The Government says it will accept all 34 recommendations made in the long-awaited assessment of the Prevent programme, which aims to stop people turning to terrorism.

Led by former Charity Commission chairman William Shawcross after being ordered by former home secretary Priti Patel in 2019, the review found Prevent “is not doing enough to counter non-violent Islamist extremism” and “has a double standard when dealing with the extreme right-wing and Islamism”.

However, concerns that more Muslims would be targeted was downplayed by the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman today (Wednesday February 8) who said, she 'didn't agree with the characterisation it was unfairly stigmatising Muslims'. 

Among the findings in the review, the report said: “Challenging extremist ideology should not be limited to proscribed organisations but should also cover domestic extremists operating below the terrorism threshold who can create an environment conducive to terrorism.”

It added: “Prevent takes an expansive approach to the extreme right-wing, capturing a variety of influences that, at times, has been so broad it has included mildly controversial or provocative forms of mainstream, right-wing leaning commentary that have no meaningful connection to terrorism or radicalisation.

“However, with Islamism, Prevent tends to take a much narrower approach centred around proscribed organisations, ignoring the contribution of non-violent Islamist narratives and networks to terrorism.

“Prevent must ensure a consistent and evidence-based approach to setting its threshold and criteria, and ensure it does not overlook key non-violent radicalising influences.”

The Home Office said it would “overhaul” Prevent in the fight against radicalisation and that the Home Secretary had “committed to delivering wholesale and rapid change” across the programme.

The Government has accepted all the recommendations made in the 188-page report.

Suella Braverman told the Commons: “Prevent needs major reform. Prevent needs to better understand the threats we face and the ideology underpinning them.

“Eighty percent of counterterrorism police network’s live investigations are Islamist. MI5 are clear that Islamist terrorism remains our predominant threat, accounting for 75% of their caseload.

“Yet only 16% of Prevent referrals in 2021/22 were Islamist. Prevent has shown cultural timidity and an institutional hesitancy to tackle Islamism for fear of the charge of Islamophobia. These are false charges that spread fear and misinformation within communities.”

Ms Braverman also suggested that Prevent had 'defined the extreme right wing too broadly'.

She added: “The threat from the extreme right wing must not be minimised. It is serious and it is growing. It must be robustly addressed, but it is not the same either in nature or scale as the threat from Islamism.”

Ms Braverman said she did not agree with a “characterisation that this is unfairly stigmatising Muslims”.

She was responding to SNP frontbencher Kirsten Oswald, who said: “There do remain questions about the focus of what we see.

“For instance, we need to see this report in the context of the Met’s head of counterterrorism pointing out that three in four advanced terror plots disrupted in 2021 actually involved right-wing extremists, and 41% of counterterrorism arrests in 2021 were of extreme right-wing suspects.

“So I wonder if she will agree that whatever steps are taken in response to this report, it would be wrong, and indeed damaging, to stigmatise or marginalise Muslim communities, and that the risks posed by ideologies such as right-wing extremism and antisemitism as well as Islamic extremism must all remain central to any UK counterterror strategy.”

The Home Secretary said: “I don’t agree with the honourable lady’s characterisation that this is unfairly stigmatising Muslims. I’ve been clear that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and law abiding.

“What we are talking about here is a minority of Islamist extremists, and we mustn’t shy away from calling out their unacceptable behaviour.”

Ms Braverman told the Commons: “The caricature… of Prevent as an authoritarian and thinly veiled means of persecuting British Muslims is not only untrue, it is a grotesque insult to all of those who work in the Prevent network, within communities doing such diligent work to stop terrorism, and we all as a community need to be much more muscular in defending them.”

Tory former minister Sir John Hayes said: “Will the Home Secretary… recognise that the Prevent duty, which I introduced as security minister, has led to an unfortunate outcome, and that is that the Islamic threat that she described has been defined and interpreted too narrowly, whereas some of the other threats, less significant, as she said, in terms of scale and character, have nonetheless been defined too widely?

“And the truth of the matter is that Prevent is now out of kilter with both the subjects of interest of the police and intelligence services, and with the active inquiries of those services and has to be brought back into unison.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper described the Prevent programme as “an extremely important” programme, adding: “That is why we support it and want always to see the work on prevention of terrorism and prevention of extremism improved, updated and scrutinised.

“But the review should have been a great opportunity and that opportunity was missed. Instead of being a way to build consensus, it has instead been mishandled.

“The Home Secretary and the Government has not updated their counter-extremism strategy since 2015.”

She added that Ms Braverman’s response to the review and its conclusions “feel very confused”.

Amnesty International UK said the Prevent review had “no legitimacy” and was critical of the findings, claiming it was “riddled with biased thinking” and “plain anti-Muslim prejudice” while accusing its author William Shawcross of having a “history of biased comments on Muslims and Islam”.

The charity’s racial justice director Ilyas Nagdee said: “This review is riddled with biased thinking, errors, and plain anti-Muslim prejudice, frankly, the review has no legitimacy.

“William Shawcross’ history of biased comments on Muslims and Islam should have precluded his involvement in this ill-starred review in the first place.

“There’s mounting evidence that Prevent has specifically targeted Muslim communities and activists fighting for social justice and a host of crucial international issues – including topics like the climate crisis and the oppression of Palestinians.

“There is growing evidence that Prevent is having disastrous consequences for many people; eroding freedom of expression, clamping down on activism, creating a compliant generation and impacting on individual rights enshrined in law.

“A proper independent review of Prevent should have looked at the host of human rights violations that the programme has led to – but these have largely been passed over in silence.”

Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said: “Many British Muslims may well feel less protected as they are told that the Government should ignore the evidence and focus less on the threat from extreme right-wing extremism. This is a threat that thrives on Islamophobia, and a threat that has already seen violent attacks on Muslim communities.” 

She added: “Muslim groups that are potentially named will have little recourse, no right of reply or adequate means of challenging baseless and/or inaccurate accusations, except for in a court of law. 

“Any and all associated individuals, irrespective of the nature of their association to named organisations, will have their lives ruined, facing insurmountable challenges in every facet of their existence.” 

“What we see in the so-called independent review is a re-hashing of divisive talking points determined at stigmatising Muslims and Muslim civil society. The pre-determined outcomes of the review have been leaked to the media and by think tanks for the last few years.  

“Right-wing ideologues have created unfair McCarthyite blacklists of Muslim organisations and individuals who do not sign up to their reductive agenda. On the one hand they draw up an arbitrary set of values that they demand Muslims sign up to but are found wanting when compared by their own attitudes and actions to minorities.” 

CAGE called for the abolishment of the strategy completely.

Anas Mustapha, CAGE’s Head of Public Advocacy said: “CAGE has worked tirelessly to reveal the acute dangers of the Prevent Strategy and how it is used by the government as a tool to securitise Britain's communities, stoke a climate of suspicion and fear, and expand the surveillance state. In light of this, CAGE calls for the abolishment of the Prevent strategy in its entirety.

“The open discussion about resetting Prevent is a vindication of CAGE and others who consistently highlighted the policy’s racist underpinnings, flawed logic and ways it undermined free speech. Fundamentally Prevent has been falsely sold as ‘safeguarding’ and that untruth is now admitted. The government finally and unashamedly admits that the Prevent strategy is solely a policing and surveillance tool.”