hands of extremists. It is disappointing then that the strategy itself does not list any practical measures to safeguard against such problems re-occurring, and nor does it list a nuanced understanding of the stages involved in the counter-extremism process.
‘The bottom line is not just whether this strategy will make us safer against terrorist attack, but also whether it helps to foster more national cohesion. For the moment, the jury is out. The strategy in itself is just a piece of paper. The challenge now is to put it into practice, and to do that a Prevent overseer in Downing Street is required. Given his experience and background, Lord Carlile appears to be the best man for the job.’
A full response by Quilliam to the new Prevent strategy is available online here.
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