The new Independent Reviewer of Prevent faces bad-faith accusations
By now we’re all familiar with the ritual — a public appointment is made and the opposing offence archaeologists get to work. On this occasion, the spark was the appointment of William Shawcross as the successor of Lord Carlile as Independent Reviewer of Prevent.
Shawcross is an excellent appointment; a former chair of the Charity Commission, he oversaw crucial work on the exploitation of the voluntary sector by extremists, as well as having had a long career in journalism, government, NGOs and authoring multiple books on varied subjects.
Not everyone was pleased.
Baroness Warsi, tweeted that the appointment would ‘toxify’ Prevent, and Miqdaad Versi, the media spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, alleged that Shawcross had once said: “…Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations”.
As extremism expert Hannah Stuart quickly highlighted, Versi had mysteriously lopped off a crucial part of this quote. Why?
In a long thread, Versi then laid out the evidence to support his character assassination of Shawcross, including statistics that he claimed to show how Muslim groups were unfairly singled out by the Charity Commission during his premiership. However, misuse of the charitable sector by Islamist extremists was a huge problem at the time and there were legitimate reasons for investigating these charities.
Often those seeking to deal with extremism are discredited with bad-faith accusations of Islamophobia. The same furore erupted in response to the appointment of a young, female, Muslim woman to the role of Commissioner for Countering Extremism, Sara Khan who was described as an ‘Oreo’, a racist slur.
The outrage of these self-appointed gatekeepers is statistically far removed from the views of Muslim communities. Recent polling found most British Muslims haven’t even heard of Prevent, and 80% of those that had the programme explained to them expressed support.
The online hubbub is purely political. As Nusrat Ghani MP rightly pointed out, Prevent is not perfect, but with his outstanding “record of robustly standing against the extremist misuse of the charitable sector”, William Shawcross is exactly the man for the job.