Roots of violent radicalisation - Home Affairs Committee Contents

4  The Prevent Strategy

The Prevent Review

40. The revised Prevent Strategy was published in June 2011. It has three objectives: challenging the ideology that supports terrorism and those who promote it; protecting vulnerable people; and supporting sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation.[77] Witnesses tended to broadly welcome the outcome of the Prevent Review, favouring the clearer split between counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation work; the separation out of activity between the Home Office, focusing on violent extremism and the Department for Communities and Local Government, focusing on non-violent extremism; and the fact that more care would be taken to ensure that funding was not given to groups that opposed British values.[78] Nevertheless, some reservations about the strategy were raised and some regarding its implementation. We explore each of these below.

41. On the whole, witnesses supported the outcome of the Prevent Review. We too welcome many aspects of the new Strategy, which appears to address some of the major criticisms levelled at its predecessors.

Targeting resources proportionate to the threat

42. As previously stated, the revised Prevent Strategy is designed to address all forms of terrorism, whereas the original focus of the strategy dealt only with Islamist terrorism and therefore almost exclusively focused on Muslim communities. Resources are to be allocated proportionate to the threat. To a certain extent Prevent has already begun to address other threats; for example, 8% of those referred to the Government's Channel programme as being potentially vulnerable to violent extremism were referred owing to concerns around right-wing violent extremism.[79] However, some witnesses, and a number of participants in our conference, disputed whether the Strategy and in particular its implementation accurately reflected the threat, arguing in particular that the threat from extreme right-wing terrorism is played down by the authorities.[80]

43. The Government does not publish a threat level for any non-Al Qa'ida or Northern Ireland-related forms of terrorism. There is some disagreement as to whether there is a "terrorist" threat from the extreme right-wing. In its most recent EU terrorist threat assessment, Europol stated that:

Some incidents that occurred in 2010 could be classified as right-wing extremism. These raised public order concerns, but have not in any way endangered the political, constitutional, economic or social structures of any of the Member States.[81]

However, concern about extreme right-wing terrorism grew in 2011 following the killing of 77 people in two terrorist attacks in Norway in July 2011 by Anders Breivik, whose extreme right-wing views were linked to Islamophobia.

44. The Community Security Trust and Board of Deputies of British Jews jointly argued, in relation to the 17 right-wing extremists currently serving prison sentences for acts of terrorism, that their plots "involved the use of military explosives, biological warfare and firearms, indicating a capability not hitherto used by Islamist terrorism in the UK."[82] Mike Whine, their representative, added in oral evidence that "one should not belittle the far right's capacity to engage in really serious terrorism and, if you look within Europe generally, then there have been even more serious cases."[83] Dr Goodwin suggested the focus on Muslim communities in the delivery of Prevent had left a "noticeable gap":

I think even though far right parties and movements like the EDL are not overtly violent in their ambitions to the same extent that Al Qa'ida-inspired groups are, I would make a case that this movement contains the potential for violence. It gives its followers a specific set of narratives that under certain conditions validate the use of violence.[84]

45. Dr Goodwin further warned of the need to pay closer attention to the interplay between different forms of extremism and take more seriously:

The potential for a spiral of violence between different forms of extremism. What I mean by that is something that we have not seen since Northern Ireland, which is the potential for far right extremisms to enact violence or confrontation against, for example, an AQ-inspired group, to bomb a mosque or something of that nature and then for that action to be retaliated. It wouldn't really take too long for a spiral of violence to emerge.[85]

This was reiterated by Professor Nigel Copsey, of Teesside University, at our conference.[86]

46. A view was expressed by some of those giving evidence to us, and those to whom we spoke less formally, that the revised Prevent Strategy only pays lip service to the threat from extreme far-right terrorism. We accept that Prevent resources should be allocated proportionately to the terrorist threat, and that to an extent we must rely upon the intelligence and security services to make this judgement. However, we received persuasive evidence about the potential threat from extreme far-right terrorism. The ease of travel and communications between countries in Europe and the growth of far-right organisations, which appear to have good communications with like-minded groups within Europe, suggest that the current lack of firm evidence should not be a reason for neglecting this area of risk. The Prevent Strategy should outline more clearly the actions to be taken to tackle far right radicalisation as well as explicitly acknowledge the potential interplay between different forms of violent extremism, and the potential for measures directed at far-right extremism to have a consequential effect on Islamist extremism, and vice versa.

Supporting sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation


47. The Government argued in the Prevent Strategy that:

We accept that universities and colleges of further education will need guidance, information and best practice to address these issues ... But we are concerned that some universities and colleges have failed to engage in Prevent.[87]

Professor Neumann agreed that "universities have been a little bit complacent ... in the past".[88] Universities UK acknowledged that "universities can and should do more" and drew our attention to the recommendations contained within their 2011 report, Freedom of speech on campus: rights and responsibilities in UK universities, which have sought to redress this. Professor Petts told us:

We are all very aware that, in an environment where we have a very large cohort of young, potentially vulnerable people, there is a threat, and we are very alert to that threat. We are acutely aware of our responsibility to those young people ...

What this report has done is refocus institutions' minds on how we deliver practically freedom of speech in an environment that is safe and fair to all people.[89]

48. On the basis of a survey undertaken by Universities UK, Professor Petts considered that "the vast majority of institutions" have "signed up wholeheartedly" to the Prevent Strategy.[90] He gave some examples from his own institution, the University of Westminster:

We have a detailed process in place and we check all organisations that wish to become engaged with our students, and we draw a line. To give you an example, I believe that we are one of the few universities in the country where, in the last year, we actually said no on one occasion, and we engaged with an organisation on another occasion to change the programme of events to ensure that our students were not exposed to radical extremism ...

In my own institution, we have a team of four individuals who are responsible for ensuring that we have the right protocols in place, that staff are aware of those protocols and that students are aware of those protocols through the student charter, which explains to students their responsibilities to each other and the staff's responsibilities to them.[91]

Universities UK contended that "selective media reporting and reliance on an evidence base that frequently ignores the positive work universities have undertaken in addressing this issue ... has resulted in universities being disproportionately targeted in the broader debate."[92]

49. However, some university and student representatives also expressed broader concerns about the role they were expected to play. The Federation of Student Islamic Societies stated that it was:

Gravely concerned over the impact the revised strategy will have on freedom of expression on campuses across the UK. All higher education stakeholders ... are obliged by Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights to allow the expression of opinions as long as they do not compromise public safety.[93]

The National Union of Students (NUS) expressed the view of many students with whom we met in arguing that "universities are one of the only places where [extremist] views and opinions can be challenged effectively in open forums and debates."[94] At our conference, Dr Richard Hall cited Cardinal Newman's description of universities as places of "collision of mind with mind".[95] However, a case study undertaken at City University by the Quilliam Foundation found that, where students and academics had tried to challenge the activities and views of the Islamic society, they were subject to intimidation.[96]

50. The NUS has produced guidance for student unions which seeks to provide information and advice on their legal implications as charities, the safety and welfare implications of visiting speakers and how to manage associated risks of external speakers speaking or presenting at events organised by the union. However, NUS representative Pete Mercer was concerned that support from the NUS was the only form of guidance available to students but that the Union were not experts on extremism. More generally:

Our conversations with staff in institutions and the HE sector indicate that they are unclear about what is expected of them.

It is NUS' view that the government should provide clearer guidance for the sector on what role they expect institutions to play in the delivery of Prevent.[97]

51. We accept that some universities may have been complacent about their role, and, while we agree in principle that universities are ideal places to confront extremist ideology, we are not convinced that extremists on campus are always subject to equal and robust challenge. We recommend that the Government issue clearer guidance to universities about their expected role in Prevent, following consultation with university and student representative bodies. We would hope that college authorities and student bodies will recognise that individuals or groups expressing hatred against any particular race or nationality is simply not acceptable on a British campus, and certainly needs to be challenged immediately.

52. We further recommend that, a designated contact point with relevant expertise within Government is provided to student unions and university administrators to assist them in making difficult decisions about speakers on campus.


53. The Home Office launched a Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit in 2010 to investigate internet-based content which might be illegal under UK law and take appropriate action against it, although Sir Norman Bettison described it as "a pebble thrown into the World Wide Web ocean".[98] It had received 2,025 referrals thus far, about 10% of which led to websites or web pages being taken down. Sir Norman believed that the referral site needed greater publicity which would in turn require greater capacity: at the time of our inquiry it consisted of around a dozen officers. [99] Charles Farr told us:

Every internet service provider (ISP) has acceptable behaviour codes for use on their systems. So having that conversation, even where the website is operating in a broadly legal space, is not unusual for them. Governments all around the world have those conversations with ISPs every day, and the public will very often make their own representations to ISPs about particularly unacceptable content that may still be legal on websites around the world.[100]

He later clarified that Governments would only make representations if websites were breaching the law.

54. Under the Terrorism Act 2006, if a law enforcement agency approached a hosting provider in respect of the Act's provisions regarding liability for hosting terrorist content, they would be compelled to take it down and if an internet service provider failed to remove the content upon receipt of a valid notice under section 3 of the Act, it would be committing an offence.[101] The Internet Service Providers' Association argued that:

When section 3 notices of the Act are invoked to remove material then there is no issue; when they're not invoked it becomes more problematic. As in other areas, ISPs are not best placed to determine what constitutes violent extremism and where the line should be drawn. This is particularly true of a sensitive area like radicalisation, with differing views on what may constitute violent extremist.[102]

55. Professor Neumann, who co-authored Countering Online Radicalisation for the International Center for Radicalisation in 2009, told us that the Government had implemented a number of their recommendations:

One of our recommendations was to bring strategic prosecutions—not necessarily taking down websites but to prosecute the people who are producing the content for the websites. That has happened, to some extent. There is also a mechanism that the Government have introduced for deciding what kind of content should be taken down and that has also been done. Most importantly, we believe that there is no technical solution to this problem and that this problem needs to be addressed differently, and the Government have followed us there.

However, he considered that more remained to be done:

The most profitable way for any Government to address this problem is to bring political pressure, in some cases, to bear on internet providers-big internet companies who are hosting extremist videos in places like YouTube, Google, Facebook ... They do that to some extent but they could do it more consistently. I believe that, for example, all the measures that have been taken by YouTube to clean up its act have always been in response to political pressure, both from the United States and the United Kingdom ...

This is not about freedom of speech. All these websites, whether it is YouTube or Facebook, have their own rules. They have acceptable behaviours. They all say, "We are against hate speech" and they are very effective in removing sexual content or copyright content. Why can they not be equally effective at removing, for example, extremist Islamist or extremist right-wing content? Primarily, I believe it is because it is not in their commercial interest and that is why it is so important that politicians and Governments bring political pressure to bear. [103]

The Internet Service Providers' Association argued that it would be "impractical" for ISPs to be expected to proactively monitor material, given the sheer volume of content online, as well as undesirable, given the implications for freedom of expression.[104]

56. Assistant Chief Constable John Wright, the National Prevent Coordinator for the police, added that there was a need for greater international cooperation, given that most of the websites are hosted outside the UK's jurisdiction.[105] The Internet Service Providers' Association confirmed that if material was hosted outside of the UK, a UK intermediary would be unable to remove it. They agreed that "to improve this, greater international cooperation could be explored, although what constitutes violent extremist under the law in one country is not necessarily the same elsewhere."[106]

57. Given the impossibility of comprehensively controlling the internet, it is necessary to employ other methods to tackle the issue. Alyas Karmani argued:

If you are thinking about banning the internet, you have just got to provide a counter-narrative. That is what we do at STREET, so what we do is we identify their narrative and then you have to put an equally effective counter-narrative, because if you ban one site, 10 others emerge, and the sophistication of various ideologues in terms of promoting on the internet and through social media is highly proficient.[107]

The Government has been attempting to counter terrorist ideology, this work being led by the Research, Information and Communications Unit at the Home Office; however, Charles Farr admitted that:

Getting that message across ... to a group of people who would rarely read the media that we would normally work with, is very challenging.[108]

The Government's focus will be on "increasing the confidence of civil society activists to challenge online extremist material effectively and to provide credible alternatives."[109]

58. Jamie Bartlett was also concerned that children were not developing the skills that would enable them to sift critically material on the internet:

A lot of the information that looks very trustworthy and accurate—and people tend to go on aesthetics of websites—is absolutely bogus but we are not taught this in schools because it has happened so quickly. People are not being taught in school how to critically evaluate internet-based content and I think that is one of the biggest weaknesses that we face at the moment.[110]

59. The Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit does limited but valuable work in challenging internet service providers to remove violent extremist material where it contravenes the law. We suggest that the Government work with internet service providers in the UK to develop a Code of Conduct committing them to removing violent extremist material, as defined for the purposes of section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006. Many relevant websites are hosted abroad: the Government should also therefore strive towards greater international cooperation to tackle this issue.

60. Given the impossibility of completely ridding the internet of violent extremist material, it is important to support defences against it. We support the Government's approach to empowering civil society groups to counter extremist ideology online. The whole area of communications technology and social networking is complex and extremely fast-moving. A form of interaction that is commonly used by thousands or even millions of people at one point in time may only have been developed a matter of months or even weeks earlier. It follows that legislation and regulation struggle to keep up and can provide a blunt instrument at best. Leaders in fields such as education, the law and Parliament also need to be involved. Evidence taken by this committee in regard to the riots in London last August showed that some police forces have identified social networks as providing both challenges and opportunities, with the message from one chief constable that the police recognised that 'we need to be engaged'. In respect of terrorism, as in respect of organised crime, the Government should seek to build on the partnership approach to prevention that has proved successful in the field of child abuse and child protection.


61. As well as recommending more staff training to recognise the signs of radicalisation and cautioning against an over-reliance on imams, Professor Neumann's study of radicalisation and de-radicalisation in prisons concluded that "there exists no systematic programme" in the UK for the de-radicalisation of prisoners and that prison services should be "more ambitious in promoting positive influences inside prison", and develop "more innovative approaches to facilitate prisoners' transition back into mainstream society."[111] When asked about progress to implement these recommendations, Richard Pickering, of the National Offender Management Service, told us:

I have discussed Peter Neumann's book with him and that was right at its time ... since 2009/10 when he was doing the background work for this and since 2010 when it was published, we have made significant advances, not least in the areas of training and of interventions.[112]

Professor Neumann agreed that a lot of his recommendations were being implemented and that NOMS had "got the emphasis right" in focusing on staff training, aftercare for prisoners and providing mainstream-based services.[113]

62. We heard, both in evidence from the National Offender Management Service and also during our visit to Belmarsh, that systems were in place to gather intelligence and thereby identify at-risk prisoners.[114] Staff appeared to be well briefed on the issues and there was an evident focus on the Decency Agenda, so as not to exacerbate prisoners' potential sense of grievance. However, Alyas Karmani considered that practice varied across the estate; some prisons welcomed the support that could be provided by expert organisations, whereas in other institutions "doors are completely closed, with a lack of awareness".[115] Some of the Muslim prisoners with whom we spoke also felt stereotyped by prison staff.[116]

63. Ten terrorist or terrorism-related prisoners were discharged between January and June 2011; the numbers of non-terrorist prisoners leaving prison having been radicalised are unknown. The aftercare provided for these prisoners is very important. Ali Soufan, whose organisation has carried out a comparative study of initiatives to counter radicalisation, considered that the involvement of families and the wider community in rehabilitation was the key to successful aftercare.[117] Given this, it may be unhelpful for offenders to be moved into hostels far from their families, which we heard has happened with some Belmarsh inmates. At our conference it was suggested that when inmates are released back into the community there is a lack of resettlement projects or community-led projects that would provide them with the necessary support.[118] However, Ahtsham Ali, Muslim Advisor to the National Offender Management Service, said that probation officers often asked him for assistance in signposting individuals to mosques who can help them with family reintegration; there are also various Muslim community organisations who provide this support.[119] The Community Chaplain programme also works alongside prisoners in their transition to the community.

64. One further issue that was highlighted to us during our visit to Belmarsh concerned the sharing of information. Prison authorities share information about prisoners who have been potentially vulnerable to radicalising influences with police officers embedded in the prison and multi-agency public protection partners upon release but receive little information back.[120] We were told that, at Belmarsh at least, the prison authorities would find it helpful to receive feedback about what happens to these inmates after their release, to add to their understanding of prison radicalisation. When we raised this in evidence with Charles Farr, he agreed that this should happen.[121] The Governor of Belmarsh, Phil Wragg, noted a few intelligence breakdowns between different agencies—and told us that they had no links at all with the UK Border Agency.[122] He advocated development of a portal which would allow all the relevant agencies to share intelligence more quickly.[123]

65. Good aftercare is critical to ensuring that prisoners who may have been vulnerable to violent extremist ideology in prison can make the transition safely into the community, and family involvement is critical to good aftercare. We are concerned that The National Offender Management Service has not paid more attention to ensuring that conditions of release do not unnecessarily restrict family contact and indeed actively encourage positive family support and engagement. Where there is a tendency for a family to reject the offender it can be important for the mosque to encourage the family to provide support and engagement. We are not convinced that the work of the chaplaincy in facilitating the transition from prison to the home community is as effective as it needs to be, although we were impressed with the hopes and aspirations which were described to us by the Imams we met and it is clear that there are serious moves within the Muslim community to create the necessary structures and arrangements.. We recommend that this is always taken into account. We also heard conflicting evidence about the level of support available in the community and recommend that resources are prioritised towards closing any gaps.

66. The National Offender Management Service must be an equal participant in the Prevent strategy, alongside other agencies. We are very concerned that prison authorities are not receiving feedback about prisoners vulnerable to radicalisation after their release. Such information would be critical to improving understanding of prison radicalisation and prison processes for monitoring and dealing with it. We recommend that the Government should a) implement a system whereby this information is fed back into prisons and b) develop a portal that would allow the relevant agencies dealing with prisoner intelligence, including the UK Border Agency, to share data more quickly and easily.

Supporting vulnerable people

67. The Government has used, and will continue to use with some adaptations, the Channel programme as a means to identify and support people at risk of radicalisation. Identifications are made against a range of possible indicators, including expressed support for violence and terrorism; possession of violent extremist literature; attempts to access or contribute to websites; possession of material regarding weapons; and possession of literature regarding military training, skills and techniques. Some 1,120 people were referred to the Channel programme between April 2007 and the end of December 2010. The majority of referrals were made by education partners, the police and youth offending services.[124] Both coordination of the Channel programme by the police and Channel interventions themselves are funded by the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism.


68. Several community-based Channel providers have lost funding since the new Prevent Strategy was published, including STREET, who gave evidence to us. There was some speculation in the media that this was as a result of the Government withdrawing funding from extremist groups but, according to Charles Farr, while this has sometimes been the case, organisations have also lost funding because they were not providing value for money.

69. Maajid Nawaz—whose organisation also lost funding—was concerned that there was insufficient capacity on the ground to deliver counter-radicalisation programmes and queried how the strategy would be implemented.[125] This was supported by what we heard anecdotally. Charles Farr, however, told us that only a "small number" of groups have had their funding withdrawn and that he was "completely confident" that other organisations would be available to take their place. He later confirmed that Home Office had withdrawn Prevent funding from 9 of the 17 organisations that provided support to individuals at risk of radicalisation.[126]

70. Jamie Bartlett recognised there had been problems in the past with local authorities lacking the right information to make judicious decisions about which groups to fund, but cautioned that:

If it comes to a situation where groups that are doing very good and documented work in preventing terrorist activity are accused of being extremists, for whatever reasons and from whoever, and that money is then withdrawn, that could be a problem for everybody.[127]

Maajid Nawaz noted that the new Prevent strategy does not contain criteria as to who should be engaged[128] and the Henry Jackson Society recommended that the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism should "circulate centralised criteria to all Prevent partners for identifying group's whose ideology, trustees, senior members or previous speaker record would disqualify it from engagement."[129]


71. Jamie Bartlett considered that the best way to defeat non-violent extremism was "probably funding projects that are not about extremism, that bring communities together for completely unrelated reasons to extremism".[130] Both in formal evidence and in informal conversations, those involved in the delivery of Channel agreed that the best way to engage with young people at risk was via some other form of "hook":

We use anything in our toolkit that enables us to connect and hook up with young people. For example, we're doing a lot of work around sexual violence at the moment, the reason being that our sexual relationship education workshops were the most popular with young people, and it provided a safe space environment for them to talk about issues where they didn't have any other opportunity. That is a hook for us. In the same way, sport, football, boxing is a hook for us to engage young people, to connect with them, build relationships with them and engage them in more complex and challenging issues.[131]

After they are drawn in, then the relevant experts can tackle the ideology, theology, emotional support needs and so forth. Akeela Ahmed cautioned that a too-narrow focus risked dealing with the symptoms rather than the causes of radicalisation.[132]

72. This fits into a broader argument that favours mainstreaming Prevent provision. A representative of the London Borough of Harrow stressed at our conference that mainstreamed support provided for at-risk individuals by youth workers, delivered by good partnership working between police and local authority, was a recipe for success; and raised the question of whether more of the Prevent agenda should be mainstreamed. The police also considered that "we will be successful in Prevent policing only when it is mainstreamed" into neighbourhood policing.[133]

73. Channel is modelled on other multi-agency risk management processes and uses processes which also safeguard people at risk from crime, drugs and gangs. It was mentioned in informal discussions and at our conference that at a local level Prevent is becoming increasingly viewed as part of the safeguarding agenda. One individual suggested that Prevent should be re-named "safeguarding".

74. We fully agree with the Government that public money should not be used to fund groups who hold views that contradict fundamental British values. However, we are concerned that the parameters for this policy are not sufficiently clear and that the situation could arise whereby risk-averse public authorities discontinue funding for effective groups because of unfounded allegations of "extremism". The Government should draw up and issue guidelines with clear criteria to potential funders. We also note that several Channel providers have recently lost funding and there is currently a lack of capacity on the ground to deliver the Strategy. This should be rectified urgently.

75. The view came across strongly in our evidence that Prevent is most successful at the local level where it is mainstreamed into local safeguarding procedures, youth services, neighbourhood policing and so forth. We support this approach and encourage the Government to do the same.

Community responses to Prevent

76. We got the distinct impression that for many Muslim communities, radicalisation was not a problem that they recognised. Murtaza Hassan Shaikh told us:

On the community level in mosques and in community organisations there is a general sentiment that Muslims don't see the problem themselves in their communities. So when they see in the news or when they see the issue of violent extremism being raised at the political level or national level they wonder where it actually is. It is not to say it does not exist, but the examples are so few that people develop a sense of paranoia and many conspiracy theories because they themselves are not exposed to these ideas in their own community.[134]

As a result, and because of the way in which the original Prevent Strategy was phrased and communicated, Muslim communities felt unfairly targeted by Prevent. Nabil Ahmed criticised a "disproportionate and unfair focus on Muslim students".[135] A number of Muslims attended our conference and made it very clear that considerable suspicion about the Prevent Strategy remained within their communities, including the suggestion that it was used to spy on them. In the words of Sir Iqbal Sacranie, of Muslim Aid, the impression created by the first Prevent Strategy remained "the lasting one".[136] At our conference, the potential to rename the Strategy was discussed, with Ian Paisley MP suggesting a more appropriate term for this part of CONTEST would be "partnership".[137]

77. Sir Iqbal Sacranie also felt that the current Government had not learnt from its predecessor in terms of engaging Muslims: certain individuals continue to be selected by the Government to act as "Muslim spokesman" who are not representatives of the varied Muslim communities throughout the UK.[138] Cage Prisoners told us that "Muslims will continue to reject any such [Prevent] strategy if they feel their voice has not been heard" and argued that "the names/organisations of those involved in supporting Prevent should be published in order for the Muslim community to see where advice has been sought. Without this, they will assume that the various communities that exist in the UK have not been adequately consulted".[139]

78. Dr Colin Roberts, speaking at our conference, suggested that resistance of the community to Prevent had been overstated: Muslim attitudes to police are broadly comparable with those of the general population.[140] Interestingly, research cited by Dr Sara Silvestri at our conference suggested that communities felt that it was the general public, rather than the police, who were discriminatory. Where there was resistance, it tended to be against "national" rather than "local" Prevent policing in a kind of "reverse nimbyism".[141] Communities are being gradually won over but this has been inhibited by the lack of a positive campaign to counter some of the negative press surrounding Channel.

79. Language remains a huge issue. The Averroes Institute posited that:

Conflation [of Muslims with terrorism] only serves to reduce the chances of cooperation with the Muslim community in opposing the violent ideology as the community itself feels at risk of being identified as those with terrorist tendencies even though they are against it ... The use of terms that link violence with religion are ... unproductive given that they legitimise extreme elements of society to attack aspects of Islam that have nothing to do with 'violence', but merely on an ideological basis.[142]

At our conference, Sir Iqbal Sacranie stated that, while he welcomed much in the tone of the Prevent Review, this did not always tally with Government statements. Alyas Karmani of the STREET Project considered that the type of language used by the media explained why some young Muslims might be particularly exposed to extremist media on the internet:

The end result [of a perception of Islamophobia] is that people access alternative media, so they become completely disillusioned with mainstream and they go to layers underneath that.[143]

80. Despite the Government's efforts to remedy this perception, there is a lingering suspicion about the Prevent Strategy amongst Muslim communities, many of whom continue to believe that it is essentially a tool for intelligence-gathering or spying. This might be mitigated if these communities felt more ownership of the strategy: the Government should be even more open and transparent about whom it engages with in the UK's varied Muslim communities and should seek to engage more widely. Only through engagement will the Government be able to get communities on their side and really prevent radicalisation. It would also be assisted by adopting a more pro-active approach to combating negative publicity, particularly in respect of the Channel programme. We saw plenty of evidence during our enquiry both of engagement and of considerable expertise within the Muslim community. This needs to be acknowledged and respected by the authorities in order to strengthen the foundations of the partnership approach, which is proving effective in many places. Finally, we believe there is a strong case for re-naming the Prevent Strategy to reflect a positive approach to collaboration with the Muslim communities of the UK, for example the Engage Strategy.

81. The language used to talk about Prevent, and counter-terrorism more generally, can have a detrimental effect on Muslim communities' willingness to cooperate with Prevent where it conflates terrorism with the religion of Islam. The Prevent Strategy largely manages to avoid this. However, those engaged in public life must ensure that the language they use reflects the same tone.


82. A further issue we considered in our inquiry is the usefulness of the proscription regime in deterring people from joining extremist groups, and how the regime is working. Professor Clive Walker, an expert on counter-terrorism legislation from the University of Leeds, stated that:

Successive governments have called in aid three arguments for proscription: First, it has been, and remains, a powerful deterrent to people to engage in terrorist activity. Secondly, related offences are a way of tackling some of the lower-level support for terrorist organisations. … Thirdly, proscription acts as a powerful signal of the rejection by the Government—and indeed by society as a whole—of organisations' claim to legitimacy.[144]

83. Under Part II of the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary can proscribe any organisation she believes "is concerned with terrorism". An organisation "is concerned in terrorism" if it commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes or encourages terrorism (including unlawful glorification) or is otherwise concerned in terrorism. If this statutory test is met, the Home Secretary must consider whether the organisation should be proscribed on policy grounds. The five policy criteria are:

  • the nature and scale of the terrorist threat;
  • the specific threat that it poses to the UK;
  • the specific threat that it poses to British nationals overseas;
  • the extent of the organisation's presence in the UK; and
  • the need to support other members of the international community in the global fight against terrorism.

There are 48 proscribed international terrorist organisations in the UK in addition to 14 organisations proscribed in relation to Northern Ireland.[145] There are no proscribed organisations relating to extreme far-right terrorism. Most recently the Home Secretary proscribed Muslims Against Crusades, on 10 November 2011, on the grounds that she was satisfied it was simply another name for an organisation already proscribed under a number of other names.[146]

84. While he acknowledged some of the weaknesses in the current proscription regime, for example the propensity of some groups to change their names, Charles Farr argued that it was effective based on the 20 convictions for proscription-related offences since 9/11.[147]

85. As part of the review of Counter-Terrorism Powers that reported in January 2011, the Government considered widening the basis for proscription so that incitement to violence or hatred should become reasons for proscribing organisations that openly espouse this sort of behaviour: this proposal was rejected. This was supported by our evidence. Such a change in the law may have allowed for the banning of groups including Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the English Defence League. Some witnesses argued that it would not be advantageous to proscribe such groups, but Jamie Bartlett suggested that the threat of proscription could be a useful deterrent:

Having the Sword of Damocles constantly hanging over groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir has been helpful in forcing them to moderate in many respects.[148]

86. Proscription is meant to be subject to ongoing review. However, only one organisation has been de-proscribed since 2000, following a direct request from the organisation concerned; no Minister has taken the decision to de-proscribe an organisation. Our Chair raised, as an example of an organisation which might merit a review, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam which is still banned in this country despite no longer appearing to be an active terrorist force in Sri Lanka or elsewhere.[149] In some cases, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, said he had "no doubt at all" that proscription was done at the behest of foreign governments.[150] Given this pressure and the difficulties organisations face in challenging proscription, Mr Anderson has argued that proscription orders should be time-limited.[151]

87. The Government recently reviewed proscription legislation as part of the review of counter-terrorism powers published in January 2011. We agree with the decision not to strengthen the law on proscription in a way which would allow for the banning of groups which are currently operating within the law, as the evidence suggests that proscription would not be effective and could be counter-productive. However, we are concerned that it is too difficult for groups who no longer pose a terrorist threat to obtain de-proscription, a move which might encourage some groups in their move away from active support for terrorism. We therefore endorse the recommendation of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation that the law be changed to make proscription orders time-limited.

88. Violent radicalisation is clearly a problem within the UK but it takes place within an international context and it is important for the UK authorities to be aware of developments elsewhere and to share information with partners abroad, both in respect of extremist Islamist organisations or movements, and in respect of extreme right-wing groups within Europe and America. However, the strongest forces against radicalisation are the partnerships of mutual respect and shared citizenship within the UK and within local communities in our towns and cities. The evidence given by Muslim organisations was impressive and we were encouraged by the evidence of greater effectiveness of local partnerships, of leadership within individual communities such as the student community, and the evidence of joined up thinking, for instance in preparing for the return of offenders to the community. It is important for the government to demonstrate, by action and words, strong support for these initiatives as well as maintaining the determination to support the work of intelligence agencies and the police in tackling those who choose the route of violence and intervening to protect those they seek to recruit.

77   HM Government, Prevent Strategy, June 2011 Back

78   Q 350 [Professor Neumann; Mr Bartlett; Ms Stuart]; Ev w23 [Lord Trimble] Back

79   HM Government, Prevent Strategy, June 2011, para 9.23 Back

80   See, for example, Q 155 [Ms Ahmed]; Q 156 [Mr Hassan Shaikh]; Annex A Back

81   Europol, EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2011, 2011, p 29 Back

82   Ev 95 Back

83   Qq 183-4 Back

84   Q 186 Back

85   Q 205 Back

86   See also the evidence of Jamie Bartlett of Demos , referred to at paragraph [11] above. Back

87   HM Government, Prevent Strategy, June 2011, para 10.86 Back

88   Q 369 Back

89   Qq 238, 249 Back

90   Q 263  Back

91   Qq 241, 264  Back

92   Ev 109 Back

93   Ev 104 Back

94   Ev w26 Back

95   Annex A Back

96   Quilliam Foundation, Radicalisation on British university campuses: a case study, October 2010 Back

97   Ev w26 Back

98   Q 233 Back

99   Q 233 [Sir Norman Bettison] Back

100   Q 319 Back

101   The type of material in respect of which a section 3 notice may be issued is defined in sections 1 and 2 of the Act. Back

102   Ev w24 Back

103   Qq 370-2 Back

104   Ev w25 Back

105   Q 233 Back

106   Ev w24 Back

107   Q 181 Back

108   Q 313 Back

109   HM Government, Prevent Strategy, June 2011, para 8.62 Back

110   Q 373 Back

111   Peter Neumann, Prison and Terrorism: Radicalisation and De-radicalisation in 15 countries, ICSR, 2010, p 20 Back

112   Q 284 Back

113   Q 375 Back

114   Q 267; Annex B Back

115   Q 143 Back

116   Annex B Back

117   Q 121 Back

118   Q 441 [Iman Sikander] Back

119   Q 296 Back

120   Q 296 [Mr Pickering] Back

121   Q 322 Back

122   The National Offender Management Service clarified subsequent to the visit that they had a Memorandum of Understanding in place with the UK Border Agency on information sharing about TACT offenders of common interest but little contact with UKBA specifically in relation to prisons. Back

123   Annex B Back

124   HM Government, Prevent Strategy, June 2011, paras 9.11, 9.28 Back

125   Qq 65, 79  Back

126   Q 342 Back

127   Q 351 Back

128   Q 79 Back

129   Ev 108 Back

130   Q 351 Back

131   Q 165 [Mr Karmani] Back

132   Q 166 Back

133   Q 219 [Sir Norman Bettison] Back

134   Q 136 Back

135   Q 251 [Mr Ahmed] Back

136   Annex A Back

137   Q 444 Back

138   Annex A Back

139   Ev w11, paras 3.2-3.3 Back

140   Q 440 Back

141   Annex A Back

142   Ev 116 Back

143   Q 140 Back

144   Hansard HC Standing Committee D, col 56 (18 January 2000), Charles Clarke, cited in Ev [Professor Walker], Back

145   HM Government, Contest: The UK's Strategy for Countering Terrorism, 2011, p 47 Back

146   Home Office press notice, "Terror organisation proscribed", 9 November 2011,  Back

147   Q 331 Back

148   Q 363 Back

149   Q 326 Back

150   Q 383 Back

151   Q 382 Back

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Prepared 6 February 2012