CAIRO – A review by the government’s terror watchdog has urged a revision of the much-criticized Prevent strategy, accusing it of sowing mistrust and fear in the Muslim community.
“It seems to me that Prevent could benefit from independent review,” David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws, told The Guardian.
“It is perverse that Prevent has become a more significant source of grievance in affected communities than the police and ministerial powers that are exercised … The lack of transparency in the operation of Prevent encourages rumor and mistrust to spread and to fester,” he added.
The program has become a “significant source of grievance” among British Muslims, encouraging “mistrust to spread and to fester,” Anderson, who has no authority to conduct such a review, said.
Working under the banner of UK’s terror watchdog, Anderson’s testimony came in his written submission to the home affairs select committee inquiry into the government’s counter-terrorism strategy.
He raised concern that elements of Prevent were “ineffective or being applied in an insensitive or discriminatory manner”.
Prevent, part of the government’s overall counter-terrorism strategy, Contest, is meant to help police and security agencies identify individuals and groups at risk of radicalization.
Britain’s 2.7 million Muslims have taken full brunt of anti-terror laws since the 7/7 attacks in 2005.
They have repeatedly complained of maltreatment by police for no apparent reason other than being Muslim.
Under the controversial legislation, phone and internet companies will be required to maintain records of customer’s internet, email and mobile phone activity for 12 months, without intruding calls or messages.
Expert witnesses echoed similar concerns against Prevent strategy, giving evidence to the select committee inquiry at the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Raheel Mohammed, the director of Maslaha, a social enterprise that works to improve conditions in Muslim communities, called for a review of Prevent in schools, warning of its stigmatizing impact.
“Prevent is seen by many educators … [and] by many in the [Muslim] community as being a blunt instrument,” said Mohammed.
“What it’s doing is stigmatizing whole communities.
“I don’t think what’s happening in schools right now would help a teacher … to spot signs of extremism.”
Another witness, Saleha Jaffer, from the Families Against Stress and Trauma (FAST) program, which works with schools and the families of radicalized British Muslims, said Prevent did not give teachers sufficient training and its approach could be superficial and counterproductive.
In January 2015, a counter-terrorism measure proposed by the government forced nursery school staff and registered childminders to report toddlers at risk of becoming terrorists.
The directive is contained in a 39-page consultation document issued by the Home Office in a bid to bolster its Prevent anti-terrorism plan.
Critics said the idea was “unworkable” and “heavy-handed”, and accused the Government of treating teachers and carers as “spies”.