As the UK Governments anti-extremism mechanism Prevent, set up to prevent ideologically driven terrorist attacks in the UK, continues to attract public attention from organisations and individuals stemming from inaccurate accusations of its anti-Muslim approach to counter-extremism, one needs to look no further than to yesterday’s report published by the Policy Exchange think tank “Unsettled Belonging: A survey of Britain’s Muslim communities”, which renders such claims as utterly erroneous.
For while widespread assumptions hold that targeted profiling and communal discrimination of British Muslims remains a major concern, the presented findings on British Muslim’s perspectives on State-led counter-extremism, namely Prevent, showcase just why we need to recognize that the strategy is neither anti-Muslim, nor a failure.
According to the report, British Muslims are ‘generally relaxed’ about governmental counter-extremism strategies, and they are largely supportive of robust ‘law and order’ policies like Prevent. They perceive attempts to depict Prevent as anti-Muslim as ‘wildly misrepresentative’ of British Muslims’ beliefs, and almost fifty percent believe Muslims themselves need to do more to tackle extremism across the UK.
Clearly, these findings resemble a testament against the ‘preventing Prevent’ lobby and its Islamist adherents like CAGE or the Muslim Council of Britain, which, as pointed out by the report, can scarcely claim to be supported by, nor representative of British Muslims. When the vast majority of British Muslims favours state interventions against extremism in the shape of the Prevent strategy, and even disassociate themselves with the widespread Prevent-criticism, how can it be said therefore that Prevent lacks support within Muslim communities as these Islamists postulate?
In the light of the prevalence of Islamist extremism and terrorism, we mustn’t forget that Prevent, as an anti-extremism initiative, sets out to combat other extremisms beyond Islamism. It sets parameters and reactionary guidelines for the detection and prevention of radicalisation and extremism, regardless of which ideological roots drive these evils. As cases of Wales and Liverpool show, well over fifty percent of referrals to Prevent regard far-right extremist-scares, which makes redundant the claim that Prevent resembles a ‘big-brother-esque’ watchdog solely focused on pursuing Muslims. According to the report, Muslim communities would even welcome more CCTV and Police on the streets to combat local crime.
Don’t get me wrong, Prevent needs reform but not for the reasons put forward by said Islamists and regressive leftists. The dynamics of British underground extremist milieus are undoubtedly evolving every day, and recruitment tactics as well as miscellaneous push and pull factors or narratives are not the same today as they were in 2011 when Prevent was last updated. Reforms must derive from this fact, rather than faulty claims of anti-Muslim targeting, and ensure the strategy is up to date with the latest developments and trends in the sphere of extremism.
So, has prevent been a failure? I argue not. We, in the UK, have not suffered from large-scale “successful” terrorist attacks since the 7/7 bombings. Add to that the fact that we now have factual evidence to finally back up what we have been claiming ever since Prevent’s initiation; Only the Islamists and regressive leftists, not Muslims, have issues with Prevent, and this because of their own illiberal viewpoints.