Government’s Counter Terrorism Review ‘Shows Anti Muslim Bias’
Labour MP warns that William Shawcross's review “downplays risk” of Far-Right extremism
Labour MP Afzal Khan has condemned the government’s Review of the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy as biased against Muslims - and warned it risks under-playing the threat of attacks by the Far Right.
Khan believes the Review, published last week, was flawed from the outset by the appointment of William Shawcross, who once suggested that New Labour’s immigration policy was designed “to dilute Britishness” and defended the use of torture at Guantanamo Bay.
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Speaking to the Byline Times podcast, the Manchester Gorton MP agreed that scrutiny of Prevent – created in 2006 – was long overdue, but he said, “I think the government has blown this opportunity by appointing someone who has got a terrible record of prejudice.
“I think they deliberately brought this person in, knowing very well what his views are, and [were] then expecting the report which he has produced.
“What people wanted to see was a genuinely independent assessment of Prevent. And we failed on that.”
The government has accepted all the recommendations in the Review, including one which calls on the Home Office to investigate whether a lower threshold of evidence is being used to accelerate far right extremists to the more intensive phase of the strategy – known as Channel – when compared to radical Islamists.
Khan said he was “shocked” by the suggestion, and warned that “when you over-focus on one side, then you lose focus on the other area…there’s a risk they’ll get through the net.
“We need to make sure our enforcement agencies hands are not tied, and they're not brought in to just focus on one [group] but look at the danger itself. And then wherever it comes from, you tackle that - not have a position where there's a hierarchy of extremism.”
His comments come in the wake of far-right protests outside a hotel housing asylum seekers at Knowsley on Mersyside.
A migrant processing centre at Dover in Kent was also attacked last year by a neo-Nazi, while white supremacist ideology inspired both the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016, and a foiled plot against another Labour MP Rosie Cooper.
Khan’s comments were supported by Professor John Holmwood, a sociologist at Nottingham University, who said, “if we look at the latest data for 2021, we discover that 14% of all referrals [to Prevent] are judged to warrant going on to the Channel programme.
“Of that number, 46% are from the extreme right and just 22% are from Islamist extremist concerns.
“That indicates that within the Prevent process, counterterrorism police officers - not liberal do-gooders, not social workers - but security officers have judged Far Right extremists to warrant Channel interventions in a much greater proportion than Islamist extremists”.
The Home Office said, “The Home Secretary has publicly condemned the appalling scenes outside the hotel and violence toward police officers on Friday night in Merseyside.
“Separately, she has accepted all 34 recommendations from the Independent Review of Prevent which makes clear that the threat from terrorism is becoming more complex, with the extreme right-wing a significant concern.”
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