'Islamophobic Prevent': 73% of UK Muslims live in areas that receive Prevent funding, report says
A new report suggests that the government's controversial counter-extremism programme Prevent still relies on religious profiling, as it reveals that a staggering 73% of UK Muslims live in areas that receive millions of pounds of Prevent funding.
The People’s Review of Prevent found the startling fact after submitting an FOI request to see what areas were deemed as Prevent Priority Areas (PPAs).
Using data on population distributions from the 2011 census, the report estimates that around 73% of Muslims in England and Wales live in a PPA, which it says reveals that Prevent continues to 'rely on profiling Muslims through the PPAs' despite claims it is non-discriminatory.
The People's Review of Prevent is an alternative review to the government’s delayed Independent Review of Prevent led by William Shawcross, now due in early 2022.
It includes case studies and testimonies of individuals, including children who make up half of all Prevent referrals, detailing how they have been impacted by Prevent.
Other conclusions from the report include:
- Prevent takes signs of "ordinary identity development and explorations in belonging" as indications of “risk” and “extremism,” while activism amongst Muslims is sanctioned
- There is no evidence to suggest the British Muslim community has problems with integration
- Prevent is responsible for the creation in England and Wales of a national curriculum in ‘fundamental British values that are determined by national security interests.
"In this report we show: Prevent is Islamophobic; there is no problem of integration of British Muslim communities and no basis for regarding them and their families with suspicion," the report says, which adds that Muslim children have been disproportionately affected by the scheme.
It calls for the government to withdraw its Prevent strategy "on the grounds that it is ineffective, disproportionate and discriminatory."
"Prevent is necessarily discriminatory. It represents a system of surveillance and pre-emptive intervention – a comprehensive system of stop and search, albeit with no actual offence as its object, as we have seen – that depends on profiling," says the report.
Prof John Holmwood and Dr Layla Aitlhadj, Co-Chairs of the People’s Review of Prevent, said: “Our report shows that among Prevent’s damaging messages is that Muslims need to assimilate ‘British values’, which do not value Islamic belief. This narrow conception of ‘British values’ is not only unrealistic, but it alienates Muslims and fuels Islamophobia and discrimination.”
Prevent is "ideological"
The People's Review of Prevent is in response to the Government's Shawcross-led review.
The controversial appointment of Shawcross, who has been criticised by Muslim groups for making past remarks about Islam, has led to many boycotting the official review, leading to fears that the final report will not include views of those critical of Prevent.
The report says Prevent's purpose is ‘ideological’ and its withdrawal would have no "detrimental consequence for national security."
"In fact, its withdrawal will make it more likely that vitally important conversations will take place about the urgent need to challenge injustice and create a fair society for all," it adds.
The group said it evaluated documents and academic research on Prevent undertaken over the last decade and that its report has been reviewed by a panel of experts - in the report’s forward, the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights says its an "important and timely initiative."
It calls Prevent "discriminatory" in how it approaches far-right terrorism and Islamist terrorism in regards to guidance, training and application.
"Prevent undermines free expression by defining as ‘extremist’ views and actions which are a normal part of a healthy and functioning democracy," the report reads.
"It has no justification in the light of national security requirements, which can all be satisfied through other measures within the counter-terrorism strategy and the UK’s extensive legislative toolkit," it adds.
The impact on children
Prevent is "overwhelmingly directed at children and young people" and represents an "abuse of their rights," says the report.
It undermines proper safeguarding obligations of social workers, teachers and health professionals by "bringing children and young people under an extraordinarily extensive net of surveillance."
"There is no national security justification for its policies and practices in education or in other services provided for them," it adds.
The launch of the report comes amid new controversies around the 'Trojan Horse' affair, which shaped the government’s counter-extremism policy and led to an extension of Prevent into schools.
The group says information gathered under Prevent does not involve criminal offences, but the data can still be held and shared, including the data of children.
"Prevent is an abuse of fundamental human rights and protected equalities, especially those preventing discrimination on the grounds of race and ethnicity, and religion. "
"The government proposes that terrorist activities threaten human rights and yet it breaches them in its own Prevent policies and evades scrutiny," the report says, adding that expertise from the programme is often shared with oppressive regimes around the world, such as China.