Surviving society: prevent is an ideological ‘stop-and-search’ that is dangerous to justice

Prevent is the tip of separate policy architecture that is set outside of long-established principles of evidence-based justice. This is called “pre-crime”, and it is racist, Islamophobic and political.

There is something very powerful in the word “extremist”. There is nothing illegal in the activities and ideas that are being presented as “extreme”. If there was something criminal in them, it would be investigated by police and the criminal justice system. 

The Terrorism and Border Control Act (2019) brought a whole lot of new “offences” into counter-terrorism law and into the realm of counter-extremism, including downloading certain flags and symbols, even when there is no evidential intent to commit any crime.

Prevent took this even further back, and it seeks to criminalise “ideas” and “behaviours” that could lead to a person “becoming a terrorist”, even though there is no evidence that such beliefs or ideas do in fact lead to violent acts.

These actions and ideas are particularly those that challenge government ideology, especially through extra-parliamentary activities such as protests. The new anti-protest legislation that has been quietly rolled in, first by Priti Patel and now by Suella Braverman, will dovetail more closely with Prevent and criminalise this sort of activity under “counter-terrorism”.

Even if you are of the 5% referred to Channel for “deradicalization”, you still have not committed any crime, but you are still criminalised, monitored, and “counselled” until government is satisfied you are no longer a “possible terrorist threat”.

So, what we are facing here is the development of an entirely separate policy architecture that is outside of long-established principles of evidence-based justice.

This is called “pre-crime”, and it is a political space, full of subjective interpretations that are racist and Islamophobic at the core.

This is a stop-and-search mentally, ideologically – with no crime at the end of it. It is a very dangerous policy with a wide scope that is very much part of what Clive Walker has called the “policy spiral” associated with counter-terrorism and counter-extremism.

Policy Exchange is now advocating that Muslim organisations should be certified and monitored to determine if they can receive public funds, or whether they can be engaged with by other groups.

In doing so, they are trying to create a cordon around Muslim organisations so that people won’t share platforms and so on. It is to destroy social solidarity that advocates positive change in a perfectly legal, democratic way.

Where is this leading us and what can we do?

For more, listen to Surviving Society podcast ‘Legacies of the War on Terror’ here.


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