Prevent was conceived as a strategy to reduce the threat of terrorism in the UK by identifying individuals vulnerable to radicalisation and providing intervention to stop them from becoming radicalised.
The policy has been repeatedly rebuked for targeting Muslims, and fostering a culture of hostility and discrimination, by the community group Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND) as well as other leading campaign groups, including Amnesty International.
Cameron sought to defend the policy ahead of an independent review's publication.
The former PM, who stepped down in 2016, argued in The Times that "small but vocal fringe groups" had championed "a concerted campaign to misrepresent and undermine Prevent".
He accused the anti-Prevent campaign of "enabling terrorism" by "delegitimising counterterrorism".
MEND told The New Arab that Cameron’s criticism was a "thinly disguised and blatant attempt to shut down criticism from various Muslim groups and delegitimise them".
The community group said the ex-Prime Minister, together with the right-wing Think Tank Policy Exchange, was trying to paint "legitimate and well-founded" critiques of Prevent as "Islamist" and "extremist". They dismissed this effort as "nonsense".
Policy Exchange’s paper, 'Delegitimising CounterTerrorism: The Activist Campaign to Demonise Prevent', published on Tuesday with a foreword from Cameron, said "Islamist-led campaigns" wanted to eliminate "from official analysis and policy the role of Islamist ideology in terrorism". MEND was named explicitly in the 89-page document.
"Clearly, Policy Exchange are troubled by the fact agencies [such as police services, the NHS, and regional Police and Crime Commissioners] can think and act independently of the Government and make judgements for themselves as to whether we are ‘Islamist extremists'," they said.
Ilyas Nagdee, Amnesty International UK's Racial Justice Director, said: "David Cameron's defence of Prevent is shockingly misplaced and only does more to demonise Muslim organisations. Cameron’s assertion that criticising the flawed counter-terrorism strategy increases terrorism is simply wrong."
An ongoing independent review of Prevent by William Shawcross has been delayed, but is expected to report its findings later this year.
MEND sees the review as a “first step” towards scrapping the policy, which it says places Muslims in "a pre-criminalised space as a suspect community".
However, the group has raised concerns over "signs that this review may not be truly independent nor wide enough in its scope".
The New Arab reached out to the independent review of Prevent, but received no response by the time of publication.