The official report of ‘Prevent Review’ tabled on February 8, 2023, by senior British official William Shawcross has sparked a controversy in the media and activist circles of London. The report has been appreciated worldwide and criticised by a few socio-political organisations and media platforms. This report has stirred up a hornet’s nest in the Left-liberal intelligentsia. Many counterarguments and counter theories have been put forward, going to the extent of branding the UK Ministry of Home Affairs as Islamophobic and having a biased viewpoint.
It may be a bit late, but as they say – it’s better late than never. This review into the UK government’s terror-prevention scheme named ‘Prevent’ has flagged the dangers of “anti-India” rhetoric radicalising people over the Kashmir and Khalistan issues.
In April 2022, the then British Prime Minister Borris Johnson, during a visit to India, had declared that both India and England have agreed to set up an “anti-extremist task force” to tackle the “Khalistani extremists” who were “threatening India”.
What is Prevent?
Prevent is one of the four pillars that make up ‘CONTEST’, the UK Government’s counter-terrorism strategy. The four pillars are Prevent (to stop people from becoming terrorists and/or supporting terrorism), Pursue (to stop terrorist attacks occurring in the UK), Protect (to strengthen the UK’s protection against terrorist attacks) and Prepare (to mitigate the impact of terrorist attacks). Its main aim is to reduce the risk of UK citizens and those who reside in the UK becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.
In short, ‘Prevent’ is about safeguarding individuals from being drawn into terrorism, ensuring that those who may be vulnerable to extremist and terrorist narratives are given appropriate advice and support at an early stage.
‘Prevent’ is part of UK’s anti-terror strategy and seeks to safeguard individuals from being drawn into terrorism, ensuring that those who may be vulnerable to extremist and terrorist narratives are given appropriate advice and support at an early stage
The review report said that rhetoric from Pakistan is impacting UK Muslims and inflaming “anti-India sentiment”, particularly on the Kashmir issue. It added that a false narrative is being disseminated by a small number of pro-Khalistan groups operating in the UK. The report also made recommendations on tackling Islamist extremism as the “primary threat” to the country.
It was like a last nail in the coffin when UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman told the House of Commons on February 8, 2023, that she intends to “swiftly implement” all of the recommendations from the review into the Prevent strategy, a UK-wide system set up as an early warning system against terrorist threats.
While the UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman has generously lauded the independent review of Prevent, it has met with scathing criticism from various MPs of the Labour Party, human rights groups as well as radically-inclined Islamist and Khalistani support organisations.
Former Home Secretary Priti Patel, on January 26, 2021, had appointed Shawcross to conduct an independent investigation into Prevent. In the report, Shawcross claims, “To carry out that task, over the course of 11 months, my team and I conducted 115 meetings, engaged with over 800 people and analysed over 650 sources of written material.”
The 192-page report mentions, “It is worth restating that Islamist terrorism is currently the largest terrorist threat facing the United Kingdom… Prevent is not doing enough to counter non-violent Islamist extremism… Prevent has a double standard when dealing with the Extreme Right-Wing and Islamism… At present, 80 per cent of the Counter Terrorism Police network’s live investigations are Islamist while 10 per cent are Extreme Right-Wing.”
The report welcomes the government’s decision to proscribe Hamas in its entirety. It also refers to Pakistan’s support to radicals in the UK. Shawcross expresses “concerns over how rhetoric from Pakistan is impacting UK Muslim communities when it comes to inflaming anti-India sentiment, particularly around the subject of Kashmir… I have seen evidence of UK extremist groups, as well as a Pakistani cleric with a UK following, calling for the use of violence in Kashmir. I have also seen evidence demonstrating that flashpoints related to Kashmir leads to a significant surge in interest from UK Islamists.”
The review report said that rhetoric from Pakistan is impacting UK Muslims and inflaming “anti-India sentiment”, particularly on Kashmir. It added that a false narrative is being disseminated by a small number of pro-Khalistan groups operating in the UK
Page 146 of the report mentions that “Prevent should also be mindful of pro-Khalistan extremism emerging from the UK’s Sikh communities. A false narrative is disseminated by the tiny number of pro-Khalistan groups operating in the UK that the government is colluding with its counterpart in India to persecute Sikhs. Such groups’ narratives glorify violence carried out by the pro-Khalistan movement in India. While the current threat is low, praise for violence overseas and a simultaneous belief in a state-led campaign of repression domestically is a potentially toxic combination for the future.”
Amnesty International (UK) has accused the review report of making “bigoted comments on Muslims and Islam” and thus declared that the report prepared by Shawcross is “invalid”.
We must know that Amnesty International is the same organisation whose senior officials were accused of having relations with organisations and movements like Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. In August 2015, The Times reported that the then Amnesty’s director of faith and human rights Yasmin Hussein, who previously headed the office of International advocacy, had “undeclared private links with a secretive network of global Islamists”. The United Arab Emirates government in 2013 accused the Bradford community trust and Wael Musabbeh, husband of Yasmin Hussein, of being part of a financial and ideological network linking the Muslim Brotherhood to its affiliate in the UAE and for framing a conspiracy to dethrone the government.
MP John Mc Donnell said, “I have been concerned for some time that the Prevent programme has on the one hand not been effective in addressing dangerous radicalisation and on the other has alienated sections of our community by its approach. There have been consistent blind spots that can only be addressed by engaging more effectively with the diverse communities in our country.” MP Mc Donnell has also backed the meeting titled “Narendra Modi and the Rise of Hindu Fascism” in 2014, organised by a group of activists at the committee room in the British Parliament.
He also signed a letter written by 36 British MPs to the British Foreign Secretary backing the farmers’ protest, demanding that UK must raise the issue within India.
The Labour Muslim Network of Britain, the official campaign group of the Labour Party whose parliamentary chair is M.P. Afzal Khan, has criticised the review as, “This review is yet another opportunity missed by the government to rebuild trust within our communities… Instead, it is another ideological move led by a government marred in continuous allegations of Islamophobia.”
This same group has formed a narrative of Islamophobia in Britain by publishing reports whose intent needs to be questioned and critically analysed.
Sikh Federation UK advisor Dabinderjit Singh said “For reasons of political correctness there is a totally unnecessary one paragraph reference in the 190+ page review to the Sikh community and pro -Khalistan extremism although the report itself states the ‘current threat is low’… This paragraph is simply there to appease and point out to Indian government.”
The Sikh Federation describes itself as a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) and claims that it works with the major political parties of Britain to promote Sikh causes. However, it is a major pro-Khalistan organisation which supports its secessionist activities against India. This Sikh Federation was formed by the former members of the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF). This worked to establish a separate homeland for Indian Sikhs to be known as Khalistan. This International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) has been banned by different countries such as Australia, European Union, India, Japan, Canada and United States of America under their respective counter-terror legislations.
Hardial Singh Dhamrait, Chair of Indian Subcontinent Affairs Committee, told the IE, “The comments in the Prevent Review about Khalistan campaign are misplaced and appear to be designed to humour India. This has been a pattern repeated over the past few years coinciding with visits and trade discussions.” In an interview to the BBC, Nottingham Imam Dr Musharraf Hussain said the report is “absolutely untrue”. Actually, Imam Dr Musharraf Hussain is himself accused of making statements in 2021 to create sympathy for the Taliban. But has BBC only interviewed the Imam or tried to create a discourse in Britain against Prevent Review report?
PM Modi has continuously appealed to the international community that terrorism cannot be categorized as ‘good’ or bad’ terrorism, and that we need to make strategies to wipe out radicalism and terrorism in totality. It has been a big diplomatic win for India that countries like Britain have now started to understand terrorism in its entirety and without creating any binaries. It’s time now for countries such as Canada and others to start a process of self-assessment – here terror organisations are registered as social and charity organisations. The critics and the eco-system of anti-terror initiatives have now been exposed in open.