The government set out a new strategy to tackle home-grown Islamist militancy after condemning the previous counter-terrorism programme as an expensive failure.
The revamped version of Prevent will disburse less money to Muslim groups, scrutinise the values such recipients espouse, and focus more closely on potential forums for radicalisation like prisons, universities and the Internet.
Unveiling the plan in parliament, Home Secretary Theresa May said the strategy set up by the then-Labour government in 2007 had been flawed, with funds reaching “the very extremist organisations that Prevent should have been confronting.”
The issue was became a priority after four young British Muslim suicide bombers killed 52 people on London’s transport network in July 2005, Reuters reports.
With the MI5 security service warning last year that threats of British militancy remained high, the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government ordered a review.
Prevent’s funds will be cut from 63 million pounds to 46 million pounds a year.
Money would be withheld from groups that refuse to support democratic values, added May, who previously said that up to 20 organisations could have their funding withdrawn.
Yet more money will be spent on identifying threats from individuals radicalised in jails and universities. Measures to bar “foreign hate preachers” from Britain would be enhanced, May said, as part of a policy targeting both violent and non-violent extremism.
The new programme requires closer scrutiny of Internet use for radicalisation, and of the extent to which unlawful content is filtered out by public bodies such as schools and libraries. British websites hosting such content also face new crackdowns.
Many Muslim groups were critical of the re-launch, saying it would lead to more distrust and division. The Muslim Council of Britain, a large umbrella organisation, said Prevent was still flawed and stigmatised Muslims.
“The strategy is plagued by muddled thinking that risks undermining its positive achievements,” said Maajid Nawaz, the executive director of the Quilliam Foundation think-tank, which studies radical Islamism.
A Reuters special report on Prevent last month found that many Muslims viewed the scheme with suspicion and did not expect the new strategy to address their concerns.
They said it amounted to crude spying and criticised it for relying heavily on police and being open to exploitation by cash-hungry groups with questionable claims to community leadership.