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Rethinking Prevent: A Case for an Alternative Approach

Prevent aspect of government’s counter terrorism strategy must be immediately repealed to prevent further human rights abuses, research suggests. 

On the 29th of August, JUST Yorkshire will launch a damning independent review of the government’s counter-terrorism Prevent strategy.

The long awaited report entitled “Rethinking Prevent: A Case for an Alternative Approach”, supported by the Open Society Foundations, examines the chilling effect Prevent is having on society. The report makes a number of recommendations for policymakers to consider, with the hope that future decisions related to counter terrorism are grounded first and foremost in respect for human rights and civil liberties.

The report comes at a critical time when there has been a loud chorus of voices calling for an independent review of the strategy from the National Union of Teachers (NUT), activists, cross-party MPs, campaigners, faith communities, to the Government’s own reviewer of terrorism legislation. Based on in-depth interviews with 36 individuals, the report highlights the following:

  • Prevent is built upon a foundation of Islamophobia and racism, a reliance on stereotypes which can be seen in the fact Muslim communities are often regarded as collectively suspect, whilst far-right extremism is downplayed.
  • Prevent has contributed to a climate of fear and self-censorship primarily but not exclusively among British Muslims.
  • Numerous human rights abuses have been carried out through the implementation of Prevent, targeting mostly British Muslim men and also activists because of their dissenting views.
  • Prevent is ineffective and counterproductive, a fact compounded by the introduction of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015.
  • Respondents expressed concern about the disproportionate and discriminatory counter terrorism focus of Prevent on Muslim communities. Recent evidence suggests practitioners from some institutions are interpreting their responsibilities under the umbrella of Prevent as a requirement to focus their attention on Muslims.
  • The impact of austerity and the withdrawal of youth services has led to an increasing number of interventions carried out under the framework of counter terrorism.
  • With no evidence to support the successes of the Prevent strategy, there is a lack of transparency and accountability that must be questioned.
  • A generation of politicised British Muslim activists have emerged who are democratically challenging the government’s approach to counter-terrorism.

As well as launching the long awaited report, the evening will be one of celebration to mark the life of the late Ratna Lachman, the Director of JUST Yorkshire for nearly 10 years. The event will lay down the roots of JUST Yorkshire as an organisation, establishing the first steps for a national award ceremony to recognise civil society groups working tirelessly on the front line to protect our freedoms.

Nadeem Murtuja, Chair of JUST Yorkshire, said:

“I welcome and fully endorse the findings of our independent report on Prevent, which makes a crucial and timely contribution to public debate concerning counter terrorism policy. The forthcoming launch marks a momentous point in the life of JUST. Our resurgence provides a significant opportunity to realise the vision of the late civil rights leader Ratna Lachman, to expand our focus, share intelligence across the regions, and galvanise Yorkshire, particularly in a post-Brexit world.”

Commenting on the report, co-author and Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, Dr. Waqas Tufail, said:

“Our independent report has engaged with grassroots perspectives and has highlighted the many harms of Prevent, particularly those impacting on Muslim minorities. Our report adds to a number of established critical accounts of Prevent and we hope it is now the start of genuine public debate that seeks to move beyond this failed and counter productive policy.”

JUST is a racial justice, civil liberties and secular human rights charity that:

  • Campaigns for racial and social justice, civil liberties and human rights, primarily in the North of the UK
  • Provides evidence based recommendations to policy makers, together with an advocacy function for those people that have no recourse to public funds, legal aid or representation
  • Works with local communities, other civil rights organisations and policy makers/influencers locally, regionally and internationally, to protect human rights
  • Is underpinned by the principle that the freedom of all people, regardless of human characteristic or belief is interconnected – to compromise the freedom of one human being is tantamount to compromising the freedoms of the entire human race

To read the full report click here.

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