Far-right outstrip Islamists for first time on UK de-radicalisation project

Far-right outstrip Islamists for first time on UK de-radicalisation project
Far-right outstrip Islamists for first time on UK de-radicalisation project

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - A UK government programme aimed at diverting vulnerable Britons from terrorism is dealing with more far-right sympathisers than Islamists for the first time, official figures show.

Specialists for Channel, a voluntary programme of mentoring and education, worked with 561 people in 2018/19 with nearly half of them referred because of concerns of far-right extremism.

Thirty-nine percent of referrals were Islamist-related compared to 70 per cent just three years earlier, according to government statistics published on Thursday.

The figures are in line with police assessments that the fastest growing threat from terrorism comes from the far-right, the source of nearly a third of foiled plots since 2017.

Far-right extremists have been convicted for the murders in 2016 of a member of parliament and the following year of a man who was mown down by a van outside a mosque. Some 37 people were killed in the UK by Islamist terrorists over the same period.

The Channel programme is part of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy founded in 2003 but expanded following the July 7, 2005 attacks on the London transport network that left 52 people dead.

The counter-radicalisation strategy, known as Prevent, is being reviewed because of complaints from some critics that it unfairly targets Muslims amid questions over its effectiveness to divert potential terrorists from carrying out attacks.

Channel, which deals with those seen to pose the greatest potential risk, has dealt with more than 1,000 people since 2012 with the majority of them connected to Islamist terrorism, government statistics show.

But the balance has shifted towards engaging with potential far-right extremists. Referrals to Channel in 2017/18 were evenly split between the competing extremist factions.

Professor Paul Thomas, an expert in Prevent at Huddersfield University, said the shift to right-wing referrals helped the government’s case that the strategy was not biased against British Muslims.

Muslims remained a disproportionately large number of referrals to the broader Prevent programme which reflected divided opinions of the programme.

Critics took it as evidence that it was “an overtly Muslim focussed programme or reflects the realities of the last few years and the impact of Syria” and ISIS, he said.

The UK’s de-radicalisation strategy has further come under scrutiny following the murders of two people last month by Usman Khan, a recently-released terrorist prisoner, in London.

He appears to have duped authorities into thinking that he was reformed and was at a conference on rehabilitation when he launched a knife attack before being shot dead by police.

UK legislation requires officials in schools, universities, councils and hospitals to flag up concerns about suspected radicalisation with those posing the most serious threats of violence referred to the Channel programme.

Updated: December 19, 2019 06:23 PM

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