Prevent strategy is 'simply not trusted' by British Muslims, government terror adviser warns

Posted On: 
19th February 2017

The Government's flagship Prevent counter-extremism strategy is faltering because it is seen as "toxic" by many British Muslims, according to a top government adviser on terrorism.

David Anderson appearing on Peston on Sunday
ITV1/Peston on Sunday

David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terror legislation, said the Home Office needed to do a "much better job" of explaining the purpose of the programme and how it works.

He called on ministers to instal a new watchdog to make sure Prevent is running properly. 

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The programme was set up with the aim of stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State. 

Mr Anderson said that although the strategy was well-intentioned, it needed significant changes to be successful.

"It's very frustrating for me. I don't review Prevent, there is actually no independent reviewer of Prevent, I think there should be. But whenever I talk to Muslims and whenever I talk to MPs, Prevent is what they want to talk about," he told ITV's Peston on Sunday.

"It's supposed to be the easy bit, it's supposed to be about stopping all our young people being drawn into terrorism but for one reason or another it is actually the most controversial bit and the problem is that although there are admirable people doing the job on the ground locally, this is a programme that is simply not trusted by a very large number of decent British Muslims," he added. 

"I can only indicate directions of travel because I don't review the programme, but I think one thing they need to do is do a much better job of explaining what they are doing, what the basis is for the interventions they are making, what the training materials say, what is their metric for success.

"I think they also have to do a better job, particularly nationally, of engaging with a wider range of Muslims."


He also pointed out that Prevent was now dealing with a huge increase in far-right extremism, including anti-Semitic attacks. 

"A little known fact is that 25% of the Channel interventions, which is the hard end of Prevent where you actually get to see someone who's been round the course before... 25% of those now are extreme right-wing.

"Partly you could say it's a reaction to the latest Islamist atrocity and we've certainly seen spikes after big atrocities in France or in Belgium, but I don't think you can just attribute it to that. We're seeing a big rise also in terms of anti-Semitic hate crime."