An in-depth review into the UK government’s Prevent strategy of early intervention as part a wider counter-terrorism policy has declared that Islamist extremism is the "primary threat" to the country’s safety and security and must be tackled head on.
Among areas of growing concern as potential future terror threats, the ‘Independent Review of Prevent’ by Commissioner for Public Appointments William Shawcross warns of the radicalisation of UK Muslims over Kashmir and a false narrative being spread by a tiny number of pro-Khalistan groups operating on British soil. It found that rhetoric emanating from Pakistan is impacting UK Muslim communities by “inflaming anti-India sentiment, particularly around the subject of Kashmir”.
The review by Shawcross reads: “There is an element of crossover between those who seek to impose limits around blasphemy with those who voice incendiary rhetoric on Kashmir.
“I have seen evidence of UK extremist groups, as well as a Pakistani cleric with a UK following, calling for the use of violence in Kashmir. I have also seen evidence demonstrating that flashpoints related to Kashmir leads to a significant surge in interest from UK Islamists.
“There is no reason to believe this issue will disappear as a grievance that Islamists will seek to exploit in years to come. This has potential relevance to Prevent, as there are examples of those convicted of terrorism offences in the UK who had first fought in Kashmir. This includes those who subsequently joined al-Qa’ida.”
With reference to other emerging terror threats, Shawcross references “Pro-Khalistan extremism” as one of the areas for the British government to be mindful of.
He writes: “Prevent should also be mindful of pro-Khalistan extremism emerging from the UK’s Sikh communities. A false narrative is disseminated by the tiny number of pro-Khalistan groups operating in the UK that the government is colluding with its counterpart in India to persecute Sikhs.
“Such groups’ narratives glorify violence carried out by the pro Khalistan movement in India. While the current threat is low, praise for violence overseas and a simultaneous belief in a state-led campaign of repression domestically is a potentially toxic combination for the future.”
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In its overall analysis, the review found that Islamist extremism was “consistently accounting for the majority of terrorist attack plots both carried out and thwarted by the intelligence services”. It found that at present, 80 per cent of the Counter Terrorism Police network’s live investigations are Islamist while 10 per cent are Extreme Right-Wing.
UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman told the House of Commons last week that she intends to “swiftly implement” all of the 34 recommendations from the review into the Prevent strategy.
Braverman told MPs: “The review is unflinching: Prevent needs major reform. It needs to better understand the threats that we face and the ideology underpinning them.
“The truth is that there is nothing anti-Muslim about tackling Islamism, and we must continue to work closely with Muslim communities if we are to do so effectively.”
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The recommendations for an overhaul of the Prevent strategy include countering misinformation, improved training of staff and reviewed funding decisions targeted only at groups that actively counter extremist ideology.