This is the first in a series of posts examining the UK government anti-terrorism strategy known as the “Prevent Strategy”. This strategy is part of a larger 4-part counter-terrorism strategy called “CONTEST”.
In the wake of the suicide bombing atrocities that took place in London on 7th July 2005, the then Labour government created this convoluted strategy that was supposed to address the underlying problems that had led 4 young men to commit the terrible acts. In the government’s words the goal of “Prevent” is “to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism”. Is the strategy working? The BBC estimates that 800 UK citizens have gone to join the Islamic State in spite of the strategy being in place:
Have others been turned away from violent jihad? Possibly, the government claimed in 2013 that 500 people had undergone “deradicalisation” which had steered them away from violent extremism. However there have also been claims that many Muslims in the UK feel alienated by the strategy. If many Muslims feel alienated by the strategy it is perfectly possible that it is having the exactly opposite effect to the one intended on those people. Of course it is impossible to estimate the scale of such an effect. Here is an example of just such a reaction from a prominent Muslim, the chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque:
Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on the strategy. Meanwhile a government funded community centre was found to be being used to recruit people to join the Islamic State!
A lot of Prevent funding has apparently just been given to mosques and Islamic organisations, presumably as an incentive to dissuade terrorism. This is really based on the idea that “mainstream” Islam is a peaceful religion, and therefore it should be encouraged in order to draw Muslims away from more violent “strains” of the religion.
The above articles relate mainly to spending during the Labour government’s time in office. The strategy was revised somewhat since the Coalition came to power, and spending has been reduced greatly, but currently annual spending is still £40m. I am under the impression that generally the focus has shifted more towards spying and greater interference in what is being taught. The increased feeling of being spied upon appears to have worsened the alienation felt among the Muslim population. More hostility towards the government has been reported since the Conservatives came to power. The government also cannot control what is taught in the home. Even if they close madrassas, radicalization can just go on behind closed doors.
Unfortunately the government cannot change the teachings of the Koran and the violent and warlike example of Mohammed’s dictatorial rule, so there is really a limit to what influence they can have. As long as they are clinging to the notion that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the religion, they are avoiding the elephant in the room. Some Muslims will almost inevitably be “radicalized” as long as Islam is taught.
The strategy has also been targeted at non-Muslims, presumably in a feeble attempt to appear balanced. The “Prevent duty”, advice given to schools and child care providers states: “Protecting children from the risk of radicalisation should be seen as part of schools’ and childcare providers’ wider safeguarding duties”. This general purpose advice has led to a bizarre case where a child was arrested for visiting a UKIP website and watching an EDL video:
As a non-Muslim UK citizen I am outraged that large amounts of taxpayers’ money has been given to organizations promoting a religion whose ideals are so very antagonistic towards free speech and democracy. The strategy is really typical of a government making a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis situation, governments it seems must always be seen to be doing something, however pointless, and as discussed the strategy is actually counter-productive.
The “Prevent” strategy would be better named as the “Pretend” strategy.