IN The News

TRT: The ‘chilling effects’ of UK’s Prevent strategy on Muslims

22 Sept 2023 – Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms while countering terrorism, shared her insights with TRT into the far-reaching consequences of the Prevent strategy on British Muslims.

Ni Aolain reveals that neither William Shawcross nor the British government took on board her views or other views of UN Special Rapporteurs regarding Prevent.

CAGE: State Capture – The CCE as a vehicle for entryism by right-wing think tanks

2 Sept 2023 – Since its formation in early 2018, the Commission for Countering Extremism has undergone a noticeable evolution in its personnel, political approach, and degree of patronage it enjoys from the government.

This piece traces the evolution of the CCE as followed by leading researchers in advocacy against Prevent, how it is being fuelled by aggressive security think tanks, such as the Henry Jackson Society and Policy Exchange that have increasingly hegemonised the policy space for counter-terrorism in recent years, and have reduced the clout of regular civil society organisations.

The Guardian: Law Council of Australia warns government against ‘unnecessary’ proposed counter-extremism laws

24 Aug 2023 – The Law Council of Australia has joined civil liberty groups, journalists and advocacy groups to sound the alarm on proposed laws to criminalise the accessing of violent extremist material, saying the new powers are unnecessary and may inadvertently interfere with legitimate dissent.

The Australian federal government is seeking to expand counter-terror powers by introducing new offences for possessing or controlling violent extremist material using a carriage service.

The Justice Gap: How Can Children Access Legal Support When They Have Committed No Crime?

25 July 2023 – A recent United Nations report on Children’s Rights in the UK urges the government to ensure children have access to legal support and to ensure their due process rights – but is this even possible under the government’s controversial counter-extremism policy Prevent?

Human rights organisations have raised repeated concerns – most recently in a joint request to MPs to withdraw the recent review of Prevent by William Shawcross – that the policy is “ideologically shaped”, that it raises concerns for children in particular.

Middle East Eye: What the Knowsley riot tells us about Suella Braverman and the Shawcross Review of Prevent

22 Feb 2023 – In the wake of the Knowsley riot, Ella Cockbain and Peter Oborne argue that the Shawcross review of Prevent, supported by Suella Braverman, has given permission to the far right and they must bear some responsibility:

“There’s no question that the far right played a major role in stirring up the terrible events in Knowsley. Big Tech must also answer for its culpability in enabling fascism: calls to action circulated on social media, including a YouTube video from the neo-Nazi group Patriotic Alternative. But – and this should trouble the Home Secretary – there is plenty of evidence that the “respectable right and centre-right” bears a heavy share of responsibility.”

The Guardian: UK counter-terrorism report author accused of basing conclusions on ‘a handful of cases’

13 Feb 2023 – William Shawcross, the author of a controversial review into the Prevent strategy, attended only six of the review panels charged with examining only the most extreme cases.

Critics say Shawcross’s attendance of such a small number of these raises fresh questions over how thorough the research was that led to his conclusions.

Layla Aitlhadj, director at Prevent Watch, said her organisation had examined hundreds of Prevent referrals. “We analysed 600 cases of people referred to the programme. Shawcross based his entire report on just six Channel cases.”

Following publication of Shawcross’s review, Britain’s former top counter-terrorism officer, Neil Basu, said parts of the government-backed report appeared to be inspired by right-wing ideology and were “insulting” to professionals fighting to tackle extremism.

5 Pillars: Shawcross Review prompts Muslim organisations to call for Prevent to be scrapped

12 Feb 2023 – The William Shawcross review of Prevent has prompted Muslim organisations, including those targeted in the Prevent review, to call for the strategy to be scrapped.

CAGE Managing Director Muhammad Rabbani said: “Cycles of violence will only end if we address the broader political issues that contribute to them. This is something the government has resisted because an entire industry survives on the myth that Islam and Muslims are inherently violent.”

Meanwhile, Prof. John Holmwood, emeritus Professor of Sociology at Nottingham University, and Dr Layla Aitlhadj, directorat Prevent Watch, said Shawcross had distorted facts, and had not provided proper evidence for many of his claims and recommendations.

The Guardian: Prevent Watch warns Home Office of possible libel action related to Prevent review

1 Feb 2023 – An organisation that campaigns against the Prevent strategy has warned of a defamation action against the Home Office before a review into Prevent.

Prevent Watch, which has supported 600 individuals it says have harmed by Prevent, sent a formal letter to the department threatening legal action because of concerns that the organisation is listed in Shawcross’s unpublished review – which has already been shared with some media outlets – as being supportive of “Islamic extremism” because it opposes the Prevent strategy.

Dr Layla Aitlhadj, the director of Prevent Watch, says this claim which, if it is made in Shawcross’s review, is defamatory.

Middle East Eye: Rights NGO challenges government over the independence of the Prevent review

25 Jan 2023 – The UK’s Home Office is facing fresh questions over the credibility and lawfulness of a long-delayed review of its contentious Prevent strategy.

Rights and Security International (RSI) said on Monday it had written to the Home Office to raise its concerns that the department may have “interfered significantly” in a draft report by reviewer William Shawcross.

RSI published details of redacted emails obtained from the Home Office through a freedom of information request, as the basis of its concerns, which it says detail meetings between Home Office officials and William Shawcross’s team that suggest significant ‘interference’ in review process.

The Independent: Prevent review may be ‘redundant’, campaigners say

2 Jan 2023 – The findings of the independent review of Prevent by the government may be “redundant” by the time it is published, four years after being announced, campaigners have said.

Co-author of a paralell review, The People’s Review of Prevent, John Holmwood, a sociology professor at the University of Nottingham, said it was “deeply disturbing” that the official review remained unpublished several months after parts were leaked.

Fellow author Dr Layla Aitlhadj said many people referred to Prevent are diverted to social care or mental health, “yet these same services have received huge cuts in the face of austerity”.

Middle East Eye: Prevent review delays highlight a process in shambles

30 Dec 2022 – Nearly four years have passed since the British government announced an independent review of the Prevent strategy.

But the Shawcross Report, supposedly crucial for Britain’s domestic security, has been the subject of what can best be described as a programme of reckless Whitehall leaks.

One political editor, Edward Malnik, told readers that his newspaper, the Telegraph, had been shown the secret Shawcross document.

Byline Times: Gove and Shawcross guests of ‘dark money’ lobby group led by Robin Simcox

4 Dec 2022 – Communities Secretary Michael Gove and the Independent reviewer of the Prevent strategy William Shawcross addressed the profit-making lobbying group, the Counter Extremism Group (CEG), founded by Robin Simcox and Hannah Stuart.

This investigation reveals that the CEG is not the non-partisan think tank it styles itself as, but an opaque lobbying group that refuses to disclose the sources of its funding. Aside from this ‘dark money’, it also has ties to well-known ‘alt-right’ extremist hate groups.

Since last March, Simcox has simultaneously served on the government’s Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE).

Birmhingham Live: Cops want the term ‘Islamism’ removed from counter-terrorism policy

15 Nov 2022 – The National Association of Muslim Police has called for an update of policing and counter terrorism terminology, with the term Islamist to be replaced by ‘anti-western extremism’ or something similar.

It has also raised concerns about the disproportionate number of Muslims being referred to Prevent, with the West Midlands among the highest.

Alex Gent, Chairman of the NAMP says Islamophobia remains an issue in wider UK policing, with cases where Muslim officers had been referred to Prevent wrongly by their own colleagues after religious pilgrimages or following acceptance of Islam.

The Guardian: How many far-right attacks before governments admits there’s a problem?

8 Nov 2022 – After counter-terrorism police finally concluded that a firebomb attack on a migrant centre in Dover last week was the latest in far-right terrorist attacks in the UK, crucial questions arise, says Miqdaad Varsi from the Muslim Council of Britain.

The day after the bomb, the home secretary went out of her way to say that the attack was not being treated as terrorism. This is despite the fact that the perpetrator had tweeted that he planned to “obliterate Muslim children” an hour before his attack.

The attacker referenced Tommy Robinson and shared content from far-right Islamophobic groups.

ICHC: Prevent places religious intolerance at the heart of policy

4 Oct 2022 – Prof. John Holmwood argues that David Cameron’s ‘muscular liberalism’ as done away with multiculturalism and constructed a notion of ‘British values’ that scapegoats ethnic minorities by presuming they share none of these values.

This has huge implications for education, since it has been injected into schools via the academies (and free schools) programme which removed schools from local authority control and which was actively promoted by Policy Exchange and pursued by Michael Gove.

The requirement to promote ‘fundamental British values’ that is part of Prevent is incorporated under Section 78 of the Education Act 2002, which means that the moral and spiritual development of children is now subordinated to a national security agenda.


Community Policy Forum: Leicester violence ‘explained’

30 Sept 2022 – Dr. Chris Allen writes for the Community Policy Forum that tensions between some of the city’s Hindus and Muslims have been deteriorating and have been exacerbated a decade of austerity measures and cuts to local services.

Concerns were present within the city since at least 2019, so the city’s leadership has not been ‘unwarned’, while the Home Secretary Suella Braverman visited Leicestershire Police on 22 September and called on the police to do their job “without fear or favour”.

At the same time, Conservative MP Bob Blackman sent a letter to Braverman blaming the disturbances on “Islamic extremists”, but he is a long-time supporter of the BJP in India.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Prevent described as ‘toxic brand’ during Council meeting

26 Sept 2022 – Prevent was described as a “toxic brand” at a heated Council meeting, where councillors said more focus needed to be placed on right-wing terrorism.

Councillors said there was a perception that the counter-terrorism scheme was an anti-Muslim programme, and this made it difficult to have important conversations about extremism within the city.

During the Bradford West Area Committee, one councillor pointed out that the gun that killed Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox had come from Bradford, but no one had ever been arrested over this.

Middle East Eye: Majority of anti-Muslim Twitter posts come from India, then US and UK

19 Sept 2022 – A new report, Islamophobia in the Digital Age by the Islamic Council of Victoria in Canada, has revealed that over a two-year period, between 28 August 2019 and 27 August 2021, India was the main culprit of spreading Islamophobia on social media.

India recorded the by-far highest figure of Islamophobic tweets, with 871,379, followed by the US with 289,248, and the UK, with 196,376.

The report also concluded that Twitter ‘drastically failing’ at removing anti-Muslim content, but that politicians and leading figures can have a positive impact.  


The Guardian: British Muslims’ citizenship reduced to ‘second-class’ status, says thinktank

11 Sept 2022 – British Muslims have had their citizenship reduced to “second-class” status as a result of recently extended powers to strip people of their nationality, a thinktank has claimed.

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) says the targets of such powers are almost exclusively Muslims, mostly of south Asian heritage. Frances Webber, IRR vice-chair and report author, wrote:

“While a ‘native’ British citizen, who has access to no other citizenship, can commit the most heinous crimes without jeopardising his right to remain British, none of the estimated 6 million British citizens with access to another citizenship can feel confident in the perpetual nature of their citizenship.”

The Guardian: Liz Truss halts Dominic Raab’s ‘bill of rights’

7 Sept 2022 – Prime Minister Liz Truss has pulled plans to enact a new bill of rights in one of her first acts as prime minister, telling the cabinet her government would reassess ways to deliver its agenda. One source described the bill as a ‘complete mess’.

The legislation was introduced to parliament in June to replace the 1998 Human Rights Act, with a number of changes including an intent to entrench the primacy of British law over rulings from the ECHR.

It would also place new restrictions on how human rights can be used in claims against the government.

EachOther: The new Prime Minister’s human rights record

5 Sept 2022 – As well as expanding the UK’s involvement in ‘offshoring‘ refugees and asylum seekers, new PM Liz Truss has reportedly pledged to increase frontline border staff by 20%.

She has also voted for restricting legal aid and voted in favour of allowing national-security-sensitive evidence to be put before courts in secret sessions and out of the eye of the media.

On privacy rights, Truss voted in favour of the mass surveillance of people’s communications and activities.

Records show that under the current government the prime minister has never rebelled against the party majority in a vote.


The PROP Expert View: Changes to Prevent proves the policy is a political tool

19 Aug 2022 – There are many indications in the government’s restructuring of Prevent, that the policy is a political tool. One of them is the new interim head of the CCE, Robin Simcox, who was appointed in March 2021. Simcox has strong links with neo-conservative and far-right think tanks. His first announcement was the need to redefine the policy toward right-wing extremism to distinguish far-right groups who operated within the law which, he claimed, were part of normal democratic politics.

Thirdly, a recent report from Policy Exchange recommends that the role of the CCE should be “research into extremism, countering criticisms, and evaluating and providing certification for NGOs”. Expectedly, their only targeted organisations are Muslim NGOs.


CAGE: Understanding Ukraine vs Palestine solidarity in schools

17 Aug 2022 – In a survey based on over 500 responses, CAGE revealed the hypocrisy of the British government in its support for Ukraine, while silencing advocacy on Palestine.

In the CAGE report, 96% of survey responses confirmed support for Ukraine by their schools, 62% indicated their schools had fundraised for Ukraine, and a small number of schools raised funds to donate military equipment, and/or to donate to organisations linked to the Ukrainian far-right.

Middle East Eye: Rishi Sunak’s Prevent proposals are truly Orwellian

Rishi Sunak’s announcement that he would use Prevent – the government’s counter-extremism strategy – against those who “vilified” Britain has attracted much derision. But Liz Truss’ response was interesting. She thought it was all a bit “thin” and a restatement of what was already government policy.

She is right. For those who think this is a sign of worrying authoritarianism to come, it is a wake-up call about what is already in place. The issue is to understand how Prevent undermines the rights of everyone, and how it generates moral panic about children and young people.

Gal-dem: The Prevent duty is criminalising Muslims who seek mental health care

11 Aug 2022 – The anti-terrorism programme is having devastating consequences for minority communities seeking mental health services, writes an NHS employee.

Through the lens of suspicion, Prevent turns the therapeutic space, which should be a place of safety, into a manifestation of some of the worst fears that people accessing these spaces harbour – the fear of being watched, followed and targeted.

Middle East Eye: Tory leadership race shatters hopes for a more tolerant Conservative Party

10 Aug 2022 – While the UK’s governing party appears to be celebrating ethnic diversity, it continues to attack religious liberty, write Imran Mulla and Peter Oborne.

Tolerance, rightly practised, extends beyond support for ethnic diversity. British multiculturalism, traditionally understood, has entailed the recognition of diverse religious communities – and today, it is under threat, and for British Muslims, the Conservative Party is a hostile force.

The PROP Expert View: Sunak’s stats on terrorist convictions are misleading and indicate a deeper structural problem

8 Aug 2022 – Sunak’s foolish and dangerous statements betray an ignorance regarding how counter-extremism harms innocent people – but his stats are also wrong.

The statistics for the past year up to March this year from the Home Office show that out of the 196 arrests for terrorist-related activity, 55 (28%) were subsequently charged for terrorism-related offences.

Moreover, white people arrested for terrorist activity increased last year to 91 arrests, while there was a decrease in arrests of black (10 arrests) and Asian (50 arrests) individuals.

So, if Sunak asserts that “80% of live counter terror investigations” are of “Islamists”, why are 80% of the terrorism investigations centred on Muslims? 

The Guardian: Sunak is wrong – and he’s chosen the wrong target, writes MCB’s Miqdaad Versi

4 Aug 2022 – The implication of Rishi Sunak’s purported plans for Prevent seems to be that any public sector worker covered by the Prevent duty would be required to refer anyone they believe is “vilifying” to the authorities.

Would this include nationalists in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, some of whom would readily vilify England? What about writers within our mainstream media, in publications such as the Spectator? Would include those who have non-mainstream political views on our nation’s colonial history?

The Guardian: Sunak’s proposals “potentially damaging” says ex counter-terrorism police chief

2 Aug 2022 – Rishi Sunak’s proposals to strengthen the government’s anti-terrorism programme risk “straying into thought crimes” and are potentially damaging to national security, a former senior police chief has said.

Sir Peter Fahy, who was also chief constable of Greater Manchester police, questioned the precise meaning of “vilification”.

He said: “The widening of Prevent could damage its credibility and reputation. It makes it more about people’s thoughts and opinions.”

The PROP Expert View: Six spectacular takeaways from Prevent Watch’s podcast with 5Pillars

28 July 2022 – If you missed the podcast, or need a quick breakdown, we’ve provided the key points so you’re in the know – click on the Read More link for a quick read, or you can listen to the full podcast here.

Gov.UK: Robin Simcox appointed Commissioner for Countering Extremism

27 July 2022 – The Home Office today confirmed the appointment of Robin Simcox as the substantive Commissioner for Countering Extremism (CCE). His tenure will last for three years. Simcox’s appointment has been agreed by the Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Simcox has dismissed the use of the term “Islamophobia”. He also worked for a US far-right think-tank The Counter Extremism Group. Simcox also said Extinction Rebellion, Unite Against Fascism and the “far-left” need monitoring.

Popular Science: The new US-UK Data Access Agreement will change how tech companies respond to police requests

24 July 2022 – An agreement between the United States and United Kingdom to improve cross-border law enforcement data sharing will go into effect later this year, the two nations announced in a joint statement.

They will now be able to directly request data like messages and pictures from telecommunications providers in the other’s jurisdiction. The non-profit digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation said this is “a dangerous expansion of police snooping”.

5 Pillars podcast: How Prevent targets Muslim school children, and the why it’s a method to silence Muslims

23 July 2022 – In this eye-opening episode of the Blood Brothers Podcast, Dilly Hussain speaks with the director of advocacy group Prevent Watch, Dr Laila Aitlhadj, about the UK government’s controversial counterterrorism ‘Prevent’ strategy.

Topics include what Prevent is supposed to do and what it is actually doing, in particular to young people. The podcast also covers its effect on adults employed in the public services and makes particular mention of why it is incompatible with Islamic values, and its effect on Muslim belief.

The PROP Expert View: How do we make sense of what Shawcross seems to be saying about Prevent?

20 July 2022 – Because Prevent is an early intervention, there can be no evidence that it has successfully dissuaded anyone; indeed this is logically impossible to prove.

Indeed, how can one measure “success” and “failure” when the programme itself targets people who are innocent in the law in the first place?

EachOther: The People’s Review of Prevent explained

19 July 2022 – Into the government’s long delays and silence about its review of Prevent led by William Shawcross, Dr Layla Aitlhadj of Prevent Watch explains the People’s Review of Prevent, a report she co-authored to ensure the voices of those affected by Prevent are heard.

EachOther: Is Prevent even compatible with human rights law?

18 July 2022 – The many criticisms of Prevent include the lack of a peer-reviewed evidence base; the lack of an operable definition of extremism; inadequate training; a high number of ‘false-positives’; and the policy being structurally racist and Islamophobic.

Critics of Prevent include Liberty, the Open Society Foundations, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the National Union of Teachers, Andy Burnham (Mayor of Greater Manchester) and over a hundred academics.

Prevent conflicts with the Human Rights Act (HRA) and the Equalities Act, writes Shazad Amin, Deputy Chair of MEND.

Expert View: Prevent as a tool for a new secular authoritarianism

Prevent continues to operate within, and sustain, its own legal hinterland – both in terms of criminalisation and generating activity in a newly defined “pre-crime” space.

To justify such developments, a campaigning political landscape as opposed to a landscape of good governance is required and is indeed, being vigilantly fostered.

We hear legal experts saying that the problem with Prevent and other policies lies firstly – and crucially – in their legality under British due process, as well as their common sense. But these are opinions are being ignored.

Into this steps Islamophobia as a kind of “wedge” issue.

This has brought a crisis of democracy.

The Guardian: New Met chief faces urgent task to rebuild public trust

8 July, 2022 – Sir Mark Rowley becomes leader of the Metropolitan police knowing its problems are so severe, with public confidence so low, that failure to reform may make him the last commissioner of the force as we know it, writes Vikram Dodd.

Already there is renewed talk of taking away the Met’s status as the national lead for counter-terrorism, so that it can better focus on serving London’s communities.

And the Met commissioner is the only police chief answering to two bosses – the London Mayor and the Home Secretary.

BBC News: Muslims describe abuse suffered at work

6 July, 2022 – Islamophobia Response Unit, a London-based charity that helps Muslims facing Islamophobia says people are being bullied and harassed at work because they express themselves as Muslims.

The Unit told the BBC that Muslims have had prayers mats stolen, been verbally and physically assaulted (one man’s colleagues had “physically pulled on his beard”), and one woman had bacon placed in her lunchbox by colleagues when she came to break her fast while working during Ramadan.

Declassified UK: Manchester bomber was a UK ally in Libya

30 June, 2022 – Salman Abedi and his closest family were part of Libyan militias benefiting from British covert military support six years before he murdered 22 people at the Manchester Arena in 2017. He was 16 at the time.

The UK facilitated the flow of arms to Libyan rebel militias at the time, and helped train them, in a programme outsourced to Qatar.

This echoes claims by the legal team representing families of the deceased in the Manchester bombing, who have suggested that the bomb was due to a failure of the security services to act, and family members have accused Mi5 of ‘obfuscation and cover up‘ .

The PROP Expert View: The Times gets it all wrong on Prevent

24 June 2022 – Times columnist, James Forsyth (‘Islamism is a greater threat than the far right’, June 16) seriously misrepresents the government’s Prevent strategy.

Forsyth believes that the number of far-right referrals is disproportionate to the risk when compared with those who have committed terrorist offences. This is factually incorrect; in 2021, out of 186 actual terrorism arrests, over 40% were related to suspected right-wing terrorism.

Despite the statistics of actual terror offences showing a problem of far-right in terms of actual suspected offences, Prevent still focuses eight times more on Muslims.

The New Arab: How Prevent impacts Muslims’ access to UK’s public health sector

22 June, 2022 – COVID-19 brought to light the widespread racial inequity in the UK’s public health sector, compounded by the poverty crisis, social housing issues, and the air pollution crisis.

The past two years stressed the importance of access, trust, and care in public health services for racially minoritised communities in Britain that were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

However, as long as Prevent exists in the NHS, these crucial cornerstones of healthcare will remain out of reach for the Muslim community.

The Morning Star: Johnson’s attacks on ‘lefty lawyers’ are childish and sinister

21 June 2022 – David Renton explains how the government has attempted to justify it Rwanda policy in the press and through attacks on lawyers.

Instead of letting refugees settle here, Boris Johnson intends to force them to live in central Africa. The main justification of the Rwanda scheme is that it is so unpleasant that it will scare refugees and dissuade others from following them.

But the focus here is not the ridiculousness of the scheme as such, but rather the way the government has attempted to justify it in the press through attacks on left-wing lawyers.


The Guardian: Thinktank that briefed against XR given $30k by ExxonMobil in 2017

15 June, 2022 – A thinktank that received money from an oil company later published a report that advised the government to criminalise Extinction Rebellion in its tough new crime laws.

Several Conservative MPs and peers cited the 2019 report by Policy Exchange in parliament and the home secretary, Priti Patel, repeated its claims about the climate campaigners being “extremists”.

Middle East Eye: What is the alternative to Prevent?

June 14, 2022 – Prevent doesn’t work and never will. The way forward for the UK rests in the realm of ideas and their healthy expression, not in trying to police thoughts, writes John Holmwood.

In the People’s Review of Prevent, we showed that Prevent is not working, but also that it couldn’t work.

What, then, is its purpose? The answer is that it serves an ideological and populist purpose by scapegoating minority communities.

Expert View: Government’s true face is emerging through its about-turns on Prevent

June 10, 2022 – Prevent was never about safeguarding, but nor is it counter-terrorism, writes Layla Aitlhadj.

Even in cases where individuals were potentially victims of other crimes, Prevent conflated and obscured the duty of safeguarding and ignored the perpetrator, to rather focus on the victim.