How Britain has failed to prevent Islamist extremism and to protect Jews

The U.K. government’s Prevent program fails to recognize the all-important continuum between non-violent Islamist narratives and terrorist networks.

A protest in London calling for a boycott of Israel. Credit: Claudia Gabriela Marques Vieira via Wikimedia Commons.
A protest in London calling for a boycott of Israel. Credit: Claudia Gabriela Marques Vieira via Wikimedia Commons.
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir, Guardian Angel, has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, The Legacy, in 2018. To access her work, go to:

While events in Israel continue to attract disproportionate and distorted global attention, Islamic extremism remains a threat inside Western society. It’s accompanied by the parallel failure of the West even to face up honestly to the true nature of this problem, let alone deal with it adequately.

This week, a review was published in Britain of the government’s anti-extremism program, Prevent. This was set up in the wake of the 2007 Islamist terrorist atrocity in London, when more than 50 people were murdered and hundreds more injured in a series of four bomb attacks.

While the Prevent program itself is obviously particular to Britain, the findings of the independent review, commissioned by the Home Office and headed by the writer William Shawcross, should also strike discomfiting chords in America and among Jewish Diaspora communities in the West.

The message it hammers home is that the government has failed to protect the country in general, and the Jewish community in particular, from Islamism, or Islamic extremism and supremacism.

Shawcross found that Islamist ideology had been “misinterpreted, misunderstood or even overlooked” by officials through a combination of ignorance and terror of being damned as “Islamophobic.”

This failure had produced the perverse result that some organizations in receipt of government funding to fight extremism had actually been promoting antisemitism. Even more astonishingly, the founding chairman of the Muslim police officers’ association, who had worked with government departments on counter-terrorism, shared content which called for the destruction of Israel and described Jews as “filth.”

The program’s officials also applied a troubling double standard. While 80% of counter-terrorism dealt with Islamism and a mere 10% with extreme right-wing threats, only 22% of cases referred to in Prevent involved Islamist extremism.

The officials chose to focus instead on what they decided was far-right extremism. However, they defined this so broadly that it included center-right or “mildly controversial” discourse unrelated to terrorism or radicalisation.

At the same time, they narrowed their definition of Islamist extremism so that they failed to recognize the all-important continuum between non-violent Islamist narratives and terrorist networks.

More disturbingly still, the Home Office failed to counter the influence in Britain of the Islamist terrorist movements Hamas and Hezbollah. Although both of these are fully proscribed by the government, companies and charities associated with a support network for Hamas in the U.K.—described by Shawcross as having a “pernicious impact”—had been allowed to operate with impunity.

In addition, a body funding the activities of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, an Islamist group ideologically aligned with the Iranian regime and with a history of “extremist links and terrorist sympathies,” received thousands of pounds from the government’s program of support for local businesses during the pandemic.

In short, these counter-extremism officials were not so much asleep at the wheel as in denial of the situation they were tasked with addressing. This was despite the fact that, as Shawcross notes, there was an alarming prevalence of extreme antisemitism among the people referred to in the Prevent program.

He says he saw examples of “individuals expressing the intent to kill, assault or harm Jewish people or a particular Jewish individual, threats to burn, desecrate or blow up a synagogue…claiming religious or political justification for the murder of Jewish people…and adherence to extreme antisemitic conspiracies.”

Terrorism, he writes, is only one manifestation of Islamist ideology. “The Islamist worldview is by nature supremacist,” he writes. “Islamists have encouraged the hatred of Jews, homosexuals, minority Muslim sects, Muslim liberals and human rights advocates, and the harassment and abuse of Muslim women and girls.”

There’s been similar tunnel vision over Islamism in America. Over the past few years, officials have repeatedly said that, while Islamist terrorist plots have decreased, white supremacy and far-right extremism are now among the greatest domestic security threats facing the U.S.

But just as in Britain, these American officials have failed to grasp that the threat from extremism doesn’t just manifest itself in terror attacks. Enormous harm can be done along the continuum that runs between prejudice at one end and terrorist atrocities at the other.

Antisemitism in America has reached record levels. According to the FBI director Christopher Wray, around 63% of religious hate crimes are directed at Jews who make up a mere 2.4% of the population.

These attacks on Jews are coming from four groups: the far left, the far right, the Muslim community and African-Americans. But while the far-right attracts most attention, Muslims and African-Americans are disproportionately involved in this tsunami of Jew-hatred.

In New York City, where around 7% are Jews, nearly half of all hate-crime victims are Jewish. In cases where the attacker’s race is known, 42% of them are black.

This is largely due to the influence in the black community of the Black Hebrew Israelites and the Nation of Islam’s virulently antisemitic founder, Louis Farrakhan, who remarkably continues to be tolerated and indulged by progressive circles.

Similarly tolerated is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the head of whose San Francisco branch, Zahra Billoo, said last May that the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Federations and Hillel chapters were the “enemies” of her community; that the Israeli military trained American police officers to “kill unarmed black men, women and children;” and that the technology used at the U.S.-Mexico border “is the same technology used at the apartheid wall.”

The extreme reluctance to acknowledge Muslim antisemitism is true also of the Jewish communities in both Britain and America, which focus their alarm instead on the far right.

Those who do call out Muslim antisemitism find themselves attacked by Jewish community leaders as Islamophobes, racists and extremists. Diaspora Jews repeatedly equate Islamophobia with antisemitism as mirror images of the same kind of prejudice.

But this is a false equivalence. While some people are truly prejudiced against Muslims, Islamophobia was invented by the Muslim Brotherhood as a way of silencing legitimate discussion of any fault in the Islamic world.

Few appreciate that the concept of Islamophobia is itself fundamentally anti-Jewish. The Islamists invented it because they wanted to gain for themselves what they believed was the benefit the Jews gained when they claimed antisemitism—protection from criticism. They thus assumed that the Jews are actually guilty of what antisemites accuse them of doing.

It’s tragic that so many Jews mindlessly go along with this equation. So often, this comes from a deep reluctance to identify the Jewish people as unique. They connive at a form of intimidation designed to close down any adverse comment about the Islamic world—and thus they help silence acknowledgement of a major source of anti-Jewish poison.

Shawcross’s report is of exceptional importance. Its robust and unflinching analysis is a devastating condemnation of government failure to protect the safety of the community. As a result, attempts by officials to obstruct, neuter or even dump the report held up its publication for a year.

Left-wing commentators and so-called “human rights” groups, who use anti-Zionism as way of laundering Jew-hatred, have unsurprisingly denounced the report as “deeply prejudiced” and “anti-Muslim.” This is clearly nonsense, since Shawcross clearly distinguishes between Islamist extremists and Islam, expresses concern for Muslims targeted by Islamists and observes that anti-Muslim hatred is “intolerable.”

The Jewish community owes him a debt in so clearly identifying Jew-hatred as a principal driver of Islamist extremism. Strikingly, however, media reporting of this review made virtually no mention of this finding at all.

That’s because Muslim Jew-hatred doesn’t fit the Western liberal narrative. Muslims are seen as a victimized minority; Jews are seen as having power, both in the Diaspora and in Israel, and so cannot be victims.

That’s how antisemitism and tunnel vision over Islamism are joined at the hip.

Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir Guardian Angel has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, The Legacy. Go to to access her work.

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