Muslims already feel targeted by Prevent, the Shawcross review leak will make things worse

Muslima angry that the attempt to deflect scrutiny from them onto right-wing groups isn’t really working. From MSN News

Muslims were told to reserve our judgement of the Shawcross review into Prevent (a strategy launched in 2007 to stop people becoming terrorists) until its findings were released. But it is already turning out to be exactly what we feared – another direct attack on Muslims.

According to a draft leaked to The Guardian, the review claims the Government has been too focused on right wing extremism and should instead concentrate on Islamist extremism.

Many Muslims have pointed out that William Shawcross, who is leading the review, has a history of racism and islamophobia, which threatens the review’s independence. In 2012, while in charge of the neo-conservative Henry Jackson Society, he said: “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations.” Ten years later I believe he has been proved right. 

Muslim communities know what Prevent can do and continues to do. It inflicts violence on our children in schools, treating them as terror suspects for wearing traditional religious dress, sporting a Free Palestine badge or simply speaking Arabic. It’s the reason that my family and I regularly face difficulties when travelling through airports because one of us is always “randomly” stopped by security.

Prevent is also used as justification by authorities to surveil and censor Muslims until the fear is so ingrained in our lives that we begin to censor ourselves and surveil our own neighbours. Its impact is far reaching and deeply embedded in every part of British society: our schools, hospitals, and workplaces. We move through our days never knowing when we’ll be accused of terrorism or worse, questioned and detained by the police, simply for existing as Muslims.

Instead of a discussion about whether inherently racist Prevent policies should be scrapped altogether; the Shawcross review seems set to legitimise them. And it is likely that more Government officials will double down on the controversial strategy. Already in recent weeks, former Prime Minister, David Cameron, has accused Prevent critics of “enabling” terrorism.

These leaked findings simply emphasise that Prevent exists to target, surveil, and censor Muslim communities specifically under the facade of defence and security.

Shahed Ezaydi is a freelance writer and edits Aurelia magazine, which uplifts the personal stories of marginalised genders.