New Prevent report particularly targets Muslims who speak out (pic: Guy Smallman)

The Tories’ review into the racist Prevent strategy calls for a state crackdown on Muslims. The review, led by Islamophobe William Shawcross, claims the scheme “is not doing enough to counter non-violent Islamist extremism.” 

Home secretary Suella Braverman said that the strategy needs “major reform” because of “an institutional hesitancy to tackle Islamism”.The state says Prevent is a counter-terrorism strategy used in public bodies to identify people who may turn to extremism. In reality it’s a state tool to survey people it sees as a threat.

Human rights organisation Cage said, “The Review avoids any analysis of lessons learned, but instead focuses on the artificial case for more surveillance and policing. It is no surprise, therefore, that critics are labelled as ‘extreme’ in order to blacklist them to deflect attention from valid criticism.”

Anas Mustapha is head of public advocacy at Cage. He told Socialist Worker, “The review’s architects are the most rabid right wing Islamophobic elements in the British political sphere—Shawcross represents that.” 

The Home Office handpicked Shawcross in January 2021 to carry out the review. As former chairman of the Charity Commission, he said that Europe’s relationship with Islam was “one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future.

“I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations,” he went on. He had also defended the use of torture techniques, including waterboarding, as well as the US’s detention centre at Guantanamo Bay.

Shawcross finds in the review that there is a “culture of timidity” when it comes to tackling Muslims. In fact Prevent has repeatedly rushed to make vicious judgments about Muslims who are against British imperialism. 

Now the policing of thought crime will be intensified. And there will be more examples like the Prevent investigation of the eight-year-old taken to a pro-Palestinian rally by his parents.

Anas added, “The Home Office has been run for the past five years by some of the more hardened elements of the Tory party with uncompromised views about Muslims. They climb to heights of power by targeting and stigmatising Muslims.

“Donald Trump in the US and Boris Johnson here have done this. Islamophobia is not a hindrance to their political career—rather, it amplifies it and shows they’re not politically correct and anti-woke.” The review’s 34 recommendations have all been accepted by Braverman, who said she would implement them by next year.

“The review is unflinching. Prevent needs major reform,” she said. “Prevent has shown cultural timidity and an institutional hesitancy to tackle Islamism for fear of the charge of Islamophobia. Prevent’s focus must be solely on security, not political correctness.”

More than 450 Islamic organisations boycotted the review. Despite the attack on Muslims, from April 2021 to March 2022 referrals to Prevent relating to far-right extremism were the highest for the second year running.

Shawcross thinks the examination of the far right has gone too far. Anas slammed the review as “thin on anything policy-wise”. “You can’t even call it a review of policy—it’s an ideological exercise front to push the idea that Muslims are extremists.”

Prevent’s role “is to control and manage political debate—it’s a critical tool of the state,” he added. “All sorts of campaigns fall under Prevent—it could be used on a number of left campaigns that the state doesn’t like.

 “We’ve consistently called for the abolition of Prevent. It is counterproductive and doesn’t serve what they propose it is serving. We encourage everyone to push for the abolishment of Prevent and work towards a framework that rejects state securitisation as the starting point.”

Amnesty International dismissed the report as “riddled with biased thinking, errors and plain anti-Muslim prejudice”. The Tories have shown what the true meaning behind Prevent is—to survey, crackdown and intimidate Muslims. The review and its recommendations only serve to fuel state racism.

The government’s clampdown on rights—from anti-union laws to intimidating and arresting protesters and now to targeting Muslims further—needs to be opposed as a whole. 

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