In 2010, HJS Associate Director Douglas Murray wrote an article summing up our objections to the problematic components of the government’s Prevent strategy – its flagship anti-terror policy, as it was then. Writing in theTelegraph he said:
‘Barking Mosque received more than £5,000 to provide rap “workshops” and lunches. Something called “Bedford: Faith in Queens Park” received £9,000 for its basketball club, another £10,000 for its cricket club and £11,000 for “fusion youth singing”. It received £1,350 for a talk on “prophetic medicine”. The Cherwell “Banbury Fair Trade Society” was paid by Prevent to deliver a “multicultural food festival”. Across the country Prevent money went to boxing, karate, judo and five-a-side football clubs, while the 1st Bristol Muslim Scout Group bafflingly received £3,180 of Prevent money for camping equipment.’
With the advent of the new British government we continued to push for reform of the Prevent policy and achieved a major success when the official review process emerged with the Prevent Strategy 2011, which adopted many of the wide ranging new measures we called for and saw HJS’ landmark report Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections become the most cited work out of any outside source in the documents setting out the new government policy.
Fast forward to 2014 and rather than raising the issue from the outside, Douglas’ original quote was used in full by Conservative Party HQ as part of a briefing sent to MPs in advance of the Home Secretary’s keynote speech on Tuesday setting out Conservative policies on counter-terrorism for the next manifesto – precisely to show how far we’ve come.
Yet, in her speech Home Secretary Theresa May displayed a welcome recognition of the importance of challenging extremism more thoroughly still – the threat to our security at home has never been higher, with government circles displaying near certainty that a so-called “returning jihadist” with a British passport will eventually manage to attack us. We have always made clear that nothing other than zero tolerance of anyone that countenances the ideology that feeds this terrorism can be allowed to stand.
As such, more work remains to be done and we are particularly pleased to see the Home Secretary announce new measures on Tuesday, several of which have been key CRT recommendations we have discussed with her top officials in recent years and will serve to improve the government’s ability to combat extremism in all forms.
The speech promised a commitment to strengthening the restrictions put on terrorism suspects who cannot be deported or prosecuted, known as Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs) – a measure outlined in HJS’ briefing document for the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Tackling Radicalisation and Extremism. The Home Secretary went on to argue for the strengthening of legal and regulatory procedures for vulnerable institutions such as charities, universities, schools and prisons – a measure we have argued for forcefully for years and a pillar on which we have specifically predicated the Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism – two recent examples of our work are Disrupting Extremists: More Effective Use of Existing Legislation (which focused on public institutions) and Challenging Extremists (which focused on universities).
Getting policymakers to recognise the value of our work and implement it has often been challenging, but as the body of high-quality policy-relevant work has grown, it has become easier to get heard – today our government is using the very words Douglas wrote four years ago to emphasise the points we have been making for years. But the scale of the challenge, as Prime Minister Cameron correctly says, is huge – generational and as grave as anything this country has fought in the past.
CRT experts will continue to advise the government and help shape policy through their in-depth and high-quality research, as well as provide thought leadership by making our case in the media. The hard work so far means that today when the Home Secretary gives a speech on challenging extremism, the BBC turns to us for comment. But as you can see from the clip below, Douglas is still making our case that more needs to be done – commenting in particular on one of the main pillars of our work, in that government can and must use already existing legal means to challenge proponents of radical Islam effectively.
So our work will continue – with your support.
Douglas Murray on BBC News discussing the Home Secretary Theresa May’s speech:
EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of BDNew24.com.