On Tuesday, the coalition government published their updated version of the Prevent Strategy, the Labour government’s counter-extremism and de-radicalization strategy. This update was announced by David Cameron in his speech in Munich earlier this year.
As the Guardian reports, the ‘strategy is based on the so-called “conveyor belt” theory of radicalisation. Developed inside neocon thinktanks in the US, it contends that individuals start off disillusioned and angry, gradually become more religious and politicised, and then turn to violence and terror’. However, according to various studies, this is not necessarily the case, and a leaked memo by government officials confirmed that the government is aware of this misperception. Yet, the new Prevent document does not offer much clarification on the links between marginalization, disillusionment, extremism, and radicalization. Furthermore, despite evidence by the former head of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller, who ‘said that the invasion of Iraq had radicalised a new generation of young British Muslim’ (The Guardian), links between Islamist extremism and foreign policy are not discussed in any detail. The Guardian claims that ‘combating extremism and terrorism requires a nuanced, less confrontational approach’ than Prevent. Similarly, the BBC questions the success of this policy.
In the past, Prevent had been criticized for losing its focus on counter-terrorism. Instead, Prevent programmes (and funding available for preventing extremism) were mixed up with more general integration and cohesion programmes. Therefore, the new strategy separates de-radicalisation from community cohesion programmes. Previously, strong criticism was voiced by several Muslim communities who felt they could only receive funding for local projects if they were attached to the idea of Muslims being terrorists. Through this, they felt they were constructed as a “suspect community”. The new policy made some changes to the funding scheme, which does not base the funding on the size of the Muslim population any more, but the willingness to subscribe to “British values”; decisions then have to be made by local councils and liberal-democratic ministers.