Anti-terror Prevent programme remains mystery to most British Muslims

Calls for new government website to boost profile of scheme aimed at weeding out extremists

A handout photograph of Ahmed Hassan, who has been convicted of exploding a device on an underground train at Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain. Picture supplied March 16, 2018. Metropolitian Police/Handout via REUTERS  - ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
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The UK’s Prevent deradicalisation programme is a mystery to many Muslims, a government survey has revealed.

Questions have been raised over the terror monitoring programme and its effectiveness after a number of attacks took place on British soil while the system was in place.

The scheme relies on referrals from teachers, health workers and members of the public who have extremism concerns about individuals.

The survey, which was commissioned by the government to assess the scheme, has revealed that more than half of British Muslims “knew little or nothing” about it.

One in five Muslim students surveyed also revealed they felt Prevent had stopped them speaking freely in class for fear of being reported.

More than a third of teachers told the researchers they have not received proper training to identify signs of extremism.

Now researchers from ICM, which conducted the survey, have called on the government to raise more awareness of the scheme and address the trust issues the public have.

They recommend that the government creates a website dedicated to the scheme to address the situation.

“While increasing knowledge about Prevent as a whole will bring benefits, there are specific areas that need to be tackled when educating people about the programme,” the researchers said.

“Challenging such misconceptions as Prevent involves police surveillance, that it only targets certain communities, and that it is predominantly focused on Islamist terrorism will be one of the most important factors in securing the success of future activity.

“In terms of what would be the most useful resource to help people learn about Prevent and debunk incorrect assumptions, there is a clear appetite among the general public for a website with useful information.

“This chimes with people’s most frequently cited source for wanting to find out more about Prevent, indicating that when people turn to the internet for information, there should be an official website that acts a reliable and up-to-date source of information. A website should cater to the public’s appetite for practical advice such as ‘examples of the signs of radicalisation’ as well as an ‘explanation of what happens after you make a referral’.”

The researchers said a quarter of people revealed they would make an online referral if they could through a website.

One in seven British Muslims (15 per cent) had an unfavourable opinion of Prevent, “a proportion that, while still low, was higher than for any other demographic”, the report said.

“The message from this finding is clear: educating people about the nature of Prevent and what it involves is the most effective way to improve trust and perceptions of the programme.

“There is a positive relationship between knowledge and favourability. This should be reassuring for the Home Office as it suggests that the programme is not inherently mistrusted. These findings corroborate with the Mayor of London’s Countering Violent Extremism report which concluded that ‘Prevent will only be successful if London’s diverse array of communities have trust in it and view it as a strategy to safeguard them’.”

ICM interviewed a total of 1,464 adults aged over 16 in England and Wales.

Last year, there were 5,738 referrals to Prevent, a reduction of 21 per cent from the previous year when there were 7,318.

Only 23 per cent of the referrals were deemed suitable by the Home Office for the programme.

In 2017, it was revealed that Ahmed Hassan, who was responsible for the Parson’s Green station terror attack in London, had attended the Prevent programme.