UK counter-terrorism strategy has ‘double standards’: draft review leaked

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  • There is a “double standard” in responses to far-right and Islamist terrorism, according to a leaked review.
  • William Shawcross said definitions of far-right extremism were too broad and called for a crackdown on Islamist groups.
  • MP Alistair Carmichael told Insider that the review “risks further intoxicating the debate on countering extremism”.

The UK’s counter-terrorism strategy has been guilty of a ‘double standard’ when it comes to dealing with far-right and Islamist groups, leaked extracts from a major report suggest.

William Shawcross’s review of Britain’s Prevent program argues that too much emphasis has been placed on right-wing terrorism because the definition of neo-Nazism has been overstretched, while the emphasis on Islamist extremism has been too narrow, the Guardian reported.

The review said definitions of far-right extremism include “mildly controversial or provocative forms of traditional right-wing commentary that have no meaningful connection to terrorism or radicalization.”

By contrast, Shawcross said the strategy ignored “Islamist narratives” by focusing on banned organizations.

The leak of the already controversial Shawcross review came days after a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, where a white supremacist shot and killed 11 black and two white victims in what authorities called a “hate crime in racial motivation”.

The appointment of Shawcross, a former chairman of the Charity Commission, led a number of campaign groups and NGOs, including Amnesty International, to boycott the process over earlier comments he had made.

In 2012, as director of the neo-conservative Henry Jackson Society, Shawcross said: “Europe and Islam is one of the biggest and most terrifying issues of our future. I think all European countries have very rapidly growing Islamic populations.”

Amnesty said these were “obviously Islamophobic views”.

Alistair Carmichael, home affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, told Insider: “These leaks reinforce what the Liberal Democrats have said from the start – that this review should have been completely independent of government to ensure it could be act as a truly neutral assessment of extremism in Britain.

“Instead, the government has dragged its feet, politicized the process and left us with a record that risks further inflaming the debate on countering extremism.

“Violent extremism must be fought wherever it occurs – by turning this into a fight over which extremism is ‘worse’, we risk undermining that fight. The government must act to restore trust in the process.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office told Insider: “Prevention remains an essential tool for early intervention and protection. We will not allow extremists or terrorists to spread hatred or sow division and Prevention remains an important driver to help steer people away from harm.

“Prevent’s independent review, led by William Shawcross, will ensure that we continue to improve our response and better protect people from toxic and dangerous ideologies. The report is being finalized and once officially received and after review thoroughly, the report and government response will be published.”

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