Islamist extremism 'not being effectively tackled by government', warns reviewer of counter-terror scheme Prevent

22 February 2024, 08:48

William Shawcross has called for more to be done on Islamist extremism
William Shawcross has called for more to be done on Islamist extremism. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

British people are being made less safe by the government's failure to tackle Islamist extremism, an independent reviewer of its anti-extremism scheme has warned.

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William Shawcross, who recommended overhauling the Prevent programme to put more of a focus on Islamic extremism, said ministers had failed to implement his proposals fully.

Mr Shawcross said the programme focused disproportionately on far-right extremism, despite Islamism representing a greater threat in the UK.

He said that the problem had become worse since Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7, and he warned the government a year ago about the need to tackle the group's "pernicious" support network in the UK.

"There are Hamas supporters in this country tragically and some of them are involved in helping promote these marches," he added.

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Mr Shawcross said the network was fuelling the rise in anti-Semitism in Britain, and had encouraged discrimination on pro-Palestine marches.

Mr Shawcross, now the commissioner for public appointments, told the Telegraph: "The Government is failing to implement my recommendations properly and the British people are therefore in more danger from extremists and terrorists."

His recommendations also included combating the misuse of blasphemy and focusing more on the terrorist threats linked to illegal migration.

The government said that it had accepted all of his recommendations, had implemented most, with the rest in the pipeline.

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Mr Shawcross said: "Some of the things I’ve recommended that have not been carried out do represent such an increased threat because October 7 has changed everything.

He added: "I am concerned about the increased threat to the public that exists after October 7 which still needs to be addressed."

Mr Shawcross, whose report was published a year ago, said that 75% of MI5's cases were Islamist threats, yet just 11% of referrals to Prevent were related to Islamist terrorism.

He said: "One of the reasons why there is sometimes a reluctance to address the Islamist threat is that people are frightened of being called Islamophobic or racist.

"It’s become a hugely effective form of censorship: ‘Oh, you’re just a racist. You’re an Islamophobe.’ And people don’t like that for obvious reasons.

"So when you say there’s a right-wing threat, you’re not in the danger of becoming racist. So that is an area that is still there and I think the fear of being called an Islamophobe or a racist has grown since October 7."

Mr Shawcross said the problem had got worse since the events of October 7
Mr Shawcross said the problem had got worse since the events of October 7. Picture: Alamy

A Home Office spokesperson said the government had made "significant progress to deliver a strengthened Prevent".

They added: "William Shawcross's Review was critical to ensuring Prevent is fit for purpose, which is why we accepted his recommendations in full.

"One year on, we have delivered 30 of the 34 recommendations he made, and we are making rapid progress on delivering the remaining four.

"The government agrees that extreme Islamist ideology presents the greatest threat to the UK, and has moved swiftly to update Prevent duty guidance and training to make that clear."

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