UK counter-terrorism strategy has 'double standards' regarding far right and Islamist extremism, review claims

UK counter-terrorism strategy has 'double standards' regarding far right and Islamist extremism, review claims
William Shawcross, the review's authorEdward Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
  • There is a "double standard" in responses to far-right and Islamist terrorism, a leaked review says.
  • William Shawcross said definitions of far-right extremism were too broad, and called for a crackdown of Islamist groups.

The UK's counter-terrorism strategy has been guilty of a "double standard" when it comes to dealing with far-right and Islamist groups, leaked extracts of a major report suggest.

William Shawcross's review of the UK's Prevent programme argues that too much emphasis has been put on rightwing terror because the definition of neo-nazism has expanded too widely, while the focus on Islamist extremism has been too narrow, the Guardian reported.

The review said definitions of far-right extremism include "mildly controversial or provocative forms of mainstream, rightwing-leaning commentary that have no meaningful connection to terrorism or radicalisation".

In contrast, Shawcross said the strategy had ignored "Islamist narratives" by focusing on proscribed organisations.

The leak from the already-controversial Shawcross review came days after a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, where a white supremacist shot 11 black and two white victims in what authorities called a "racially motivated hate crime".


The appointment of Shawcross, a former chair of the Charity Commission, led to a number of campaign groups and NGOs including Amnesty International, boycotting the process over past comments he had made.

In 2012, as a director of the neo-conservative Henry Jackson Society, Shawcross said: "Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations."

Amnesty said these were "patently Islamophobic views".

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson, told Insider: "These leaks reinforce what the Liberal Democrats have said from the start – that this review should have been fully independent from government to ensure that it could be a truly neutral assessment of extremism in the UK.

"Instead the government has dragged its feet, politicised the process and left us with a review that risks toxifying the debate around tackling extremism still further.


"Violent extremism needs to be combatted wherever it arises – by turning this into a bun fight over which extremism is 'worse' we risk undermining that fight. The government needs to act to restore confidence in the process."

A Home Office spokesperson told Insider: "Prevent remains a vital tool for early intervention and safeguarding. We will not allow extremists or terrorists to spread hate or sow division and Prevent remains an important driver to help divert people away from harm.

"The Independent Review of Prevent, led by William Shawcross, will ensure we continue to improve our response and better protect people from being drawn into poisonous and dangerous ideologies. The report is currently being finalised and once formally received and after full consideration, the report and the Government's response to it will be published."