OPINION: Shawcross’ Review does not target Islam, but Islamism


by Haras Rafiq

By believing the dishonest characterisation of Shawcross and his review you are in fact aiding the Islamist project.

The long-awaited independent review of Prevent by William Shawcross was finally released on Wednesday the 8th January.

“Prevent” is one of the four “P”’s in the UK Counter Terrorism strategy called the Contest Strategy– alongside: “Pursue”, Prepare” and “Protect.” The Prevent strategy’s primary role is to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism through tackling the causes of radicalisation and respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism, safeguarding and supporting those most at risk of radicalisation through early intervention, identifying them and offering support, and enabling those who have already engaged in terrorism to disengage and rehabilitate

The review criticises the existing way that the strategy is being implemented for straying from its “overarching objective”  of stopping people from supporting terrorism and calls for more to be done to tackle the ideology that inspires and legitimises Islamist terrorist attacks. One would assume that this approach is common sense and the only way to “prevent” people from becoming violent. After all, prevention is better than cure and terrorism cannot be countered without neutralizing the ideas it is built upon.

We should all welcome an improved Prevent Strategy that more effectively stops people from becoming radicalised in the first place. But, inevitably, among those who hold the Islamist world view that Prevent seeks to challenge, this isn’t the case,.

As soon as Shawcross was appointed in January 2021, a slick, well-established strategy to assassinate his character him was deployed by Islamists and their supporters. Overnight, social media was awash with mendacious claims of Islamophobia, old quotes of his emerged and were shared wildly out of context in an unedifying ‘gotcha’ manner. Hundreds of people and groups publicly boycotted his review, before it had even started.

Why did they do this? And what else can we expect from the Islamist playbook now the review is published?

Character assassination is a psychological tool of war used by Islamists extensively to attack the credibility of the intended target. The intention is to harm their opponents and discredit their work, politically, morally, socially, and even economically, through the spreading of rumours, false accusations, and the manipulation of facts.  The Minister of Islamic Affairs in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, agrees with me. In other words, Shawcross should expect more of the same!

Keep an eye out for the (now) tiresome ploy of an opening statement to the press condemning the review signed by hundreds of organisations, many of whom (a quick google search would show) are sympathetic to the Islamist worldview. Furthermore, I and no doubt many others were bombarded with WhatsApp messages the evening before the release claiming that it is being driven by an “anti-Muslim ideology” by an individual that is “hostile to Muslims” and urging recipients to send an angry cut-and-paste rejection of the review to their local MP and “speak out against the Government”.

It is precisely because the review targets the very ideology that Islamists (especially the Muslim Brotherhood) hold dear that means that unless they disavow their world view, they have no option but to go on the offensive. Many of them will refuse to accept the review’s findings without reading it because, for them, Prevent in principle is xenophobic towards Muslims. They have cast themselves as the vanguard, defenders of Muslim rights, and they stand side by side with their comrades – to do anything else would mean that they have to believe an alternative truth and admit that they have been wrong the whole time. Don’t hold your breath and expect of them to do this!

The reality is that the review does not target Muslims or Islam. It targets Islamism and the groups and individuals that have supported extreme Islamist ideologies and narratives. It is not “anti-Muslim” to target Islamists and many Muslims agree. Most Muslims are not Islamists or even supporters of the ideology. Muslims suffer the largest number of casualties globally from Islamist terrorism and in the UK, non-Islamist Muslims are just as much the target of this vile ideology – in some cases even more because they are regarded as traitors to the cause. Furthermore, ordinary Muslims like me reject what we have called in the past the bigotry of low expectations, from non-Muslims, and we expect to be treated as equal citizens.

We have rejected the political goals of Islamism that reject the values that led our immigrant parents to stay in the UK – In other words, by believing the dishonest characterisation of Shawcross and his review you are in fact aiding the Islamist project, and, in doing so you are doing us harm.

About Author: Haras Rafiq is a Counter-Extremism and Counter Terrorism expert since 2004. Until recently, Haras was the Managing Director of ISGAP (Academic Research Centre) and served as CEO and Executive Board Member for seven years at Quilliam International (UK, USA and Canada) – and until 2018 as a member of the Advisory Group on Online Terrorist Propaganda at Europol’s European Counter-terrorism Centre (ECTC).

Haras is also a trustee of the UK Charity Muslims Against Antisemitism and has been a trustee of the UK and French Government Securities Think Tank – The Franco British Council. Haras has testified at various Parliamentary hearings including the All-Party Parliamentary Groups (UK) and at Senate Committee Hearings (USA) as well as the EU Parliament.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Milli Chronicle’s point-of-view.

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