Anticipating the Prevent Review

Here’s Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam, in The Times:

Today’s reworked Prevent strategy is expected to be a step in the right direction and should be a chance to move on from past errors.

For instance, it is set to recognise the challenges of radicalisation in prisons, schools and universities and seeks to emphasise the key role of ideology in creating terrorism.

However, the strategy also appears to have serious flaws. It seems confused in places, as if the authors were fighting it out with the text serving as their battlefield.

Some who have seen it have suggested that it does not clearly distinguish between five key stages of counter-extremism policy: counter-terrorism or stopping terrorist attacks; “disengagement” or encouraging individual ceasefires; “de-radicalisation” or encouraging terrorists to disavow violence; “counter-radicalisation” or challenging extremist ideologies; and finally integration.

If it does not identify all these areas and decide upon strategies to deal with them, then crucial elements of work could fall into a black hole.

The most concerning aspect is that the new strategy does not seem to contain a clear map for countering Islamism, which is the desire to impose one version of Islam as state law (as distinguished from Islam the faith) and is the basic goal of violent and non-violent Muslim extremists.

This totalitarian political ideology certainly gives rise to intolerance and community divisions and can lead to violence. One risk of not identifying Islamism is that far-right extremists are emboldened to blame Islam and all Muslims for community divisions, rather than a noisy minority of Islamist ideologies.

That the new Prevent strategy mentions the need to challenge such extremism at all is thanks only to last-minute interventions, reportedly by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, Lord Carlile and the offices of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

The problem seems to be that overseeing Prevent has hitherto been the responsibility of the Civil Service. It is time that a policy as sensitive as this was overseen and co-ordinated centrally across all departments by an office that is directly accountable to the Prime Minister.

Also, take five minutes out to listen to Haras Rafiq and Mohammed Shafiq debate the issues arising from the Prevent Review, on Radio 5, here, at 2:05. It is great, knockabout stuff.

Haras Rafiq runs the anti-extremism consultancy, CENTRI

Mohammed Shafiq runs the Ramadhan Foundation.

Finally, there’s a well worth reading article by former shadow Communities Minister, Paul Goodman, at Conservative Home:

Some Ministers will welcome the new Prevent policy: Gove, for example, is providing a gold standard at education.  Others will try to ignore it at best: it’s not unfair, given his remarks in Luton, to cite Clegg.  Others will have good intentions (David Willetts has shown an interest in the matter), but will be swamped by other worries, problems and crises.  For others still – probably the majority – the new policy will scarcely register on their radar.

With a Coalition partner opposed to key elements of the policy, some senior Conservative Ministers in their company, and resistant senior civil servants, the harsh truth is that the new Prevent policy will come to nothing if Cameron doesn’t continue to keep his eye on the ball.  And since both his eyes must usually be elsewhere, he needs someone in Downing Street to keep a watching brief for him – to plan and help execute the policy’s strategic implementation across the Departments.

Such a person should ideally be an insider (an outsider would be outfoxed by the Whitehall elements who think the policy’s wrong) and a politician (a non-politician wouldn’t carry the necessary weight).  I hereby nominate Lord Carlile …, the independent reviewer of anti-terror laws, who has the added advantage of having been involved in the drafting of the Prevent Review.  And if I can say so on a Conservative site, being a Liberal Democrat isn’t a disadvatage in this context, either – the opposite, if anything.