(New York, N.Y.) — The British Government last week accepted all 34 recommendations of an independent review of the U.K.’s Prevent strategy. The review, led by Independent Reviewer William Shawcross, criticized the counter-extremism program’s effectiveness thanks in large part to an inflated sense of threat from extreme right-wing terror groups, which were too broadly defined, and a failure to recognize Islamist ideologies and Islamist terrorism as the principal threat to Britain, which were too narrowly defined.
Following publication of the review, Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Strategic Advisor Liam Duffy—a recognized expert on extremism and radicalization—observed in an op-ed published by UnHerd that Prevent was fundamentally flawed given that its core objective is to “prevent people from being drawn into terrorism,” thereby minimizing or dismissing individual agency in political violence.
“In this model, the individual is a passive participant in their own descent into terrorism, sometimes manipulated by mysterious online recruiters or pushed by socioeconomic circumstances beyond their control … Such thinking has seeped into broader counterterrorism discourse, but perhaps worst of all it has allowed now-stranded jihadists in Syria to play back Western tropes for domestic consumption. In their versions of events, they were groomed, manipulated or brainwashed into joining Isis, just as they were only ever cooks or engineers in the Caliphate.”
Separately, CEP Senior Advisor Ian Acheson wrote for CapX that the Prevent review revealed the program’s inability to curtail “extreme antisemitism” across the ideological spectrum of those among referred to the program’s ‘Channel’, suggesting that Prevent is not equipped to address the threat.
“Prevent … merely treats the symptoms of a well-entrenched pathology. Mission creep has meant it is treating far too much and often not well enough. But there does need to be a wider societal response – and a much more muscular one – to the relative impunity and official indifference that people who hate Jews prosper under.”
Acheson also wrote for The Daily Mail that Prevent’s mission creep and “misalignment of resources” was evident in the program’s focus “on dealing with ‘mildly controversial or provocative forms of mainstream, right-wing-leaning commentary that have no meaningful connection to terrorism or radicalisation’ … while 80 percent of live terror-related police investigations involved Islamists, only 22 percent of Prevent referrals for the year 2020/21 concerned Islamist radicals.”
Shawcross’ review included several elements of CEP’s research, including its profile, Hashem Abedi, as well as the CEP-European Policy Centre discussion paper, Hiding in Plain Sight? Disguised Compliance by Terrorist Offenders.
Additional commentary and analysis from CEP experts on the Prevent program and review appeared in Al Khaleej Today; Arab News; Il Sussidiario; The Telegraph; The Times; and Times Radio.
To read CEP’s resource United Kingdom: Extremism and Terrorism, please click here.