The Government is forcing teachers, doctors, social workers and others to monitor and report people they consider vulnerable to extremism, embedding discrimination in public services. Thousands have been swept up by it, including entirely innocent children. It must end.
The Prevent Strategy is the Government’s flagship counter-extremism policy. It aims to identify people at risk of committing terrorist acts and intervene.
To achieve this aim, the ‘Prevent duty’ obliges public bodies – including schools, nurseries, universities, social services and healthcare providers – to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.
This means that teachers, doctors, social workers and others are required to monitor and report people they suspect are vulnerable to extremism. They must also avoid exposing people to extremist views.
WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?
The definition of extremism under Prevent is so wide that thousands of people are being swept up by it – including children engaging in innocuous conduct, people protesting climate change, and a nurse who began wearing a hijab.
In fact, more than nine out of ten Prevent referrals in 2017/18 didn’t require any de-radicalisation action.
The policy simply embeds discrimination in public services, eroding carefully cultivated relationships which rely on trust, and fosters a culture of self-censorship. And studies have shown that Muslim students are changing their behavior for fear of being stigmatised, labelled as extremists or subjected to discrimination.
Prevent is fundamentally misconceived, and the Government hasn’t published any evidence that holding extreme views is a reliable predictor of future participation in violence.
But despite these serious concerns, it’s spreading, and police are training the private sector and are encouraging people to report on others.
WHAT ARE WE CALLING FOR?
The Prevent duty must be scrapped.
The current Prevent Review is a chance to give this damaging strategy the robust independent scrutiny it desperately needs – but the Government has hamstrung it before it’s even started, as it’s not broad enough to conduct the thorough examination required.
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