THE terrorist threat facing the UK continues to endure.
Manchester, London Bridge, Fishmongers’ Hall, the murder of Sir David Amess, and others, have taken lives from us, in the name of terrorist ideology.
8A carpet of floral tributes to the victims and injured of the Manchester Arena bombing covers the ground in St Ann’s Square in May 2017Credit: Getty8Home Secretary Suella Braverman responds William Shawcross’ ‘superb independent review of Prevent’Credit: Simon Jones8Ali Harbi Ali murdered MP Sir David AmessCredit: PAThe UK’s counter-terrorism strategy is centred around four Ps: Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare. Each pillar is vital, and preventing radicalisation into terrorism in the first place is critical to defeating the threat.
William Shawcross, former head of the Charity Commission, now Commissioner for Public Appointments, has led a superb independent review of Prevent.
I strongly agree with it and accept all 34 recommendations. It finds that Prevent needs to better understand the threat we face and the ideology underpinning it. Extremist beliefs do immense societal harm and do not have to be inherently violent to inspire violence.
We must get better at identifying and addressing chronic, non-violent radicalising influences such as the extreme Islamist narratives promoted by people like Shakeel Begg.
In a 2016 libel claim brought by Begg, a local imam, the High Court concluded that he had publicly espoused extremist Islamic positions. That must not come at the expense of tackling acute, violent influences, of course.
Islamist terrorism remains the UK’s primary and deadliest terrorist threat. Yet the Independent Review found that the Islamist threat is severely under-represented in Prevent.
Shawcross identified an institutional hesitancy to tackle Islamist ideology and challenge claims of Islamophobia. This must change. I will ensure it does.
Islamist ideology, supported by a minority, seeks to spread fear and division and undermine freedom. It does not represent the millions of Muslims living in Britain.
We must not be fooled by the dishonest and harmful narrative that challenging Islamism is anti-Muslim.
Shawcross also found that Prevent has applied different thresholds to different ideologies. Right-wing and centre-right politicians and commentators have at times been wrongly bracketed as “extreme right-wing”, while “Islamist extremism” has been defined too narrowly, resulting in non-violent radicalising influences being overlooked.
There is also a need to ensure our work with civil society organisations provides value for money. Of great concern to me was Shawcross’s finding that, over recent years, government funding has been awarded to some groups that actively promoted extremist sentiments or engaged with extremists.
All of this is deeply concerning and I will put a stop to it. Prevent should be concerned with security, not political correctness. For Prevent to work, it must be focused on public safety, not fear of causing offence.
8Manchester bomber Salman AbediCredit: PA8Salman Abedi’s deadly attack was planned along with his brother HashemCredit: PA:Press Association8Fishmongers’ Hall killer Usman KhanCredit: AFPI will rid Prevent of double standards and make sure it does far more to identify and challenge extremism in all its forms.
Shawcross is also right to distinguish between vulnerability and susceptibility. Blaming extremism on someone’s vulnerability wrongly denies personal agency and responsibility.
The truth is that many who have committed appalling acts of terror have come from stable and comfortable families.
Prevent will be refocused to take this into account, as part of a far more robust approach from government.
Shawcross and I agree that the ancient evil of anti-Semitism, which remains all too prevalent in parts of our society, has been overlooked. I promise that will change.
Likewise, we cannot be blasé about those who are not part of a group but seek to do something terrible, having been influenced by lots of factors, including ideology — we refer to this as self-initiated terrorism. I will swiftly apply the review’s recommendations. I will refocus Prevent’s first objective to tackle the ideological causes of terrorism.
More will be done to disrupt radicalisers and extremists. Prevent staff and others under the Prevent Duty will have better training and operational guidance to improve their understanding of the ideological nature of terrorism.
8London Bridge murderers Youssef Zaghba, Khuram Shazad Butt and Rachid RedouaneCredit: AFP8Extremist iman Shakeel BeggCredit: Refer to CaptionThere will be a proportionate and consistent threshold for all ideological threats.
I will radically reform the way Prevent works so that it can intervene sooner to stop people being exposed to radicalising influences.
Oversight of our work with civil society organisations will be strengthened — we must not, under any circumstances, fund or work with extremists.
And Prevent funding will only go towards Prevent’s objectives, not on wider community initiatives.
I will also apply relevant lessons from this review throughout our entire counter-terrorism strategy.
Britain is a tolerant, welcoming and open society. For everyone to feel at home here, extremism must be rooted out.
It sows hatred and threatens our very way of life. We are one country with one legal system, which applies to and protects all of us.
Those who wish us harm are relentless — we must be relentless too. Terrorism is evil, but so too are the extremist ideologies that beget it. We must show neither timidity nor naivety in the battle to defeat our enemies and keep this country safe.
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk