Imagine a small, rat-infested town. Everyone is complaining about the rats and it dawns on the mayor she might gain some political advantage from dealing with the issue. So, she poisons the town’s water. Lo, all the rats die. But there are side effects: the poisoned water is making people sick. Not everyone, mind you – not those who can afford bottled water. Just those who rely on the town’s water supply.
Some strategies can have devastating consequences despite their best intentions. This what is happening with the UK government’s counter-terrorism strategy, and in particular the Prevent duty, which puts an onus on those who work in public institutions such as schools, universities or hospitals to report individuals they suspect may be vulnerable to radicalisation. As the parable of poisoned water suggests, though the UK may package its counter-terrorism strategy for all people, its consequences for British Muslims have been exceedingly disproportionate.