7:31pm UK, Tuesday June 07, 2011
Mark White, home affairs correspondent
Money from the Government's £63m-a-year anti-radicalisation budget has been given to the very extremist organisations it should have been confronting.
The Prevent strategy was launched four years ago to counter home-grown terrorism, but the Government now admits it failed on many fronts.
Announcing sweeping changes to its tactics and remit, Home Secretary Theresa May said the programme had not lived up to expectations.
In a statement to the House of Commons, she said Prevent had "failed to tackle the extremist ideology that not only undermines the cohesion of our society, but also inspires would-be terrorists to seek to bring death and destruction to our towns and cities".
Signalling a change to the way in which many anti-radicalisation programmes are funded, Mrs May said: "In a world of scarce resources, it is clear that Prevent work must be targeted against those forms of terrorism which pose the greatest risk to our national security.
"Currently, the greatest threat comes from al Qaeda, and those they inspire."
Vowing to correct the mistakes of the past, the Home Secretary said the programme - while trying to reach out to those at risk of radicalisation - had sometimes funded the very extremist organisations that Prevent should have been tackling.
Home Secretary Theresa May
(Prevent has) failed to tackle the extremist ideology that not only undermines the cohesion of our society, but also inspires would-be terrorists to seek to bring death and destruction to our towns and cities.
She added: "The majority of Prevent resources and efforts will therefore be devoted to stopping people from joining or supporting al Qaeda, its affiliates, or like-minded groups."
The review found "no evidence to indicate widespread, systematic or deliberate funding of extremist groups, either by the Home Office or by local authorities or police forces".
But it conceded that "there have been cases where groups whom we would now consider to support an extremist ideology have received funding".
The revised strategy will include better communication of Government security and foreign policies to rebut claims made about them.
It will also see an emphasis and more projects in schools, communities and the criminal justice system to enable "understanding of and challenge to terrorist ideology".
Programmes to support vulnerable people and stop radicalisation - which have been criticised for being disproportionate, intrusive and restricting free speech - are "essential", according to the Government.
A protest in London against the killing of Osama bin Laden
But critics of the new policy believe the Muslim community is being unfairly targeted and the fundamental right to freedom of expression is being curtailed.
Naweed Hussain, who acted as a community peacemaker after the Bradford race riots 10 years ago, warned of the potential for more unrest ahead if the Government tried to control freedom of expression within the Muslim community.
Mr Hussain said: "This policy will simply drive those with more radical views deeper underground and away from those with an alternative argument."
Muslim convert Abu Izzadeen hit the headlines in 2006 after heckling the then home secretary during a community meeting in East London.
He told Sky News that government moves to curb the radical mindset were doomed to failure: "The call of Islam and the call of the Sharia has become so widespread and so well-known among the general public it is something the Government cannot deal with and needs to tackle by censorship.
"So there is definitely a recognition by the Government that the Muslims who profess Islam and call for Islam pose a real challenge to this society."