3 Where does radicalisation take place?|
24. The revised Prevent Strategy lists a number of
sectors and institutions where the Government believes there to
be particular risks of violent radicalisation or where it believes
radicalisation can be identified: education, the internet, faith
institutions and organisations, health services, the criminal
justice system, the charitable sector and overseas. In our terms
of reference, published before the Prevent Review, we identified
universities, religious institutions, the internet and prisons
for particular inquiry and we consider each of them below.
25. In the Prevent Review, the Government drew a
link between university education and terrorist activity, but
our evidence suggests that there may be a much less direct link
than was thought in the past, and a recent Home Office document
suggests that individuals involved in violent extremism are little
different to others around them in terms of their education. The
Prevent Review says this:
More than 30% of people convicted for Al Qa'ida-associated
terrorist offences in the UK between 1999 and 2009 are known to
have attended university or a higher education institution. Another
15% studied or achieved a vocational or further education qualification.
About 10% of the sample were students at the time when they were
charged or the incident for which they were convicted took place.
These statistics roughly correspond to classified data about the
educational backgrounds of those who have engaged recently in
terrorist-related activity in this country: a significant proportion
has attended further or higher education.
We believe there is unambiguous evidence to indicate
that some extremist organisations, notably Hizb-ut-Tahrir, target
specific universities and colleges (notably those with a large
number of Muslim students) with the objective of radicalising
and recruiting students. 
26. The Henry Jackson Society , whose staff carried
out some of the analysis on which this was based, highlighted
several specific cases:
- at least four individuals involved
in acts of terrorism in the UK were senior members of a university
Islamic Society (Kafeel Ahmed, Waseem Mughal, Yassin Nassari and
- Omar Sharif, a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv in
2003, was radicalised during his first year at King's College
London after he attended Hizb-ut-Tahrir meetings on campus;
- Anthony Garcia, convicted for his role in the
2004 'fertiliser' bomb plot, attended religious talks in the late
1990s at the University of East London Islamic Society; and
- Mohammed Naveed Bhatti, convicted for his role
in Dhiren Barot's 2004 'dirty bomb' plot, was studying at Brunel
University and met Barot in the university's prayer room.
27. However, Universities UK expressed concern that:
Simplistic linkages have been made between violent
radicalisation and the fact an individual has attended university
without acknowledgement that the radicalisation process is far
more nuanced and difficult to predict ...
What is not taken into account is that the proportion
of young men now participating in higher education stands at 41%,
a fact that indicates that attending university may actually reduce
the risk of vulnerability to violent radicalisation.
A Home Office Rapid Evidence Assessment of open source
empirical studies published more recently found that individuals
involved in Islamist violence "tend to be educated to a similar
level ... as the broader population in which they live".
28. When asked whether attending university meant
an individual was more at risk of extremism, Professor Geoff Petts,
representing Universities UK replied that universities "acknowledge
the threat, but we do not see evidence to support that".
Nabil Ahmed, of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, added:
There are various myths surrounding the issue of
campus extremism. There is far too much sensationalism and insufficient
evidence or expertise in this wider discussion ... There is a
notion that campuses are hotbeds of extremism, which is unfounded
in the expertise and experience of the sector and the experience
of students. There is a notion that, just because these people
who have gone on to become terrorists went to university, in some
way those two things are connectedthe evidence suggests
not. There was an independent inquiry, for example, into the case
of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who went to UCL, which showed that
he was not actually radicalised at university.
Professor Petts argued that the evidence that extremist
groups were actively targeting universities was "circumstantial"
and Nabil Ahmed said that he had not come across any instances
of campus preaching that would be in breach of British law.
Other students we met through SOAS, including practicing Muslims,
were adamant that they had not encountered anyone on campus who
29. Hannah Stuart of the Henry Jackson Society said
that she understood why the Federation of Students Islamic Societies
felt the need to defend Muslim students against the media focus
on them, but pointed out that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a
former president of his University's Islamic Society, who had
been convicted in the US in October 2011 for a failed bomb attack
on an aircraft. She said:
I think it is not just about the admittedly very
small number of Muslim students who have gone on to commit terrorist
acts but it is about the atmosphere that is created sometimes
on campus by Islamic societies or other organisations who consistently
invite a certain type of speaker that does not reflect the plurality
of Islam in this country.
30. Charles Farr claimed that the Prevent Review
had not stated that terrorists themselves were active recruiters
in universities, but rather that the Government was concerned
about people "who are speaking regularly against core UK
values and whose ideology incidentally is also shared by terrorist
organisations" and the fact that this appeared to be going
witnesses gave examples of such individuals who were allowed to
speak on campus, for example Raed Salah, who is banned from entering
the UK for his anti-semitic views but was admitted to the country
by mistake in June 2011, and Al Qa'ida supporter Anwar Al-Awlaki
who, we were told, addressed a UK university by video link.
31. Professor Neumann undertook a study in 2007 for
the European Commission which came to the conclusion that:
Like prisons or like the internet, universities were
places of vulnerability ... because you get people of a certain
age, often away from home for the first time, often feeling quite
lost and often experiencing a sort of crisis of identify and so
on. That makes it easy for extremist groups to pick them up.
32. Charles Farr told us that violent radicalisation
in mosques or other religious institutions comprises "no
more than 1% or 2%" of the total cases of radicalisation.
Our witnesses tended to agree that there was very little threat
from the mosques. Alyas Karmani, for example, argued that "mosques
are completely disconnected from young at risk Muslims".
The Prevent Strategy states that community resistance has reduced
the open operation of radical preachers and driven many to operate
out of private homes or the internet. Consequently, while the
Strategy cautions ongoing vigilance against potential threats,
its focus on mosques is more as a tool to help in countering extremist
ideology by presenting competing points of view.
33. Many of our witnesses cited the internet as
the main forum for radicalisation.
Sir Norman Bettison, the Association of Chief Police Officers'
lead for Prevent, told us that "the internet does seem to
feature in most, if not all, of the routes of radicalisation".
It was regarded as particularly dangerous as it was now one of
the few unregulated spaces where radicalisation is able to take
place. According to the Home Office, the internet "plays
a role in terms of sustaining and reinforcing terrorist ideological
messages and enabling individuals to find and communicate with
like-minded individuals and groups".
This seemed to be contradicted by more recent Home Office-commissioned
research, which concluded that the internet "does not appear
to play a significant role in Al Qa'ida-influenced radicalisation".
 Even those
witnesses who attributed a significant role to the internet tended
to support that report's conclusion that some element of face-to-face
contact was generally essential to radicalisation taking place,
including with regards to the extreme far right, but by definition
this does not deal with the issue of self radicalisation which
by its very nature takes place in isolation and concerns have
been expressed about the impact of 'Sheikh Google' on individuals
who may be vulnerable, but have not been identified as starting
on a journey of self radicalisation.
34. The Prevent Strategy states that:
We know that some people who have been convicted
and imprisoned for terrorist-related offences have sought to radicalise
and recruit other prisoners. We also know that some people who
have been convicted for non-terrorism-related offences but who
have previously been associated with extremist or terrorist networks
have engaged in radicalising and recruitment activity while in
prison. The extent to which radicalisation which takes place in
prison will endure beyond the confines of the prison environment
is not yet clear.
The Chief Executive of the National Offender Management
Service, Michael Spurr, told us that the Service had "some
evidence of individual prisoners who may have attempted to say
things or have indicated views that could attract people to a
radical cause" but no evidence to suggest it was on the increase.
We were given the following example of an individual who had been
radicalised in prison:
An individual who went into Belmarsh on remand was
three cells away from Abdullah al-Faisal when he was there. Within
three days, Abdullah al-Faisal had convinced him to undertake
a martyrdom mission. He left prisonhe was acquitted of
his offencewent straight to Yemen, desperately looking
for jihad, desperately seeking a training camp. Fortunately, the
handlers there in Yemen channelled him into an appropriate kind
of madrassa ... who taught him the correct understanding and sent
him back to us.
35. It is clear that a time in prison can lead to
a young person being drawn into friendships and networks which
increase the likelihood of them being involved in criminal activity.
Prison has often been described as an instrument for 'making
bad people worse' and short prison sentences, in particular, have
been identified as leading to serious unintended consequences
in terms of life choices and behaviour. There are plenty of examples
of recruitment of vulnerable inmates to gangs and there are specific
examplesfor instance from Los Angelesof recruitment
through gangs being linked in some way to terrorist purposes.
It is difficult to find firm evidence or to quantify the impact,
and from our visit to Belmarsh it does appear that being recruited
to a self-identified Muslim grouping within prison is more about
association and personal safety than about radicalisation, but
the authorities would do well to work closely with Muslim organisations
to understand what is happening within the prison community and
its links with the outside world.Professor Peter Neumann's study
of radicalisation and de-radicalisation in the prisons of 15 countries
- prisons are "places of
vulnerability ... highly unsettling environments in which individuals
are more likely than elsewhere to explore new beliefs and associations";
- "radicalisation is driven by behaviours
and conditions that are typical of the prison environment, especially
religious seeking, defiance and the need for protection";
- "over-crowding and under-staffing amplify
the conditions that lend themselves to radicalisation".
While Michael Spurr disagreed about the effects of
overcrowding, he did agree that there is a potential in prisons
for "people to be manipulated because they are vulnerable"
and that the risk was exacerbated if people's negative perceptions
of society were reinforced while in prison.
36. However, it is difficult to judge the extent
to which radicalisation in prisons a) is genuine and b) endures
beyond release. Staff at Belmarsh believed that extremist views
were widely disseminated but found it hard to know how far they
were adopted. The
Home Office noted that "the formation of temporary and opportunistic
alliances between offenders is a commonly observed behaviour in
prisons, and not necessarily indicative of radicalisation"
and this was repeated to us in conversations with prison staff.
There are frequently-cited examples of prisoners who became terrorists,
such as the shoe-bomber Richard Reid, who spent time in Feltham
Young Offenders Institution, in which it is in fact unclear whether
radicalisation actually took place in custody.
37. In most of the fora we examined, the evidence
as to whether there was a real problem with radicalisation seemed
ambiguous at best. Charles Farr told us that:
Most radicalisation does not take place in fora at
all; it takes place in private premises, simply because the people
who are doing the radicalising are now much more aware of the
activities that we are conducting, which you are investigating,
than was the case two or three years ago when, as they saw it,
it was much more possible to conduct radicalisation in the margins
of religious institutions: mosques, madrassas, and others.
There was one further forum which came to our attention
where radicalisation appeared to be a particular risk, although
we were not able to explore it fully. According to Alyas Karmani,
in cities, gang members are another critically vulnerable group
because of the significant numbers of converts in gangs and the
kind of ideology prevalent within these groups. 
38. As with the scale and drivers of radicalisation,
it proved difficult for us to gain a clear understanding of where
violent radicalisation takes place. In terms of the four sectors
we exploreduniversities, prisons, religious institutions
and the internetwe conclude that religious institutions
are not a major cause for concern but that the internet does play
a role in violent radicalisation, although a level of face-to-face
interaction is also usually required. The role of prisons and
universities was less obvious. Much of the uncertainty relates
to the fact that a number of convicted terrorists have attended
prisons and universities, but there is seldom concrete evidence
to confirm that this is where they were radicalised. The Home
Office told us that violent radicalisation is increasingly taking
place in private homes, particularly as the authorities clamp
down on radicalisation in more public arenas. Given this, we are
concerned that too much focus in the Prevent Strategy is placed
on public institutions such as universities, and that it may be
more accurate, and less inflammatory, to describe them as places
where radicalisation "may best be identified". We consider
that the emphasis on the role of universities by government departments
is now disproportionate.
39. One further issue that came to our attention
was that there may be a particular risk of radicalisation linked
to membership of some criminal gangs, of which there is no mention
in the Prevent Strategy. Given the fact that elsewhere some terrorist
organisations appear to have identified recruitment to gangs within
prison as providing an opportunity for radicalisation, we suggest
that the authorities should be alert to the potential for a future
threat in this area. We recommend that the Government commission
a piece of research to explore these issues in more detail.
49 HM Government, Prevent Strategy, June 2011,
paras 10.61, 10.66 Back
Ev 106 Back
Ev 109, Ev 112 Back
Home Office Occasional Paper 98, Understanding vulnerability
and resilience in individuals to the influence of AQ violent extremism,
November 2011 Back
Q 238 Back
Qq 239, 245 Back
Q 369 Back
Q 334 Back
Ev 119 Back
Q 369 Back
Q 302 Back
Q 171 Back
HM Government, Prevent Strategy, June 2011, paras 10.116-7 Back
See, for example, Q 171 [Mr Karmani]; Q 174 [Mr Hassan Shaikh] Back
Q 232 Back
Ev 91, para 2.19 Back
Home Office Occasional Paper 97, Al Qaida-influenced radicalisation:
A rapid evidence assessment guided by Situational Action Theory,
November 2011 Back
Q 193 [Dr Goodwin] Back
HM Government, Prevent Strategy, June 2011, para 10.155 Back
Qq 266, 269 Back
Q 142 [Mr Karmani] Back
Peter Neumann, Prison and Terrorism: Radicalisation and De-radicalisation
in 15 countries, ICSR, 2010, pp 1-2, 7, 25 Back
Q 277 Back
Annex B Back
Ev 90, para 2.4 Back
Peter Neumann, Prison and Terrorism: Radicalisation and De-radicalisation
in 15 countries, ICSR, 2010, p 27 Back
Q 301 Back
Q 181 [Mr Karmani] Back