PREVENT’s Contribution to Counterterrorism in Context

The 2018 journal article “Resisting Radicalisation: A Critical Analysis of the UK Prevent Duty” explains how:

“The particular language use of ‘safeguarding’ and safe spaces – terms already familiar to educational institutions – has been criticised as a governmental means to legitimise the Prevent Duty, circumvent resistance and, thus, allowing for a relatively smooth implementation in educational institutions. At the issue’s core lies the question whether the Prevent Duty, by enforcing the element of surveillance in the classroom, undermines the trust between teachers and students.” (p.164)

resisting radicalisation

Later the article adds:

“A report on the practical implications of the Prevent Duty in educational institutions by Busher, Choudhury, Thomas, and Harris (2017) underpins the claim that many teachers and students perceive the Prevent Duty’s impact on educational safe spaces as highly problematic. For their report, Busher et al. (2017) conducted in-depth interviews with 70 education professionals across 14 schools in West Yorkshire and London as well as with 8 local authority level Prevent practitioners working to support schools and colleges. In addition, a national online survey of school and college staff (n=225) and a series of feedback and discussion sessions with Muslim civil society organisations were carried out. Among other key results, the study found “a strong current of concern, particularly among BME respondents, that the Prevent duty is making it more difficult to foster an environment in which students from different backgrounds get on well with one another”. While Busher et al. do acknowledge that their findings may be subject to a range of interpretations, they also conclude that the Prevent Duty could exacerbate feelings of stigmatisation among Muslim students.” (p.178)

“The main issue of the Prevent Duty may just be that it has become counter-productive: “The focus on radicalization has both complicated the task of those engaged in community cohesion and generated fears of stigmatizing communities”. Arguably, the Prevent Duty undermines the educationally envisioned ‘inclusive’ safe spaces, where students feel safe enough to speak freely and discuss controversial topics. The process by which the Prevent Duty inhibits these safe spaces is rooted in its potential to infringe on human rights, predominantly on the right to freedom of expression. Simultaneously, though, the Prevent Duty constructs a different kind of safe space, distinguishable by its ‘exclusive’ nature. The students’ dual role of being both vulnerable and a risk in combination with the perception of Islamist radicalism as the primary threat creates an ‘exclusive’ safe space, where students avoid raising controversial opinions due to potentially far-reaching consequences (not least being referred to Channel).” (p.179)

For further criticisms, see Peter Ramsay, “Is Prevent a Safe Space?”, Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 2017, pp.1-30; and my earlier article “The Islamophobia of Both Tommy Robinson and the Government’s PREVENT Strategy” (October 12, 2018).


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