ExtremismCriticism Mount of U.K. Counter-Extremism Programs

Published 22 October 2021

There is a “fundamental mismatch” between the threat posed by Islamist terrorism and the attention afforded to it by Prevent, the U.K. government’s counter-extremism program, according to a new report.The report finds that despite the finding of the government’s independent reviewer that the United Kingdom faces the greatest terroristic threat from Islamists, far more resources are being devoted to other forms of extremism.

There is a “fundamental mismatch” between the threat posed by Islamist terrorism and the attention afforded to it by Prevent, the U.K. government’s counter-extremism program, according to a think tank report.

The report, written by Dr. Rakib Ehsan and published the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), finds that despite the finding of the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation that the United Kingdom faces the greatest terroristic threat from Islamists, far more resources are being devoted to other forms of extremism.

Just 24 percent of all Prevent referrals and 30 percent of Channel cases relate to Islamist extremists.  Comparatively, 22 percent of referrals and  43 percent of Channel cases are for far-right extremism. The HJS 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-radicalization 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 deradicalization.

According to 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 report, written by a British Muslim academic, warns that “the U.K. cannot afford to be paralyzed 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.”

Eshan reiterated to report’s main message:

The effectiveness of the U.K.’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 U.K.’s overall terror threat and maximize public safety. At the moment, it is failing to deliver on this front.

In a broader cultural sense, it is vital that the U.K. is not paralyzed by political correctness and identity politics when it comes to holding hard-headed discussions on the prevailing terror threat of Islamist extremism.

Alan Mendoza, co-founder and executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, said:

The Prevent program is coming under scrutiny given the past referral of the Amess murder suspect. But the reality is that the program 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 program.

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