We need a new policy that engages communities—rather than alienating peopleby Alistair Carmichael / October 12, 2016 / Leave a comment
The Prevent strategy has failed. Despite it going through various iterations, it remains a fatally flawed programme. It is distrusted by the communities it professes to try and work with to tackle radicalisation and extremism. Without their buy-in, no matter what changes the government proposes, or what million-pound makeover it undergoes, it will still be a failure. That is why the Liberal Democrats are calling for it to be scrapped.
The strategy’s aims are laudable. Prevention is the best cure and the government should take an active role in preventing people from supporting terrorism or becoming terrorists themselves. However, in order to do this effectively and successfully it must be credible and wherever possible implemented at a community level, and here Prevent falls down.
This is a view shared by David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. In a recent interview he argued that “it is frustrating for me to see a programme, whose ideals are so obviously good, falling down on the delivery to the point where it is not trusted in the community where it principally applies.”
Simply put, the brand has become toxic beyond repair. In fact, there are signs that it might actually be working against its professed aims. The UN’s special rapporteur on the right to freedom of assembly recently said “by dividing, stigmatising and alienating segments of the population, Prevent could end up promoting extremism, rather than countering it.”
Prevent is meant to keep us safe but the way it is currently constructed and conducted goes no way to achieving that target. The Liberal Democrats would replace Prevent with an inclusive community engagement strategy that would make reporting concerns about extremism the same as reporting concerns about abuse. We would make community engagement an ongoing, core aspect of policing that does not solely focus on counter-terrorism or counter-extremism.
Civil society and community groups have the credibility and the in-depth knowledge of their communities that make them an ideal partner in this work. Let’s be honest—why would a young man being radicalised listen to a white, middle-aged man sat behind a desk in Whitehall? We have seen some excellent counter-narratives being promoted but the…