Runnymede Trust response to the 'Independent Review of Prevent'
The Runnymede Trust regrets that the government sees fit to accept the findings of the purportedly independent Prevent review published today. The safety of the British public is an absolute priority, and we must ensure that our security services have the tools to operate effectively. The suitability and efficacy of Prevent as this tool has long been challenged.
The flaws in the Review are multiple. For instance, the notion that the government can simply “re-calibrate” a programme that is unfit for purpose to focus on tackling the ideological drivers of radicalisation over wider issues, including mental health, is highly simplistic. Issues such as vulnerability and mental health cannot merely be sidelined, as we know from various recent tragedies that have befallen young children groomed by both Far Right and Islamist extremists.
The Runnymede Trust was also concerned to observe the Review’s focus on British Muslims. There is already strong evidence to show that Prevent imposes structural Islamophobia and embeds anti-Muslim discrimination into our public services, disproportionately affecting children and young people. The British Muslim community now numbers almost four million people or 6.5 percent of the population in England and Wales alone. We are concerned that many in this important community will feel unreasonably vilified and marginalised by the conclusions published in the Review and the government’s acceptance thereof.
Regrettably, the Review has become highly politicised. Mr William Shawcross, its Chair, is not only on the record making inflammatory statements about Islam. Just last year, in his capacity as Commissioner for Public Appointments, Mr Shawcross was also compelled to apologise to the House of Commons DCMS committee for demonstrating an apparent willingness to prejudge the findings of another public investigation he was chairing, regardless of the evidential burden.
This worrying precedent, compounded by his public statements about Muslims and Islam, lies at the heart of those widespread concerns about Mr Shawcross’s credibility as an impartial reviewer. As a result of the appointment of Mr Shawcross, scores of organisations including Amnesty International, Liberty and the Runnymede Trust withdrew support from these proceedings. The government’s refusal to respond to those serious questions of impartiality, which were raised from the outset, leaves serious doubts about the integrity and rigour of what could have been a credible, significant and genuinely impartial status report on an element of the UK counter terrorism strategy. We regret this missed opportunity.
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