Since 2010, the government’s counter-extremism agenda has been continually evolving – with iterations to Prevent following the Coalition’s revisions to the Prevent strategy in 2011, the establishment of the government’s Terrorism Taskforce (TERFOR) following the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013, the passing of the 2015 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act by the Conservative government, the additional counter-extremism measures announced in the Queen’s speech in the autumn of 2015, and the announcement by David Cameron of a new counter-extremism strategy in 2015. What are the implications of these measures for the role of Muslims and Islam in British public life? What effects will they have on Muslims and civil society more broadly? This special Public Spirit series of articles reflects on the various implications of the government’s evolving counter-extremism agenda.
In Prevent: from ‘hearts and minds’ to ‘muscular liberalism’, Therese O’Toole provides an overview of some of the key shifts that have taken place in relation to Prevent from New Labour to the present government. She argues that an increasingly expansive counter-extremism agenda has come at the cost of sustained mechanisms for Muslim engagement.
Bharath Ganesh in his post, The Prevent duty and its government-centred context, addresses the centralisation of Prevent, noting that whilst increasing numbers of actors across public sector institutions are being mobilised to implement Prevent, the avenues for these actors, or local agencies, to have any say in how Prevent should be delivered are few.
In The Secretive World of Counter-Extremism Funding, Maria W. Norris reveals the difficulties in gaining information on where or how Prevent funding is currently being spent, with FOI requests for information frequently denied. She raises concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability that this entails.
In his post, Britain’s Counter Extremism Policies are Criminalising Muslim Thought and Expression, Jahangir Mohammed argues that Prevent has had a chilling effect on Muslim civil society and charitable organisations. He argues that this is having a negative and potentially counter-productive effect on free speech and debate.
Sadek Hamid, in Prevent: Failing Young British Muslims, questions whether Prevent, and particularly in its current ‘muscular liberal’ form is well designed to counter extremism, suggesting that it focuses on symptoms rather than causes of radicalisation, and worryingly may have unintended effects.
In What is wrong with the official ‘psychological’ model of radicalisation?, Leda Blackwood analyses the assumptions that underpin WRAP: the training programme that is being rolled out to front line personnel in public sector institutions to train them to spot signs of radicalisation. She argues that it focuses too much on individual vulnerabilities and too little on the contexts that produce radicalisation.