The Home Office’s Prevent is one of the four elements that make up the UK’s post 9/11 counter-terrorism strategy known as Contest. They are Prepare for attacks, Protect the public, Pursue the attackers and Prevent their radicalisation in the first place.
Of these, Prevent is the most controversial as it is regarded as anti-Muslim because it targets people based on their religious faith.
In the wake of the 7/7 attacks in London, the Labour Government stepped up the programme spending tens of millions on hundreds of schemes across the country.
But many of these initiatives were regarded by the Muslims as little more than cover for police spying operations where organisations, all dependent on government funding, competed with each other to gather intelligence on their local communities.
In Birmingham, for example, a CCTV network in a Muslim part of the city was found to have been funded out of the Prevent budget.
Other programmes simply did not have the training or understanding to combat Islamist radicalisation.
Instead of stamping out extremism, the Prevent programme was actually alienating Muslim communities who began to view the strategy with deep suspicion.
There have been some successes as well, particularly in the one-to-one mentoring programmes and the police’s take-down unit which since Prevent was relaunched in 2011 has removed vast amounts of extremist material from the internet.
In the face of Isis and other terrorist groups based in Syria and Iraq, the Government has again decided to push Prevent to the fore. But the alarming rise in the number of terror arrests in the past year and the constant stream of British Muslims heading to Syria has underscored the ineffectiveness of the strategy.
The Government’s reaction to this is to push even harder and this year, ministers relaunched Prevent with a set of new policies once considered so radical that they were discarded by Tony Blair.