UK has ‘no strategy’ to deal with far-right terrorism, counter-extremism expert tells RT
According to Hanif Qadir, co-founder of the Active Change foundation, which aims to deter young people from being radicalized, says there is a “gap” in the UK’s controversial counter-terrorism strategy, as far-right and religious-based extremism are not treated with equal severity.
His comments come as recent figures from the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) reveal far-right extremism now accounts for nearly one-third of terrorism cases referred to the government’s flagship counter-radicalization program Prevent.
The number of far-right terrorists jailed, however, accounts for a mere 5 percent of all extremists put behind bars in the past year, according to Home Office figures. Some 91 percent of them are Islamist extremists.
According to Qadir, the public has been “programmed” to target Islamists, while they are “reluctant” to report people with far-right ideologies. He believes those who are reported to the counter-radicalization scheme are not treated with the same severity or pursued with the same diligence as Islamists.
Prevent, launched by the Labour government in 2003 as part of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy following 9/11, aims to stop people from becoming radicalized and engaging in terrorist activities.
Once a person is referred to Prevent, they are assessed to see whether they meet the threshold to go onto its de-radicalization mentoring scheme.
The £40 million (US$52.6 million) program, however, has received widespread criticism amid claims it is counter-productive and discriminates against Muslims. Others have said there is no means to gauge the effectiveness of the strategy.
Qadir echoed these claims, pointing out that the program is managed by the Home Office without external oversight.
Prevent has come under greater scrutiny since Britain suffered five terrorist attacks in 2017 alone, including Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge, Finsbury Park and Parsons Green.
While the bulk of the atrocities were claimed by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) affiliates, the Finsbury Park attack is suspected to have been an act of far-right terrorism. The alleged perpetrator Darren Osborne will stand trial in January.
Although all but one perpetrator of the London Bridge, Westminster and Manchester attacks were known to British intelligence agencies, they were not stopped.
“When there are potential terrorists, we are supposed to intervene.
"Why didn’t anyone intervene?” Qadir said.
“People who knew didn’t do an effective assessment.”
While “over-caution” has led to a surge in the number of cases reported, Qadir said “fundamentally flawed” training of those in charge of identifying potential terrorists has led to a drop in the number of suspects being referred on to de-radicalization programs.
“People referring individuals may not have the actual skills or expertise to identify and assess the individuals correctly,” said Qadir. He called on front-line officials to “energize” their efforts to hold the far-right to account just as much as Islamists.
“The ones who are providing the interventions and mentoring – where do they get the training from?” Qadir asked.
“People who should be de-radicalizing are not trained enough.” He pointed out there is currently nothing to qualify someone as a “de-radicalization expert.”
An NPCC spokesman told the Guardian in June that “we are committed to tackling any and all ideologies which pose a threat to the public’s safety and security, and treat the threat from the far-right in exactly the same way as any other toxic ideology used to spread mistrust and fear in our communities.
“However, the overriding threat to the UK remains from Daesh [IS]-inspired groups and individuals,” he said.
“That is borne out in the arrest figures, which show that between June 2016 and May 2017 the extreme right-wing accounted for about 8 percent of those arrested for terrorism-related offences.”
It follows an appeal by the former independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation, David Anderson, to treat the far-right threat with the severity it is due.
“The threat from extreme right-wing terrorism in the UK is currently fragmented, but the massacre perpetrated by Anders Brevik in Norway is a warning against underestimating the threat,” Anderson wrote in the Evening Standard in February.
“Both the Government and the courts treat the threat with the seriousness it deserves. A sophisticated network is not a prerequisite for mass slaughter.”