Photo: Crown Copyright Credit: Georgina Coupe

Two of the UK’s leading experts on the government’s Prevent strategy, Professor John Holmwood and Dr Layla Aitlhadj, have filed a complaint against the Policy Exchange think tank with the Charity Commission, asking for it to be stripped of its status as a body. charitable.

The complaint outlines potential serious regulatory breaches following the release of Policy Exchange’s “Delegitimising Counter-Terrorism” report, the foreword of which was written by former Prime Minister David Cameron.

Holmwood and Aitlhadj raised concerns about the charity’s “record of poor research standards”, “its racist and Islamophobic stance” and “misleading the public about Muslim communities and individuals, promoting defamation and even hatred towards them”.

“Policy Exchange’s attack on the expression of legitimate opinions and ‘its partisan attack on self-organized Muslim civil society groups’ are also part of the grievances against them.

The delegitimization of counterterrorism has targeted several Muslim groups, including 5Pillars, MEND, CAGE, Prevent Watch, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Islamic Human Rights Commission, accusing them of being effectively “enablers of terrorism”.

The report, backed by former Prime Minister David Cameron, said Prevent is at risk of being dropped due to malicious campaigns set up by Islamist groups to denounce the counter-terrorism program as Islamophobic.

Dr Aitlhadj and Prof Holmwood are the authors of ‘The People’s Review of Prevent’, published in February, which assesses the government’s controversial prevention policy. The Policy Exchange report appears to be a response to The People’s Review of Prevent, citing it extensively.

The nine-page complaint letter to the Charities Commission last week outlines the case against Policy Exchange and its report under six headings:

  • be partisan
  • Does not advance education
  • Misuse of donations
  • Racist and Islamophobic claims
  • deceive the public
  • Poor research standards

“As a charity, Policy Exchange must remain non-partisan and detached from government. Yet it would appear that Policy Exchange is neither, acting primarily as a vehicle for political propaganda and anti-Muslim narratives. It does not benefit the public or education, which is its stated charitable purpose,” said Dr Layla Aitlhadj, director of Prevent Watch.

However, instead of offering rigorous counter-evidence to refute The Review’s findings, argue Dr Aitlhadj and Prof Holmwood, the think tank chose to single out Muslim contributors, accusing them of “facilitating terrorism” while by not mentioning any of the prominent non-Muslims who also participated.

The letter asks the Charity Commission to consider the nature and timing of Policy Exchange’s reporting, its relationship with the current government, how potential conflicts of interest are handled and compliance with its statutory charitable purposes.

“It’s bad enough for a charity to promote the idea that certain areas of government policy escape public scrutiny. But targeting and demonizing Muslims by suggesting that their legitimate criticisms of Prevent are not shared by others, and then accusing them of ‘facilitating terrorism’, as David Cameron has done, is a serious attack on our democracy and could also encourage hate crimes. against such individuals,” Professor Holmwood said.

Questions are also asked about Policy Exchange funding. The lack of transparency of his accounts, the complaint says, creates doubts about whether they come from political sources or from people with a known anti-Muslim agenda.

The complaint letter ends by stating that there is “a case of investigation” into Policy Exchange and whether, given its activities and reporting, it should remain a charity.

Strategy Exchange Report

The Policy Exchange report was published a fortnight ago. He said the anti-terror program Prevent risked “dying the death of a thousand cuts” due to its failure to defend it against criticism.

He warned of “many but overlapping campaigning and activist voices” aimed at establishing that the strategy is Islamophobic, and suggested that the government set up a new communications unit to refute misinformation about the strategies of fight against terrorism and extremism.

“The end goal of these Islamist-led campaigns is the abandonment of Prevent and the counter-extremism agenda,” the report said.

In a foreword, David Cameron warned: “So just as we must counter Islamist extremist discourse, we must counter anti-Prevent discourse. We need to show that delegitimizing counterterrorism is, in essence, enabling terrorism. »

The authors called for a Center for the Study of Extremism to give ministers the tools to properly push back against activists, with a separate communications unit to disseminate rebuttal and a due diligence unit.

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