Prevent: anti-terror strategy condemned as 'toxic brand'

Former senior police officer says Muslims see UK's counter-terror programme as form of spying

London police
(Image credit: OHN D MCHUGH/AFP/Getty )

A former senior Muslim police officer has described the government's Prevent strategy, intended to stop people becoming terrorists, as a "toxic brand".

Dal Babu, who retired as a chief superintendent with the Metropolitan Police two years ago, said many Muslims did not trust the programme and saw it as a form of spying.Police counter-terrorism units are mainly white, with a lack of knowledge about issues of race and Islam, he said.One senior officer did not know the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims – a lack of knowledge "amplified considerably" with more junior officers, he added.Babu suggested authorities were caught unaware in cases such as the three London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria to join Islamic State (IS)."Sadly, Prevent has become a toxic brand and most Muslims are suspicious of what Prevent is doing," he told the BBC."This is unfortunate but a reality and the government needs to develop a co-ordinated strategy to safeguard vulnerable children who are being groomed by IS."In light of the militant group's "endless stream" of propaganda and 3,000-plus recruits from Europe, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner questioned on Friday whether the strategy is failing.The scheme, which has an annual budget of £40m, was described as "counter-productive" by Aminul Hoque, a lecturer and author on British Islamic identity at the University of London."If the idea was to understand the roots of extremism, the roots of radicalisation, by putting a magnifying glass across the Muslim communities of Great Britain, what has happened is that has widened the schism between the 'Muslim' us and the British 'other'," he said.

The Home Office says 75,000 pieces of "unlawful terrorist material" have been removed from the internet since 2011, while 200,000 leaflets and posters warning people not to travel to Syria have been distributed with the help of mosques and faith groups. It added that 130,000 people had been trained to help identify and prevent extremism.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.