After the 7⁄7 bombings on the London subway in 2005, the U.K. launched a 63 million pound program to combat terrorism. The program, named “PREVENT”, was recently reviewed. Subsequently, Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, admitted that the program had failed. Here’s why:
The program’s strategy aimed to counter terrorist groups largely by funding so-called “moderate” Muslim organizations in an attempt to work jointly toward its goals. PREVENT also financed overseas operations that were allegedly designed to stem terrorist activity in the U.K.
As it turned out, much of the program’s money went to support non-violent radical organizations that share the same hard-line Islamist ideology as Al-Qaeda and other terrorist entities. Further, the program’s emphasis on international projects merely wasted precious pounds and “diverted valuable resources” away from the prevention of home-grown terrorism, a growing concern in the U.K.
Home Secretary May confessed that the PREVENT program clearly failed to recognize how terrorist groups make use of the extremist ideology promoted by non-violent radical organizations. Therefore, the program was unsuccessful in convincing some parts of the Muslim community that terrorism is unacceptable and wrong. Additionally, the program only targeted a small segment of the audience that is susceptible to terrorist propaganda.
As a result of the review’s findings, there will be a significant shift in the program’s direction. PREVENT’s new strategy will tackle not only terrorism, but its underlying ideology. In so doing, it will focus on non-violent extremist organizations. It will also examine how schools, colleges, and mosques are addressing the problem of Islamic extremism. It will additionally evaluate the role of law enforcement as well as that of other government entities in combating the problem.
To its credit, the U.K. government will withdraw financial support from more than twenty Muslim organizations to which it gave money in the last three years for the purpose of fighting extremism. No additional funds will be delivered to any Muslim organizations without properly vetting them first. Any Muslim organization found to oppose British values such as human rights and equality under the law, will be denied government money.
PREVENT will now monitor the prison system looking for signs of radicalization, and target prisoners newly released from jail on terrorism charges. Additionally, the program will have a renewed focus on the internet, and is considering a “national blocking list” for violent websites. Computers in schools, libraries and colleges will be barred from access to these sites.
The budget for the program’s new strategy will be 36 million pounds. The Home Secretary believes that the successful prevention of radicalism will also depend on integration of the Muslim community rather than segregation. She asserted that espousing fundamental British values and denouncing extremist ideology can also help.
Although the government will continue to arrest suspects as necessary, the emphasis of the program will be on preventing radicalization in its early stages.
The U.K. government has finally realized – perhaps too late – that it is the underlying radical ideology that must be tackled in order to get at the root cause of terrorism. When will the U.S. government learn this same lesson?
Deborah Weiss is an attorney, writer and public speaker. She works for vigilancenow.org and is a regular contributor to FrontPage Magazine and the American Security Council Foundation.