Is Prevent a clear anti-terror map?

Theresa May

Theresa May

The government's reworked counter-terrorism strategy has received a cautious welcome from Jewish and anti-extremist groups.

The Prevent strategy review was published this week after months of internal wrangling between government departments over how tough measures against Islamist extremists should be.

Home Secretary Theresa May pledged to tackle the ideology behind terrorism, prevent people being drawn into terrorist activity, and work with organisations and institutions – such as universities – where there is a risk of radicalisation.

But the proposals stopped short of proscribing Hizb ut-Tahrir and other extremist groups, despite repeated pledges made by the Conservatives in opposition to outlaw such groups.

Universities have "a clear and unambiguous role to play" in anti-radicalisation and anti-recruitment ,according to the review. There was "unambiguous evidence" of students being radicalised while at university, and of groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir targeting specific campuses where there are high numbers of Muslim students.

Highlighting 40 campuses at risk from radical extremists, Mrs May rebuked the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (Fosis) and vice-chancellors, saying they had been "complacent".

While praising the National Union of Students' efforts to combat extremism, the report said Fosis had "not always fully challenged terrorist and extremist ideology".

Fosis said the claims were "false and unjustified". President Nabil Ahmed said: "We find it disrespectful for commentators to throw around accusations of extremism so easily – especially when not only vice-chancellors, but Universities Minister David Willets himself, have clearly elucidated how extremism is not widespread on campus, and have questioned whether universities are the 'trigger' for radicalisation."

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, the umbrella group for vice-chancellors, is due to appear at Fosis' annual conference at the end of next week. The Union of Jewish Students said it would now encourage her to pull out of the event and avoid taking to "a platform shared by Islamist extremists".

The report names 25 priority areas where counter-extremism work will be focused. Sixteen are London boroughs – including Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Camden, Haringey and Tower Hamlets. The government will no longer fund organisations holding "extremist views" or which support terror-related activities in any way.

Mark Gardner, Community Security Trust director of communications, said: "Extremist ideology is the underlying problem and CST welcomes government acknowledgement of that fact.

"Both CST and the Board of Deputies have long argued for the need to tackle extremist ideology, to clamp down on support for terrorists, and to ensure that government funding is carefully allocated. The Prevent review seems strongly to concur with our previous submissions to government on these matters, but, as ever, the real test will come in the practical application."

Maajid Nawaz, executive director of Quilliam, the anti-extremist think-tank, said the report seemed "confused in places, as if the authors were fighting it out, with the text serving as their battlefield.

"The most concerning aspect is that the new strategy does not seem to contain a clear map for countering Islamism."

Last updated: 2:19pm, June 10 2011