‘Populist Conservatives’ Funnelled Into UK Anti-Terror Programme at Expense of Radical Islamist Referrals, Review Finds

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“Populist conservatives” are being referred to Britain’s anti-terror programme over radical Islamists, the author of a report into the system has claimed.

William Shawcross, the author of a report into the UK’s Prevent anti-terror programme, has warned that “populist conservatives” are often being dealt with by the system rather than supporters of extremist Islam.

Published on Wednesday, the report has criticised Prevent for failing to actually stop radicals from acting violently on their ideals, with over half of the terror attacks that have taken place in Britain since 2016 being committed to people already known to the deradicalisation programme.

The report also attacks Prevent’s claimed predisposition to involving those on the right, with Shawcross writing in a comment piece in The Times late on Wednesday that the organisation has been disproportionate in its enthusiasm to classify conservatives and populists as potential terrorists.

“All the terrorist attacks across Britain committed since my review was commissioned have been Islamist in nature,” he said. “But far more people are now being referred to Prevent because of extreme right-wing concerns, and the largest numbers appear to be referred because of mental health concerns and domestic and social “vulnerabilities”.”

He goes on to say that the organisation has been very keen to focus on individuals on the right, even if they “display no convincing evidence of terrorist ideology”.

“For example, extreme right-wing ideology is often identified within Prevent in a manner that includes populist conservative voices who have nothing to do with violent extremism,” he explained. “Yet when it comes to Islamism only the most violently fascist jihadist groups appear to be identified.”

Although ultimately supportive of the organisation’s existence, Shawcross concludes that the counter-terrorism programme’s failure to properly understand the dynamics of radical Islam was ultimately putting Britons at risk.

Shawcross’ indictment of the Prevent programme has long been expected, with multiple leaks over the last number of months displaying a series of failings within the group.

Perhaps the most notable of these failings is the group’s inability to properly distribute its funding, with it being initially reported in December that Prevent was even funding Islamist organisations actively promoting extremist ideology.

“I discovered that some CSOs have promoted extremist narratives, including statements that appear sympathetic to the Taliban,” Shawcross’ final report reads, confirming the leak.

“In one of the most egregious cases, the leader of a Prevent-funded CSO was found to have publicly made statements in 2021 that were sympathetic to the Taliban, and referred to militant Islamist groups – whose military wings were proscribed in the UK – as ‘so-called ‘terrorists’ of the legitimate resistance groups’,” he went on to write.

Ultimately, the report concludes that Prevent is “out of kilter” with the rest of the UK’s anti-terror operations, with only 22 per cent of referral cases to the project being Islamist in nature, despite the religion representing “80% of the Counter Terrorism Police network’s live investigations”.

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