There is a “fundamental mismatch” between the threat posed by Islamist terrorism and the attention afforded to it by Prevent, the Government’s counter-extremism programme, according to a think tank report.
The report, published today by the Henry Jackson Society, finds that despite the Government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation repeatedly finding that the UK faces the greatest terroristic threat from Islamists, far more resources are being devoted to other forms of extremism.
Just 24% of all Prevent referrals and 30% of Channel cases relate to Islamist extremists. Comparatively, 22% of referrals and 43% of Channel cases are for far-right extremism. The report says “accordingly, Home Office data reveals that far-right extremists outstrip Islamist extremists in terms of referrals to the Government’s Prevent scheme which result in the offering of counter-radicalisation support and monitoring”
The 2019 Independent Review of Terrorism Legislation by Jonathan Hall Q.C., which was published in March 2021, concluded that “Islamist terrorism remains the principal threat in Great Britain”, with the majority of terrorism convictions in 2019 relating to Islamist terrorism
In 2020, the Daily Telegraph reported that “the vast majority of the suspects on [MI5’s 43,000 person terror watchlist] – as many as 39,000 – are jihadists, compared to a few thousand right-wing extremists”. Last year, just 210 Islamist extremists were referred to Channel for deradicalisation.
According to the author, Dr Rakib Ehsan, this means that “there is all too real prospect of Islamist extremists who present a significant security risk, not being sufficiently monitored by the public authorities.”
The paper – authored by a British Muslim academic – warns that “the UK cannot afford to be paralysed by political correctness and tribal identity politics in the fight against Islamist extremism – a terror threat that concerns both Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain to similar degrees”.
“The effectiveness of the UK’s counterterrorism structures has once again been called into question following the killing of Sir David Amess. The Prevent scheme’s central aim is to reduce the UK’s overall terror threat and maximise public safety. At the moment, it is failing to deliver on this front.
In a broader cultural sense, it is vital that the UK is not paralysed by political correctness and identity politics when it comes to holding hard-headed discussions on the prevailing terror threat of Islamist extremism.“
Dr Rakib Ehsan
“The Prevent programme is coming under scrutiny given the past referral of the Amess murder suspect. But the reality is that the programme has struggled to cope with the increase in referrals to it over the years given increased extremism and the unremitting hostility of some leaders in the Muslim community and the political Left to its activity. What the murder of Sir David shows is that we need more Prevent going forwards, not less and we should be redoubling our efforts to strengthen the programme.”
Dr Alan Mendoza