IN A NEW REPORT, Delegitimising Counter-Terrorism, former Prime Minister David Cameron has defended Prevent, the UK’s controversial counter-terrorism strategy.

In response, Ilyas Nagdee, Amnesty International UK’s Racial Justice Director, said: “David Cameron’s defence of Prevent is shockingly misplaced and only does more to demonise Muslim organisations. Cameron’s assertion that criticising the flawed counter-terrorism strategy increases terrorism is simply wrong.

“Policy Exchange’s report should have instead focussed on the host of human rights violations committed by Prevent – and not just been another excuse to make scathing attacks on Muslim organisations.

“The former prime minister’s comments fail to address the real cases of Prevent referrals and the traumatic consequences it has on children. There is mounting evidence that the controversial counter-terrorism strategy discriminates and disproportionately targets British Muslims – specifically children and young people.

“Thousands of children are routinely referred each year to Prevent but have not been suspected of a crime, yet they are criminalised by having their data retained on secret databases with little transparency on how these are monitored and who has access to them.”

Children targeted

Data from 2014 to 2016 showed that 39 per cent of children referred under Prevent were recorded as Muslim and 38 per cent were Asian. This is vastly disproportionate to these groups’ representation in the UK population.

Several cases of children referred to Prevent confirms the significant stereotypes on their racial and religious background. These cases include:

  • Joel, a 16-year-old boy, is described by his mother as “quiet” and “not very interested in religion”. He was referred to Prevent for trying to take out books from the library, one of which included a book about terrorism. Joel’s mother said: “The school reported the book that Joel tried to take out of the library, and I am shocked that the school would make a Prevent referral based on a book that they have on their own shelves.”
  • MK, an eight-year-old boy, was referred to Prevent for wearing a T-Shirt saying “When I grow up, I want to be like Abu Bakr As Siddique.” [Abu Bakr As Siddique was the prophet Muhammed’s closest companion and adviser.]  The Head Teacher made him cover the t-shirt and referred him to Prevent. The child was subjected to questioning by social services in his home. The questions included “What do you have to do to go to paradise?”, “What about people of other religions, do they go to paradise?” and “What about Christians do they go to hell fire?”

Last year, Amnesty joined a coalition of 17 human rights and community groups in a boycott of the UK Government’s review of Prevent, citing serious concerns about bias and a pattern of behaviour which demonstrated the Government’s unwillingness to seriously question the programme.

In a joint letter the coalition said: “We, the undersigned civil society organisations, express grave concern at the UK government’s appointment of William Shawcross as the new reviewer of the counter-terrorism strategy Prevent. Shawcross has been appointed to replace Lord Carlile, who was removed from the post following a legal challenge last year.

“The appointments of both Shawcross and Lord Carlile have made clear, beyond doubt, that the UK government has no interest in conducting an objective and impartial review of the strategy, nor in engaging meaningfully with communities affected by it. Instead, it is apparent that the government intends to use this review to whitewash the strategy and give it a clean bill of health, without interrogating, in good faith, its impacts on human rights and fundamental freedoms. Without these perspectives, it is impossible to impartially assess the Prevent policy.”

* Read the full letter from human rights and community groups here.

* More information on the Delegitimising Counter-Terrorism report from Policy Exchange here.

* Source: Amnesty International