LONDON: UK Prevent program officials who have overseen the public funding of Muslim groups that promote extremism should be sacked, a counterterrorism expert has said in The Times newspaper.
Prof. Ian Acheson, a senior adviser to the Counter Extremism Project, which contributed to the long-delayed Shawcross review of the government’s anti-extremism Prevent program due to be released this week, called for a stricter approach to Muslim groups that “undermine social cohesion.”
The review, led by William Shawcross, is expected to criticize Prevent for using its $48 million fund to provide money to controversial groups, ostensibly to support religious and community moderation in the UK.
Acheson, a former prison governor who published a review of Islamist extremism in UK jails in 2016, criticized Prevent’s “mission creep,” arguing that “‘securitizing’ growing numbers of young people for thoughts that will not translate into actions is a waste of time and scarce resources.”
He cited statistics showing that despite a surge in referrals in recent years — including 2,127 boys classed as “vulnerable” — a majority of terror attacks in the UK since the program’s launch were carried out by individuals known to the program.
Acheson wrote in The Times: “There will be huge concern at the Home Office with Shawcross detailing how Prevent funding has been given to those who have used it to undermine the effectiveness of the program.
“Inexplicably we lag behind other European governments — Austria for one example — who take a much dimmer view of non-violent Islamist groups who undermine social cohesion. Delegitimizing our counterterror strategy is an article of faith with some of these groups.
“We need to trace these funding decisions right back to the officials who made them.
“There must be accountability, if only on behalf of the huge numbers of British Muslims in this country who are wrongly associated with those who preach division and attack moderate Islam.
“We need to return to fundamentals here: Prevent exists to stop terrorists in the making — prioritizing stopping harm — not to provide a creche for an ever-widening cohort of disaffected young adults.
“Shawcross has done the state some service at some cost to his reputation, maligned by some figures. Politicians must not let him down.”