More than 100 leading academics and activists have issued fresh calls for the government to abolish Prevent – its controversial counter-extremism policy.
An open letter published on Friday (17 January) calls for an end to the government’s “failed” Prevent policy as well as the “criminalisation of communities and suppression of civil liberties”.
Among the letter’s 114 signatories are Magid Magid, a member of European Parliament; UK hip hop artist Lowkey; police monitoring network Netpol; and Professor Humayun Ansari OBE and Remy Mohamed, the president of the Association of Muslim Lawyers.
“The government’s insistence on the policy against all facts is not only ideologically-driven but also due to its refusal to engage alternative thinking,” the statement reads.
“Decades of security-heavy policies have not reduced political violence nor addressed the root causes of it. We believe an alternative approach must break from the endless cycle of review, reform and rhetoric.
“We must move beyond the narrow, rigged discussions which begin and end on the terms set by government and the security industry – namely that we need surveillance programmes to combat “extremism” and “radicalisation”.’
Earlier this month the Guardian revealed that environmental movement Extinction Rebellion (XR) had been listed among several examples of extremist ideologies, including far-Right groups, in a Prevent document. The Home Office later said this was a mistake.
The same 12-page document was later criticised for suggesting that “Muslims who believe they are oppressed” could be a sign of extremism.
Environmentalists Greenpeace, animal welfare activists Peta and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade have also been reported to be on the government’s counter-terror list.
Human rights groups have condemned the document for undermining free expression and discrimination.
Friday’s letter follows the publication of a report by campaign group CAGE called “Beyond Prevent”.
It contains an 8-point plan for building a “healthy, safe society” which includes: securing an ethical foreign policy, ending austerity and repealing counter-terrorism laws introduced since 2000.
In 2018, the government agreed to commission an independent review of Prevent which must be completed by August this year.
But is now on hold after the Home Office dropped Lord Carlile, a vocal supporter of Prevent, as the reviewer.
This move came after human rights group Rights Watch UK launched a legal bid arguing his appointment was unlawful because he could not be considered independent.