David Cameron and a right-wing think tank have warned the government to defend its flagship counter-extremism strategy against criticism or risk fostering terrorism.
In a controversial Policy Exchange report, the former Prime Minister demanded a strong defense of the Prevent strategy.
The report claims that Prevent is undermined by “Islamist militants and their allies” and names organizations such as CAGE and the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
Its publication comes after Priti Patel indicated she wanted to review strategy following the murder of Tory MP Sir David Amess.
An ongoing independent review of Prevent by William Shawcross has been delayed, but is expected to report its findings later this year.
In a foreword to the report, Cameron warns: “Just as we must counter the Islamist extremist narrative, we must counter the anti-Prevent narrative. We need to show that delegitimizing counterterrorism is, in essence, enabling terrorism. »
The report goes on to condemn Muslim groups that have criticized Prevent.
“Unopposed, activists feed national media and target Muslim communities themselves, creating a culture of grievance that claims they are victims of Prevent, which they claim is an ‘Islamophobic’ social engineering project.”
An MCB spokesperson said Policy Exchange has always led efforts to discourage cooperation between authorities and the Muslim Council of Britain.
“So it is laughable that the Policy Exchange is now claiming that we are the ones discouraging cooperation because we are exercising our democratic responsibility to review bad policies.
“The MCB has always repeatedly and vocally opposed all forms of terrorism, but the Policy Exchange’s amnesia does not recognize that,” she said.
Muhammad Rabbani, Chief Executive of CAGE, said: “The report is testament to the unified resilience of Muslim organisations, against all odds, in effectively defending their communities against one of the most pernicious and insidious government policies, namely Prevent .
“Despite the government having a near absolute monopoly on power and access to mainstream media and PR agencies, the report promotes a false reality of ‘unopposed activists’ criticizing Prevent in order to explain the mass rejection of Prevent by communities.”
There have been calls for an independent review of the strategy for years, by critics who say it promotes discrimination against people of Muslim faith or background and inhibits legitimate expression.
The prevention strategy includes a legal obligation for schools, NHS trusts, prisons and local authorities to report any concerns they have about people who may turn to extremism.
This has led to instances in which teachers have reported elementary students to the police for having toy guns or talking about video games.
A coalition of more than 450 Islamic organisations, including 350 mosques and imams, boycotted the government’s review of Prevent last March in protest at Shawcross’s appointment.
Shawcross, who chaired the Charity Commission between 2012 and 2018, has come under fire following earlier remarks he made about Islam.