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Radicalisation in the UK: What are the causes?

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This presentation provides an overview of a few processes behind the radicalisation of a minority of Muslims in Britain. The theoretical frameworks and models have been successfully applied in a number of cases - a few of which are highlighted.

Published in: News & Politics
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Radicalisation in the UK: What are the causes?

  1. 1. What are some of the causes of violent radicalisation among a minority of British Muslims?
  2. 2. Understanding reasons behind an individual’s gravitation towards violent radicalisation and extremism is an issue that continues to be debated today. More often than not, perspectives of this phenomenon insofar as it relates to Muslim communities, are misunderstood from external/outsider perspectives. Continuing marginalisation of experienced, grassroots practitioners will only exacerbate existing challenges society is facing as a whole. Without the participation of these credible voices, it is difficult to see how the threat of violent radicalisation can be tackled effectively.
  3. 3. Radicalised individuals often position themselves among socially conservative communities, like Salafis* Diagram: McCants, W, Brachman, J & Felter, J; ‘Militant Ideology Atlas: Executive Report’ Combating Terrorism Center, U.S. Military Academy, November 2006, p.10 *Refer to Z Fareen Parvez’s article in the Guardian: Religious conservatism doesn’t make a terrorist. But crime and exclusion can: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/06/religious-conservatism-terrorist-crime-exclusion-theresa-may? CMP=share_btn_wa
  4. 4. Case studies: Zacarius Moussaoui (aka 20th 9/11 bomber) & Richard Reid (aka the Shoe Bomber) When examining these individuals’ lives it becomes clear that they gravitated inwards towards the ‘Jihadi’ violent extremist communities due to their dissatisfaction with the perceived passivity of wider and less radical ones. In the case of Moussaoui, as he embraced his faith and continued to face social inequalities, his gravitation across the communities was gradual, until he found the ‘Jihadi’ one which matched his ideological and political world view. Richard Reid entered the ‘Salafi’ community after completing his prison sentence in Feltham; however, his frustration with its apolitical and ‘anti-jihad’ approach led him to seek the violently radical ‘Jihadi’ alternative. Reid’s gravitation towards violent radicalisation during the mid – late 90s was quicker than Moussaoui’s. In 2017, it has long been established that social media has accelerated this process exponentially.
  5. 5. ž  The PREVENT strategy set out as a community-focused initiative, seeking credible partners to tackle violent radicalisation at grassroots. ž  This has gradually morphed into a community-targeted strategy, resembling the previous top-down coercive approach where minority groups were treated as suspects and intelligence is the only information sought after by authorities. ž  This change has contributed to a pendulum type polarisation in various communities as illustrated below:
  6. 6. Liberal ‘extreme’ • Failure to adequately address Muslim concerns • Lack of knowledge based decisions • Reliance more upon intellect than Islamic edicts and rulings • More concerned with public perception and position with higher authorities etc. • Self appointed and often non representative of Muslim communities Passivism / Inaction Moderate perspective • Addressing Muslim concerns within context of Islamic law (Sharia) and common law • Action relative to what is required • Contact with bona fide, experienced & knowledgeable scholars Active engagement & interaction with wider soeciety Measured / balanced response Fanatical extreme • Imbuing emotional responses from its followers •  Propelling them to react/respond physically • Urgency of reaction / response • Instilling uncontrollable hatred/ resentment towards own society & those who do not subscribe to their view • Misinterpretation / distortion of religious texts to justify extreme beliefs • Terrorism Misplaced Activism / Reaction
  7. 7. Liberal extreme – [Muslims & non-Muslims] Moderates & social conservatives? Political extreme – [Muslims & non-Muslims] Negative / polarising societal contribution/input Salman Rushdie, Maajid Nawaz*, etc. MCB MAB Political theologians: (Prof.Yahya Michot; Tariq Ramadan etc.) Salafists H.T/Al -Muhajirun Al Qaida ISIS Al Shabbab Boko Haram Quilliam Foundation* Positive/constructive societal contribution/input
  8. 8. Salafi communities Vacuum where ‘hard to reach’ disenfranchised Muslim youth gravitate towards Mainstream Muslim communities Wider ‘host’ society, governmental and statutory bodies Falling below the radar Countering Terrorism in the UK: A Convert Community Perspective Anthony (Abdul Haqq) Baker, PhD, Dept. of Politics, University of Exeter: 2009
  9. 9. Disappearing below the radar: Losing community members to extremism The 2017 terrorist attacks further illustrate – with devastating effect - what can happen when no inter-community or wider social arrangements exist to engage with and/or challenge individuals once they have left more traditional communal environments like mosques. Their paths toward extremism remain unchecked as figures 4 (above) and 5 illustrate:
  10. 10. The ‘hard’ end of interventions Mainstream Muslim community initiatives dealing with conventional ‘softer’ interventions Gravitational pull towards violent extremism/Fanatical extreme Liberal extreme/secular Muslim communities at the ‘softest’ end of interventions Positioning of Muslim communities & grassroots initiatives Countering Terrorism in the UK: A Convert Community Perspective Anthony (Abdul Haqq) Baker, PhD, Dept. of Politics, University of Exeter: 2005-9
  11. 11. Recognising stages of development and vulnerability in Muslim youth 1.  The ability to engage with and determine the extent of young Muslims’ understanding of their religion is essential as part of a process to address potential pitfalls or vulnerability. 2.  Very few grassroots community groups are able to recognise stages of development among Muslim youth and provide tailored and measured programmes to cater for them. 3.  For example, during the founding or cognitive phase of development an individual may mistakenly be exposed to politicised teachings in an attempt to address his/her concerns about national/international events affecting Muslims, i.e. Palestine, Syria or Iraq etc. 4.  Politicised teachings of this nature are potentially explosive at this formative stage of development, especially when they fail to provide a correct contextualisation of religious understanding relating to such events. 5.  By adapting existing theoretical frameworks from other disciplines, i.e. management theory, to fit into more conducive social scientific models, the above mentioned stages can be illustrated more clearly.
  12. 12. A new and/or young Muslim’s contextualisa7on and understanding of Islam moves forward and backward Founding Phase [Conversion] Youthful Phase [Formative] Adult Phase [Foundational] Mature Phase [Reflective] Figure 6: The life cycle of a convert’s/young Muslim’s post-religious cognitive process
  13. 13. The above model (figure 6) is basic in its depiction of a convert’s conversion process; however, it is also useful as a framework to immediately identify stages of 2nd/3rd generation Muslims’ development after their cognitive openings in the Muslim communities highlighted earlier in figure 1. The next framework is an adaptation of the ‘Continuum of Understanding Model’ (figure 7) and incorporates figure 6, providing a more comprehensive overview of an individual’s religious development and influence:
  14. 14. Founding Youthful Mature Adult Phases Religious Development Learning (Abstract) Practice (Abstract) Doing (Actualisation) Interaction – (Actualisation) Reflecting (Actualisation) Data Information Knowledge Wisdom Understanding Context Novelty Experience
  15. 15. Definition of development • Data comes about through research, creation, gathering, and discovery. • Information has context. Data is turned into information by organizing it so that we can easily draw conclusions. Data is also turned into information by "presenting" it, such as making it visual or auditory. • Knowledge has the complexity of experience, which come about by seeing it from different perspectives. This is why training and education is difficult - one cannot count on one person's knowledge transferring to another. Knowledge is built from scratch by the learner through experience. Information is static, but knowledge is dynamic as it lives within us.
  16. 16. • Wisdom is the ultimate level of understanding. As with knowledge, wisdom operates within us. We can share our experiences that create the building blocks for wisdom, however, it needs to be communicated with even more understanding of the personal contexts of our audience than with knowledge sharing. • Data and information deal with the past. They are based on the gathering of facts and adding context. Knowledge deals with the present. It becomes a part of us and enables to perform. However, when we gain wisdom, we start dealing with the future as we are now able to vision and design for what will be, rather than for what is or was.
  17. 17. A return to community partnerships facilitating grassroots engagement is among the more effective ways of tackling the continuing threat of violent radicalisation and extremism facing us today. Top-down, coercive approaches, the now toxic PREVENT strategy and marginalisation of credible grassroots entities are counterproductive and contradictory (particularly in view of the Conservative Party’s recent alliance with the DUP). Recognition of the above observations and evidence is the first step towards providing a consolidated response to the recent terrorist attacks in 2017.

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