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UK: Right-wing gov't to prioritise combatting Muslim extremism over white supremacy

The Houses of Parliament in London, UK on 11 May 2022 [Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]
The Houses of Parliament in London, UK on 11 May 2022 [Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]

The UK government is expected to put greater emphasis on cracking down on Muslim extremism over the growing and deadly menace posed by far-right white nationalists, according to leaked draft extracts from the review of the Prevent strategy. The long-awaited review of UK's controversial counter-terrorism strategy will recommend the right-wing Tory government refocus its resource away from white supremacists.

Extracts seen by the Guardian newspaper indicate several provocative recommendations.  The review claims there has been a "double standard" approach to tackling different forms of extremism, with individuals targeted for expressing mainstream right-wing views because the definition of neo-Nazism has expanded too widely, while the focus on so called Islamist extremism has been too narrow.

The draft review says that a renewed focus on what it calls Islamist extremism is needed, including when individuals do not yet meet the terrorism threshold. Critics of the Prevent programme have long criticised this approach insisting that it puts the entire Muslim community under a cloud of suspicion and criminalises traditional Muslim religious beliefs and practices.

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The former police lead for Prevent has slammed the recommendations of the review and warned that the findings were an unwarranted attempt to "politicise counter-terrorism policing" and that it was "quite dangerous to play off one ideology against another."

Last month former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, issued a robust defence of Prevent and urged the right-wing Tory government to "de-legitimise" Muslim voices critical of the Prevent programme. Cameron's intervention made in support of a report by the Policy Exchange think tank was seen as an early indication of a stitch up with regards to Prevent.

David Cameron, former UK Prime Minister, in Cheltenham, England on 5 October 2019 [David Levenson/Getty Images]

David Cameron, former UK Prime Minister, in Cheltenham, England on 5 October 2019 [David Levenson/Getty Images]

Critics argued that the timing of Cameron's article and his exclusive focus on Muslims was an early indication that that Prevent reforms would move towards a more anti-Muslim direction. It's believed that some on the right of politics are not pleased at the fact that Prevent has become more preoccupied with neo-Nazis and white supremacists instead of Muslims. Cameron himself admitted that "In 2020-21, 46 per cent of referrals to Prevent's Channel deradicalization programme related to far-right extremism and only 22 per cent to Islamist extremism."

With the Tories moving further to the right, the overhaul of Prevent was seen as an attempt to tilt the balance to make sure the focus returns to Muslims, even though the threat of terrorism from the far-right is a bigger concern.

It's not clear what impact Saturday's mass shotting in the US by a far-right white supremacist will have on the review's recommendations. The killer, 18-year-old white supremacist Payton S Gendron, is said to have been inspired by the New Zealand Christchurch Mosque shooter, Brenton Tarrant.

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Gendron was entranced by white supremacist ideology known as "Replacement Theory." People radicalised by this racist theory see the Muslim presence in the West as a fifth column and view their political participation as a threat. They peddle the false notion that there is a global Islamist plot to destroy Western civilisation.

Saturday's mass killing is the latest reminder of the growing threat from the far-right. More and more young white children are being radicalised by the pernicious "Great Replacement" ideology. In the UK 19 out of 20 children who were arrested in the previous 12 months for terrorism offences were linked to an extreme right-wing ideology.

Those falling for right-wing hate and then breaking terrorism laws were younger than those falling for Islamist hate, with techniques including online content based on violent video games shaped to indoctrinate them. Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes, head of counterterrorism, is reported saying in the Guardian that 41 per cent of counter-terrorism arrests in 2021 were of extreme right-wing suspects.

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