The Activist Campaign to Demonise Prevent
The Prevent counter-terrorism strategy is perhaps the most controversial government policy most people have never heard of. Public recognition of it is generally low, but opposition from Britain’s raucous Islamist scene, near total. From there, opposition has spread to sections of the far-left, and those parts of academia where Islamism and the revolutionary left intersect. This report, written by three experts on Islamism, outlines the campaign against Prevent, and argues that this is not an exceptional campaign against a uniquely flawed policy – the groups opposing Prevent have tended to criticise pretty much any counter-terrorism policy, in sine cases for a generation. The same names and campaign groups appear time after time regardless of the colour of the government of the day.
Disappointingly, ministers and officials have tended to shy away from some of these debates, allowing misinformation, and even conspiracy theory, to flourish. The forthcoming Prevent review by William Shawcross risks being dead on arrival if this continues. The authors call for a Centre for the Study of Extremism to give Ministers the tools to properly push back against campaigners, with a separate communications unit to disseminate rebuttal, and a due diligence unit. The latter is needed to ensure that government departments and the public sector are choosing their friends wisely. Too often anti-Prevent campaigners are able to grandstand against government counter-terrorism policies, whilst at the same time receiving government patronage and engagement. It should no longer be possible to run with the fox, and hunt with the hounds.