The Government have already failed to deliver on the statute to “make arrangements for an independent review” of Prevent and this is demonstrated by today’s publication of the review’s terms of reference. I have been aware that the Home Office’s Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) have been working on the terms of reference since March and it is hard to see how it could be argued that a review defined by terms written by the office that runs Prevent could be considered in any way independent.
It is therefore not surprising that the objectives of the review fail to offer any hope of genuine critique of Prevent. They state that we should “tackle the causes of radicalisation and respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism”. This fails to appreciate that the proposal that we can identify a “process or radicalisation” is based on pseudo-science and fantasy. Focusing on the supposed ideological foundations of terrorism hides the real social causes of political violence such as a sense of injustice stoked by decades of failed foreign policy. This makes it less likely that the real causes of violence will be addressed and makes us all less safe.
The terms conflate Prevent with safeguarding even though it has been repeatedly demonstrated by reference to the Care Act and existing safeguarding practices that Prevent is not safeguarding. Safeguarding is the protection of vulnerable individuals from harm. Prevent is intended to safeguard the State from the individual who is referred to Prevent. Labelling Prevent as safeguarding only serves to undermine effective safeguarding practices and make genuinely vulnerable people less safe.
We are finally told that the review will investigate how effectively the Statutory Prevent Duty is being implemented and how Prevent can be developed and improved. It is widely recognised that the duty on doctors and teachers to spy on their patients and pupils undermines trusted relationships that would otherwise reduce peoples’ sense of injustice and alienation. This fails to recognise that it is the duty and Prevent itself that is the problem, not how it is implemented. This cuts off the possibility for the review to address the issue at the heart of Prevent, that the act of trying to catch “extremism” will always be counter-productive in a democracy as it inevitably creates a more divided society.
It is also notable that there is no suggestion that the review intends to address the well-established concerns that Prevent is rooted in racism and Islamophobia. We live in a deeply Islamophobic society and it is clear which group has been designated to be subject to the “muscular liberalism” that David Cameron spoke of in justification of Prevent. This approach to government stems from political theorist and prominent Nazi Carl Schmitt and has alarming historical precedent.
To the Government, it does not matter that Prevent is likely to make us less safe. Much like the rest of the global War on Terror, Prevent was always intended to make a weak government look tough.