Government's Prevent strategy has had a 'chilling effect' on communities, says Director of Rights Watch UK

Ben Wallace

Security minister Ben Wallace. Image: UK Parliament

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Director of Rights Watch UK has criticised the government's counter-terrorism strategy, claiming it has had a "chilling" effect on communities.

Yasmin Ahmed appeared on the Matthew Wright show to discuss security minister Ben Wallace's announcement that the Prevent strategy is to be independently reviewed, after mounting pressure from civil liberties and human rights organisations.

Ms Ahmed claimed one of the biggest problems with Prevent was that it had an "extremely broad" definition of extremism.

 

 

"You end up getting people referred for being politicially active, for reading political texts," she said.

"Students who took out text books on terrorism from universities or schools have been flagged up to this programme. Children and students who had been talking about Palestine and other political issues which involved Muslims and the Muslim world had also been referred to Prevent."

The Prevent strategy requires schools, prisons, local authorities and NHS trusts to report any concerns they have about individuals who may be turning to extremism.

 

'Chilling effect'

"The policy is incredibly counter-productive, because if we're genuinely going to identify people who are at risk of not just being extreme, but are being drawn into terrorism, we need to be working with the communities - not ostracising and making communities feel vulnerable," Ms Ahmed added.

"Unfortunately this strategy is just doing that. When you talk to communities what they're saying to their children is not to go and speak in the classroom about political issues, because they might be reported to Prevent.

"It has a real chilling effect amongst the community."