The stigma around the discriminatory, authoritarian and deceptive nature of PREVENT is such that the Muslim community largely rebuffs PREVENT as far as possible. Freedom of Information requests to determine which community organisations are funded by PREVENT are routinely refused on spurious “security” grounds. Rob Burton, head of the Centre for Youth and Community Development (CYCD) in Bury Park, said in the Guardian:
“The difficulty with the current policies and processes is that there’s a lot of mistrust – which, bluntly, is about the government spying on Muslims, wanting people to ‘shop’ their neighbours.”
To avoid the stigma, his organisation refuses financial support that might entail “grassing” on the local community. Interestingly, the report also highlights that the police is following the neocon spin strategy of selling PREVENT as “safeguarding” instead of a counter-radicalisation concept. The hate-funded neoconservative Henry Jackson Society in its proposals to suppress criticism of PREVENT suggested couching PREVENT as safeguarding. Counter-extremism organisation Inspire, which also enjoys financial PREVENT perks indirectly, has argued the same.
However, the secretive nature of PREVENT, and its obvious historic reality speak otherwise.
From its early days, secrecy and deception have been major traits of the implementation of the PREVENT counter-extremism strategy. Documents published by the Intercept exposed GCHQ-penetration of PREVENT activities. It spoke of developing engagement with PREVENT to promote intelligence analysis, and made a reference to “SECRET PREVENT” in the context of defence intelligence. PREVENT training material used to spot signs of radicalisation over the years has been difficult to obtain. Using the assumptions underpinning PREVENT, the government this year named Muslims as “extremist”, without any public elucidation on the procedure or process followed by the McCarythist, neocon Extremist Analysis Unit, making a challenge to such authoritarian proclamations difficult. Official bodies implementing the Stasi-esque policy have been found to deceive people in order to cover their discriminatory Muslim radicalisation-profiling. Public institutions in turn have refused to disclose information around “extremism”, and in particular, “a list of extremist thoughts, ideas, views, behaviours, influences and outlooks” used to determine potential radicalisation.
The pressure to ensure state transparency around PREVENT has recently turned up once more with CAGE requesting disclosure of the government’s “secretive theory” underpinning their conception of radicalisation. In letters submitted to Keith Vaz, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, and Professor Simon Wessely at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, it is revealed that the government uses “Extremism Risk Guidance” factors, also referred to as ERG 22+. According to the letters, ERG 22+ appears to be a theory which underpins the entire counter-extremism strategy of the government. The only officially documented reference to the secretive theory is the Channel’s Vulnerability Assessment Framework. A further reference is identified in a book authored by Professor Andrew Silke. In it, it is explained that it was a group of psychiatrists who recommended ERG 22+. As is often the case with information around the government’s extremism agenda, there has been much resilience in releasing information around ERG 22+. CAGE notes:
“Of most concern, is that when Freedom of Information requests have been made by academics and journalists for this documentation, they have been rejected on the basis of national security. The document is purposefully being withheld from public dissemination and scrutiny.”
This damning state of affairs typifies PREVENT. Families are being negatively affected, children are being subjected to child abuse, and the Muslim minority is being discriminatorily targeted using untested theories like lab rats. It evokes the extreme end of the spectrum of counter-terror responses where shambolic, dark revelations earlier this year revealed that psychologists and medical professionals colluded in Guantanamo torture. It seems like such collusions are occurring lower down the counter-terror spectrum too.