Liberty responds to Shawcross Review of Prevent

Posted on 08 Feb 2023

Commenting on today’s Shawcross Review report on Prevent, Ruth Ehrlich, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Liberty, said:

We all want to live safe and flourishing lives, but Prevent is a fundamentally misconceived and oppressive policy that stops us from doing so. It embeds discrimination against Muslims in public services, erodes carefully cultivated relationships, and fosters a culture of fear and mistrust.

In 2019, Liberty along with 16 other human rights and community groups made the decision to boycott the Shawcross review. Shawcross’s appointment as chair of the review, following his history of Islamophobic comments, made it clear that the Government did not intend to conduct an impartial review of the strategy, but instead sought to whitewash it.

The publication of today’s long-delayed report – and the fact that its recommendations have already been accepted in full by the Government – shows that the Government is not committed to engaging meaningfully with Muslim communities but instead targeting them further. Muslim organisations are singled out for their criticisms of Prevent, despite the fact these concerns are shared widely among human rights organisations, as well as frontline workers.  Instead of addressing the human rights issues raised by the Prevent duty, the review proposes to extend the reach of Prevent to more public sector bodies, entrenching its harmful effects.

The Prevent duty is having a hugely detrimental effect on Muslims, as well as on activists campaigning for anti-racist, environmental, and other social justice causes, who feel unable to campaign for what they believe in for fear of ending up on a ‘list’. Studies have shown that due to the Prevent duty, Muslim students are changing their behaviour for fear of being stigmatised, labelled as extremists, or subjected to discrimination. The duty targets children, including those with mental health problems, putting their welfare at risk. In some cases, children have been reported to the authorities for simply talking about video games at school.

We need policies that respect human rights and bring communities together – both Prevent and this review are very far removed from that ideal and are actively causing significant division in our communities. The Prevent duty must be repealed, and the wider strategy completely rethought.

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