Home Secretary warns political correctness has created a ‘blind spot’ for Islamist extremism to operate ‘under our radar’ – after report accused Prevent of focusing too much on right-wing terrorism
- Suella Braverman was speaking at a counter-extremism conference last night
- She added: ‘There can be no place for political correctness in national security’
A focus on political correctness has created a ‘blind spot’ for Islamist extremists to operate ‘under our radar’, the Home Secretary has said.
Suella Braverman told a counter-extremism conference organised by Robin Simcox, the commissioner for countering extremism, last night that the entire concept of political correctness should be eliminated.
In an excerpt from her speech, obtained by The Times, Ms Braverman said: ‘We have a blind spot in the system. It has allowed certain Islamist groups to operate under our radar.
‘There can be no place for political correctness in our national security. In fact, I’d like to banish it altogether.’
It comes just weeks after Ms Braverman demanded ‘major reform’ of the Government’s anti-terror Prevent programme in the wake of a critical report that found it was ‘failing to understand’ Islamist extremism and that there was too much focus on right-wing terrorism.
Suella Braverman told a counter-extremism conference organised by Robin Simcox, the commissioner for countering extremism, last night that the entire concept of political correctness should be eliminated
According to The Times, Ms Braverman used her speech to announce a scheme aimed at combatting misinformation on Prevent, along with the creation of an independent standards unit to help communities report concerns about prevention efforts.
In another excerpt from her speech, Ms Braverman flagged concerns over ‘non-violent extremism’.
Four recent attacks by Islamist terrorists who had been referred to Prevent
SOUTHEND – October 15, 2021: Tory MP Sir David Amess was fatally stabbed outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea near Southend while attending a constituency surgery. Ali Harbi Ali, 26, was referred to Prevent seven years ago.
READING – June 20, 2020: Khairi Saadallah, 27, fatally stabbed friends James Furlong, 36, Dr David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, in a knife attack at a town centre park. He later admitted the murders and was sentenced to a whole life order in prison. The Reading Refugee Support Group warned Prevent officials he could carry out a ‘London Bridge-style attack’. However, he was found to not have a ‘fixed ideology, the Independent reported.
STREATHAM – February 2, 2020: Sudesh Amman was shot dead by police after stabbing two people on a busy street in the south London area of Streatham while wearing a fake suicide vest. He was referred to Prevent but the panel decided his case did not require intervention.
LONDON BRIDGE – November 29, 2019: Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were stabbed to death by Usman Khan, 28, at a prisoner rehabilitation event. A man and two women were also injured before Khan, who was released from prison on licence in December 2018, was shot dead by armed officers on the bridge. An inquest heard his Prevent officers had ‘no specific training’ in handling terrorists.
PARSONS GREEN – September 15, 2017: Ahmed Hassan’s homemade bomb partially exploded on a London Underground rush hour train, injuring more than 50 people. He was sentenced to life with a minimum jail term of 34 years. He was referred to Prevent 20 months before he planted the bomb.
‘Extremism is not only dangerous because it can lead to violence,’ she said.
‘It is dangerous in its own right. And unless we deal with it comprehensively, we should not be surprised when it continues to endure and grow – with disastrous consequences.’
Last month, Ms Braverman told MPs that Prevent’s focus ‘must solely be on security, not political correctness’ and said the scheme needs to ‘better understand the threats we face and the ideology underpinning them’.
The long-awaited report on the Prevent programme by former Charity Commission chair William Shawcross said officials had a ‘double standard when dealing with the Extreme Right-Wing and Islamism’.
Addressing MPs in the House of Commons last month, Ms pledged to ‘swiftly implement’ all 34 of the review’s recommendations, and report back on her progress with overhauling Prevent in a year.
The report, which was first ordered by former Home Secretary Priti Patel in 2019, suggested there was a need to tackle the ideology underpinning terrorism rather than violent acts themselves.
The assessment found Prevent was ‘out of kilter with the rest of the counter-terrorism system, and the UK terrorism threat picture’ and ‘must return to its overarching objective: to stop individuals from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism’.
Following her speech on Wednesday, Ms Braverman wrote on Twitter: ‘Tackling extremism in (the UK) is a vital part of protecting our security.
‘I was pleased to speak at a @CommissionCE Countering Extremism conference today & wish to thank @RobinSimcox for his committed work.
‘I look forward to further work on this crucial cause to safeguard our country.’
In the review, Mr Shawcross also said that terrorism was wrongly treated as a mental illness and there was a ‘failure’ by those working on Prevent to properly understand the nature of ideology in Islamist radicalisation which risks ‘several potentially serious consequences’.
Speaking to MPs after the publication of the review, Ms Braverman said: ‘Prevent needs major reform. Prevent needs to better understand the threats we face and the ideology underpinning them.
‘I will swiftly implement all of the review’s recommendations and will report on my progress a year from now.
‘Prevent’s focus must solely be on security, not political correctness.’
Reading attacker Khairi Saadallah, 27, (left) was assessed by Prevent officials but found to have ‘no fixed ideology’, according to reports. Sudesh Amman, who stabbed two people in Streatham, south London, last February. However, a panel decided his case did not require intervention
Usman Khan, 28, (left) who stabbed two young graduates to death after a prisoner rehabilitation event on London Bridge, had come into contact with Prevent officers who had ‘no specific training’ in handling terrorists, an inquest heard. Parsons Green bomber Ahmed Hassan (right) was also referred to the anti-terror scheme 20 months before he planted a device on the Tube that injured 50 people during rush hour in 2017
What are the key findings and recommendations of the long-awaited review into Prevent?
The findings of the long-awaited assessment of the Government’s anti-terror programme Prevent were published on Wednesday and recommended a series of reforms.
Here are some of the key findings and recommendations from the review
Prevent is not doing enough to tackle non-violent Islamist extremism
The review said Prevent should also cover extremists who can create an environment conducive to terrorism, as well as proscribed organisations.
Prevent has a double standard when dealing with the extreme right-wing and Islamism
The report said Prevent takes an “expansive approach” to the extreme right-wing, which has “included mildly controversial or provocative forms of mainstream, right-wing leaning commentary” that have no “meaningful connection to terrorism or radicalisation”.
Funding too often goes towards generic projects
Chairman William Shawcross said he was “consistently unable to determine” how many Prevent-funded civil society organisations (CSOs) and community projects were having an impact.
Some civil society organisations have promoted extremist narratives
Mr Shawcross said it was of “particular concern” extremist narratives were being promoted, including statements that appear sympathetic to the Taliban.
Prevalence of antisemitism within “Channel” cases
Referring to people in the programme who are considered most at risk of becoming radicalised and turning to terrorism, Mr Shawcross called for Prevent to “better understand and tackle antisemitism”.
Prevent is out of kilter with the rest of the counter-terrorism system
Mr Shawcross said Islamist extremism represents the primary terrorist threat to the UK but only 22% of Prevent referrals for the year 2020-21 concerned Islamism. He said this suggested a “loss of focus and failure to identify warning signs”.
Prevent is carrying the weight for mental health services
The review said vulnerable people who do not necessarily pose a terrorism risk are being referred to Prevent to access other types of much-needed support, which Mr Shawcross described as a “serious misallocation of resources”.
Lack of training
The review said there was insufficient training for managing controversial issues of substance regarding extremist ideology.
- The Home Office should investigate whether there is an imbalance, or disparity, in thresholds applied to Islamist and extreme right-wing Channel cases, and if so why
- Ensure Prevent does not fund, work with or consult extremism-linked groups or individuals, and applies the same thresholds for non-engagement across ideologies
- Explore the prevalence of antisemitism in Channel cases
- Improve understanding of ‘blasphemy’ as part of the wider Islamist threat
- Restrict Prevent funding to groups and projects which challenge extremist and terrorist ideology
- Explore extending the Prevent Duty to immigration and asylum and to job centres
- Review Prevent-related staffing and training in prisons
- Prevent must return to its overarching objective: to stop individuals from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.
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