And why the strategy doesn’t work.
The Prevent Strategy is part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, and allows for ‘specified authorities’ to fulfil their duty of preventing people being drawn into terrorism or so-called terrorist groups. The definitions of extreme ideology and the institutions attached to them remain vague leaving many who act against or disagree with the government being branded as a threat by this new legislation.
This strategy includes stopping people join groups which are described as extreme by the government, whether they are non-violent or otherwise. This shows a lack of willingness to allow for diversity within our country, in terms of political opinion, if it disagrees with the stance of the government or threatens radical change. It shows the government to be painting a picture that their political ideology or direction is the only legitimate option, and any others pose a threat to nation security, whether violence is part of the ideology or not.
The Prevent strategy highlights that Islamist extremists create a conflict between the western world and Islam: ‘Us’ and ‘them.’ This becomes somewhat conflicting when it could be argued that the government is targeting specific groups creating an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ narrative of our own.
The continuing use of the phrase ‘British values’ is used throughout the Prevent strategy extends the suggestion that there is a conflict, or at least a divide, between our countries’ citizens and those of another. This is arguably not helpful, especially in a world increasingly globalised and the use of social media is vast, people are not easily contained within borders.
Furthermore, using the term British indicates that our morals are somehow better or more valuable than those of another country. It creates an image that Britain is not welcoming of other cultures and does not help to combat extreme views, but rather pushes those who already feel isolated within our society further into groups which are dangerous.
The argument is not that no extremist groups pose a threat to us, as citizens of the western world; that would be naïve to say the least. However, the use of the general term extremism is not helpful in the practical task of educating vulnerable people against joining dangerous groups.
Education is essential in this role and allows all citizens make informed decisions about the direction of their lives and which political ideology they most agree with. It becomes concerning once certain groups are monitored in such a way which is possible with the Prevent strategy.
By criminalising these extreme groups, it does not prevent people join groups like those in Syria, but rather does not allow these topics to be discussed openly and allow them to be dismissed. Instead, this strategy creates more trouble as it brands anyone with extreme views as a threat and those genuinely being manipulated by groups such as IS, get drowned out in the noise.