The Prevent strategy was a part of the government’s CONTEST 2 counter-terrorism strategy.  Over the years it has been underhandedly and extra-legally implemented by various public bodies in conjunction with local police force with the specific target being the Muslims of Britain.  The 2011 revision of Prevent narrowed the focus to ideology and broadened the application to include the far-right. Prevent received statutory footing via the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, Section 29 (which issues Prevent duty guidance). Section 26 of the Act places a duty on public bodies (“specified authorities” listed in Schedule 6 to the Act), in the exercise of their functions, to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. Schedule 6 identifies the following bodies required to implement this duty:

  • Local government
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education, child care etc.
  • Health and Social care
  • Police


Joint statement by academics and public figures on the government’s implementation of PREVENT through Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015

We, the undersigned, take issue with the government’s PREVENT strategy and its statutory implementation through the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 for the following reasons:

  1. The latest addition to the United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism framework comes in the form of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015(CTS Act). The CTS Act has placed PREVENT on a statutory footing for public bodies to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism by tackling what is claimed to be ‘extremist ideology’. In practice, this will mean that individuals working within statutory organisations must report individuals suspected of being ‘potential terrorists’ to external bodies for ‘de-radicalisation’.
  1. The way that PREVENT conceptualises ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’is based on the unsubstantiated view that religious ideology is the primary driving factor for terrorism. Academic research suggests that social, economic and political factors, as well as social exclusion, play a more central role in driving political violence than ideology. Indeed, ideology only becomes appealing when social, economic and political grievances give it legitimacy. Therefore, addressing these issues would lessen the appeal of ideology.
  1. However, PREVENT remains fixated on ideology as the primary driver of terrorism. Inevitably, this has meant a focus on religious interaction and Islamic symbolism to assess radicalisation. For example, growing a beard, wearing a hijab or mixing with those who believe Islam has a comprehensive political philosophy are key markers used to identify ‘potential’ terrorism. This serves to reinforce a prejudicial world view that perceives Islam to be a retrograde and oppressive religion that threatens the West. PREVENT reinforces an ‘us’ and ‘them’ view of the world, divides communities, and sows mistrust of Muslims.
  1. While much of the PREVENT policy is aimed at those suspected of ‘Islamist extremism’ and far-right activity, there is genuine concern that other groups will also be affected by such policies, such as anti-austerity and environmental campaigners – largely those engaged in political dissent.
  1. Without due reconsideration of PREVENT’s poor reputation, the police and government have attempted to give the programme a veneer of legitimacy by expressing it in the language of ‘safeguarding’. Not only does this depoliticise the issue of radicalisation, it shifts attention away from grievances that drive individuals towards an ideology that legitimises political violence.
  1. PREVENT will have a chilling effect on open debate, free speech and political dissent. It will create an environment in which political change can no longer be discussed openly, and will withdraw to unsupervised spaces. Therefore, PREVENT will make us less safe.
  1. We believe that PREVENT has failed not only as a strategy but also the very communities it seeks to protect. Instead of blindly attempting to strengthen this project, we call on the government to end its ineffective PREVENT policy and rather adopt an approach that is based on dialogue and openness.


Signing with institution name is for identification purposes and not for institutional endorsement.

1. Prof. Baroness Ruth Lister, Loughborough University and House of Lords
2. Karen Armstrong OBE, Author and Historian of Religion
3. Prof. Paddy Hillyard, Queen’s University, Belfast
4. Prof. Tariq Ramadan, University of Oxford
5. Prof. Humayun Ansari, Royal Holloway University
6. Prof. David Miller, University of Bath
7. Prof. John L Esposito, Georgetown University
8. Prof. Laleh Khalili, School of Oriental and African Studies
9. Prof. Arun Kundnani, New York University
10. Prof. Augustine John, University College London Institute of Education
11. Prof. Gargi Bhattacharyya, University of East London
12. Prof. Tariq Modood, University of Bristol
13. Prof. Robert Gleave, University of Exeter
14. Prof. Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College
15. Prof. John Holmwood, University of Nottingham

See the full list of signatories


Joint statement Anti-radicalisation strategy lacks evidence base in science

We are concerned with the implementation of “radicalisation” policies within the UK Prevent strategy, internationally referred to as countering violence extremism. Tools that purport to have a psychology evidence base are being developed and placed under statutory duty while their “science” has not been subjected to proper scientific scrutiny or public critique.

Of particular concern is the Extremism Risk Guidance 22+ (ERG22+) framework that is being used as the basis for assessing risk of “radicalisation” and referral to the Channel programme. More than 500,000 public servants have been placed under a duty to implement the tool and several dozen children have been directly affected, through the courts, based on assessments using the tool. The impact is significant and cannot be emphasised enough.

We endorse the recent statement by the Royal College of Psychiatrists calling for publication of the ERG22+ study. We call on the Home Office to do so and further to invite debate by experts.

All those engaged in academic study should continue to serve the interests of society by remaining faithful to the ethical standards and science of their traditions. Where we play a role cooperatively with government policy, we should hold ourselves to the highest possible standards to ensure that we maintain the independence and transparency of our professions.


Signing with institution name is for identification purposes and not for institutional endorsement.

  1. Karen Armstrong
  2. Professor Marc Sageman
  3. Professor Noam Chomsky Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  4. Professor Humayun Ansari Royal Holloway, University of London
  5. Professor David Miller University of Bath
  6. Professor Arun Kundnani New York University
  7. Professor Tariq Ramadan University of Oxford
  8. Professor Tim Jacoby University of Manchester
  9. Professor John L Esposito Georgetown University
  10. Professor Catarina Kinnvall Lund University
  11. Professor the Baroness Ruth Lister of Burtersett
  12. Professor Andrew Samuels University of Essex
  13. Professor David Whyte University of Liverpool
  14. Professor Richard Jackson University of Otago
  15. Professor Laleh Khalili School of Oriental and African Studies
  16. Professor Adam Gearey Birkbeck College, University of London

See full list of signatories