Counter-extremism experts question UK government review into Prevent

Counter-extremism experts question UK government review into Prevent
Counter-extremism experts question UK government review into Prevent

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Leading government counter-extremism experts in the UK have questioned a leaked review of the Prevent program that has called for a renewed focus on Islamist risks over far-right extremism.

The review conducted by William Shawcross, former head of the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society think tank, has attracted criticism for calling for more attention to be directed to Islamism while Prevent referrals over the ideology have dropped to 22 percent. Meanwhile, one-quarter now revolve around far-right extremism.

The Shawcross report argues that there is a worrying decline in Islamism referrals that does not match the security situation on the ground, with several recent terror attacks in Britain being conducted by those inspired by the ideology.

But Lewys Brace, an extremism researcher at Exeter University who advises the government, said the Shawcross recommendations do not “reflect what’s going on at all, in any way. Mixed ideologies is where it’s all heading.”

Recent data from the program shows that “mixed, unstable or unclear” ideologies now cover over half of all referrals to Prevent.

Brace told The Observer that Shawcross’s mentality is stuck in “circa 2004-2007,” when Britain endured several high-casualty Islamist attacks, including the 7/7 bombings of 2005 that killed 52.

The Manchester Arena attack of 2017 that killed 22 was conducted by an Islamist perpetrator, but Brace warned that the terror risk has developed since then.

He said Jake Davison, who killed five people last August in Plymouth, reportedly associated with “incel” culture, a violent, predominantly online space where extremist misogynistic views are expressed. 

Brace added: “Since Plymouth they (counter-extremism officials) have been a lot more concerned about that sort of amorphous ideology.”

Defenders of the leaked Shawcross report’s suggestions have pointed to the 2020 Reading stabbings, where an Islamist killed three, and the Streatham attack in February that year, where an Islamist released from jail went on a stabbing spree.

But the security services have continued to observe people at risk who display unclear or “blended” ideologies.

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