Parity between the sexes remains one of the most vital challenges of our society and one which has the power to resolve so many inequalities and social harms. Tackling extremism is yet one more area where this holds true, as it becomes increasingly clear that the push for – and protection of – gender equality is arguably the most significant counter-narrative to extremist ideology.
In my view, this focus on Britishness facilitates lazy interpretations of values. Some lists suggest that children should be encouraged to listen to British music like Freddy Mercury or they should eat roast dinners at school! By all means, schools are welcome to display union flags and celebrate the Queen’s birthday but this merely pays lip service to what British values are trying to achieve.
It would be ridiculous for those of us who work in Prevent to be complacent, this area of safeguarding is too sensitive and too important. We need open dialogue and debate, but constructive critics are drowned out by the cacophony of detractors who demand to be heard but offer nothing but noise.
The problem of radicalisation is a human one, but the issue of ideology is inextricably linked. Like an airborne virus waiting to strike when our immune system is weak, extremism permeates through society attaching itself to the vulnerable and cruelly imitating what they crave; identity, belonging and purpose.
Identifying risk factors and vulnerability have been fundamental to safeguarding for decades, yet when Prevent adopts this same approach to reduce the risk of radicalisation, its critics label it “Orwellian”.
Ultimately I work in Prevent because it makes a difference. It transforms lives and protects communities. I believe that it is the right thing to do. And when staunch critics are unable or unwilling to put forward credible alternatives, it is clear that at the moment it’s the best we’ve got.