Written evidence submitted by Centri |
There has been some good work in the Prevent arena
and an increase in the number of experts and organisations that
are able to access and work with the Government and communities
with a better understanding of how and what causes youngsters
to be radicalised to extremism. There is however a need for more
to be done in the implementation and evaluation of strategies
and projects that are being undertaken and to make them more mainstream.
CENTRI has been formed to bring together world class
experts with the experience and ability to assist in this area
from the different sects and schools of thought within the British
The following is based upon:
study with former radicals;
with the research that has been done in the UK and abroad;
years of counter terrorism interventions work which has been undertaken
with the Police; probation service; community referrals; through
the channel process; and other forms of referral;
of the data that have been gathered over the last 10 years, and
the 120 plus cases that have led to convictions in the UK;
with senior Police figures responsible for Channel; and
studies undertaken by colleagues and researchers looking at psychological
constitution in sociopathy.
Too many people like to describe radicalization towards
violence as a single trajectorya single process and route
to radicalization. People either see this as ideology or theology,
or grievances or they see it as a specific theological trajectory
ie salafist Jihadism (a mixture of what is commonly referred to
as the Saudi Arabian brand of Wahabi-Salafi religious dogma which
is then taken to a political extreme and seeks to enforce this
pre-modern interpretation of Islam by force upon society, and
justifies violence in order to achieve this end). Though tempting
to use as analytical tools, these views do not accurately portray
what is happening "on the ground".
The picture on the ground demonstrates a number of
trajectories which are commonthese four pathways are the
most common routes traversed that lead to violent extremism.
1. A belief in a world view where the west is
at war with Islam. The selective observation of political issues
as grievances, leads to accepting the plausibility of violent
ideologies as normal and appropriate to the world. This then sees
extremist ideology as the only ideology and a reading of religious
texts that are consonant and resonate with the world as it is.
These individuals are often not drawn to the theology of Wahhabi
jihadism, but to the political project and activities as being
a manifestation of fighting the war against Islam that is being
perpetrated by the West. Whether it is the cartoons, the wars
in geo-political East, or one of the myriad other examples cited,
they are all viewed as examples of this. Acts of terror are seen
in the same light; as a response to this warintellectual,
political, and military. The way to engage such people in our
experience is not to immediately challenge the theology, but to
get them to see the world in a more nuanced manner; the media,
parliamentary debate and policy, government decisions, wars etc
are all not "for or against" Muslims. If this is done,
then the framework of thinking within which the world is viewed
is comprehensively changed. This change then necessitates a more
nuanced approach to the religious texts, and it begins to make
more sense that such an approach should exist. Hence, this route
is a mixture of grievances viewed through a specific narrative,
and an ideological view of Islam and terrorism.
2. Theological terrorismthere are individuals
who have a full-blown belief that Islamist ideology is the only
valid political reality that Muslims can accept. They believe
terrorism is a form of Jihad to remove governments and their supporters
ie "The West" from Muslim majority countries or what
they would refer to as "Muslim lands". These are specific,
theologically driven aims, and they believe that they have an
authentic reading of medieval Islamic scripture. This category
of people can only be engaged by people with the relevant theological
expertise to demonstrate that the views held are inauthentic and
are a heterodox reading of scripture. After first dealing with
the specific issue of violence, the underpinning mindset can only
be engaged by demonstrating the pluralism within Islam, and the
diverse nature of Islamic thought; this is a detailed, and specific
3. There are individuals in the UK of Iraqi,
Afghani, and Pakistani origin, who have had grievous experiences.
These experiences, often of violence; traumatic loss of family
members; "collateral damage" involving our troops; or
personal experiences of treatment in the UK, makes these individuals
personally susceptible to violent ideology. These individuals
are often motivated by a sense of moral indignation. Engaging
with such people can be difficult. In our experience it requires:
management of the emotions and allowing them to be expressed and
justified; allowing the moral reaction and building upon it (ie
civilians being hurt does not allow civilians being attacked);
developing a sense of moral rectitude and re-enforcing this by
addressing the theological justifications; and building resilience
on human rights, morality, and theological principles over a period
4. Those with mental health problemswhether
minor or majorare targets and easily vulnerable. This is
why mainstream services identifying such people in partnership
with initiatives is so important. Dealing with the arguments,
isolating the individuals, placing them in safer spaces, dealing
with the causes eg the mental health state, are all part of the
resolution as well as specialized interventions; mainstream services
play a major role.
In my opinion they are not the main source of radical
activities nor are they the most likely place within which to
find extremist ideologues engaging in activism. But this requires
are some institutionswhich a survey would identify quite
easilywhere all groups are allowed to operate without restriction.
A well known example of this is the Regent's Park Mosque which
has always allowed Hizb ut-Tahrir to have regular weekly Arabic
and English language circle. Hizb ut-Tahrir are not a violent
organization but they are ideological disposed to (a) accepting
Jihadist groups and activities as politically and religiously
legitimate, but different from their own brand of Islamist theology
and (b) do accept forms of terrorism that we would consider (i)
obviously wrong from a moral perspective, (ii) illegal and (iii)
contradictory to the policy of counter terrorism that we have
had in place since the inception of CONTEST eg suicide bombing
of civilians in Israel and bombings within the civilian population
for example. They have also given rise to violent extremist groups
in the UK and even in places like India such as the "Milli"
are other institutions which are themselves lead by people who
support certain types of terrorist groups. An anecdotal example
occurred last Ramadan where a Mosque in the North East, supplicated
not merely against Israelis but for God to count their number
(ie all of them) and kill them. This was an institution run by
people close to Hamas ideologically. There are a limited number
of such institutions which in truth are Muslim Brotherhood affiliates
(Hamas is officially a part of the MB, in their constitution).These
places foster not only the ideological and theological extremist
views which are close to violence and extremist ideology but are
actually places where masses are exposed to such radical views
who operate from Mosques and within them but are not a part of
them. This is something that can only be determined by following
known and active groups and individuals with their connections
and intelligence; this has been happening to some extent.
institutions theology is sympathetic to certain brands of terrorism
and extremismthe Taliban and certain factions within Pakistani
Deobandi institutions. I must stress that this is not to say that
all or the majority are like this; but historically there have
been many places which have housed and given support to Pakistani
groups which are religious "vigilantes" (obviously persecuting
people who commit religious "crimes" though not illegal
activities). From an experiential and "research" perspective
this is, of course, not the norm nor the majority of institutions.
Actually, the opposite has been shown, though some of this will
be liable to dispute and scrutiny.
Experts are divided by what they see as Internet
radicalizationin my work I have come across certain cases
which I would share:
individuals who already have "cause" or "motivation"
and then seek to find information;
individuals who see it as a place for anonymously spreading their
ideology and theologyeither through direct one way propaganda,
and those who see those forums where "theological/jurisprudential"
discussions can take place. Justify and further radicalize those
with sympathies, and meet like-minded individuals;
a community to belong toresearchers have stated that this
is a common practice with all sorts of deviant behaviours whether
suicide pacts, cults etc. Reinforcing the beliefs and world view
and further strengthening such beliefs; and
of discreet communication and open propagandastrategic
communication through alternative sites eg as has been discovered
pornographic sites seem to be a route of transferring information
and also we have the Inspire Magazine-al-Qaeda's English language
online publication attempting to both relate psychologically to
a Western audience and give practical tips on how to be a lone
In my opinion the Universities are the single area
where there has been little or no consistent focus whilst at the
same time we have more and more extreme voices and views being
mainstream institutions. We have for example apparently "representative"
institutions endorsing preachers who support terrorism eg Raed
Saleh who recently has been bailed after being arrested for being
in the UK in violation of a notice of exclusion that he was given.
His website supports and praised Bin Laden as a martyr (shaheed)
presumably dying in "Jihad"; heads a group that has
explicitly stated that it does not believe in civilians in Israel
among Jews, and Palestinians taking part in the political process
are traitors and that Jews in generalthousands of them
in the USwere behind 9/11 and knew about it and conspired
against the people, in the official party magazine. This man was
defended irrespective of the factsthis is not about Israel
and Palestine but about terrorism and anti-Semitic hatredthey
decided that he was a good man who should be supported.
terrorist supporters and their activists have been operating on
campus which did not stop out of principle but actually when some
of these matters became more and more public. One institution
did not do anything to stop the al-Qaeda Yemen English preacher
who has recently gained notoriety, Anwar Awlaki from speaking
by live link up and recordings at the University till pressure
from public discrediting made it necessary.
politicized discourses which prevent an objective analysis taking
placethis is barrier to seeing what is happening within
such institutions. I am not suggesting that the majority of University
students are embracing extremist ideological narratives and considering
violence. In fact I would say that only a small percentage get
involved with any type of political activism and even Islamist
activism, and only a small percentage will become radicalized.
The problem is I do not believe that any non-biased non-political
analysis is currently available that is up to date and current
on the issue.
there are little to no resources invested in this areahow
many staff members does BIS have related to this and looking into
has been no objective criterion to differentiate (a) what are
the groups and institutions that we are engaging with actually
take as their political and theological stand points? (b) what
is an acceptable minimal threshold and how do we define it? (c)
based upon (a), (b) and the additional evidence that we have of
effective engagement coupled with a developed perspective on radicalization
towards violence, have we been developing our policies and activism?
The current government does wish to do so and has started the
process of developing the criterion for doing so within the prevent
review, though there is still much more that needs to be developed.
campaigns against the prevalent totalitarian voices need to be
facilitated if platforms paid for by the University and public
bodies, are to allow extreme preachers. This is in order to allow
and facilitate debate and challenge the extreme narratives. Otherwise
effectively, it is tax-payers money going to allow people to preach
the killing of homosexuals, adulterers, and demonizing Jews in
the name of anti-Israeli government labels, effectively totalitarian
fascists given a public platform paid by the public to recruit
and proselytize their views in the mistaken name of freedom of
speech. This is not about rights of public gathering, free speech
and not persecuting people, but rather about using state sponsored
privileges to spread fascist ideals in the name of a religion;
in this case in the name of Islam.
to support not merely criticize Universities need to be put in
placegreater number of people, advice, information sharing,
developing good practice in vetting and challenging extremists
and preventing those advocating violence and terrorism or breaking
laws against hate speech are all required.
There are unique circumstances which for various
reasons have been created. Some as a result of normal prison community
dynamics ie it is a separate society to the rest of society inhabited
by people who have established their own criterion outside of
the wider society. There is a concentration of people likely to
be receptive or "vulnerable". There are dynamics that
have been developed due to general problems such as the gang culture
and radical religion compounding together to create very unique
types of extremists gangs. These gangs provide primarily safety
within prison. But also networks. They reinforce criminal behaviour
mentalities through new found religious justifications. Additionally
we have had the strange scenario where communities being placed
together through religious identity, and these have been including
in the past radical hate preachersinadvertently thereby
giving terrorists and those convicted of offences related to terrorism
people with whom to interact and propagate their views and theology
and political lensto a group of people who are arguably
vulnerable to it. This alongside a complete inabilitycompletely
understandablefor the staff to deal with this very unique
situation. In conversations with Prison staff, fellow colleagues/interventionists,
leading people dealing with post prison probation and community
re-assignment the following are key issues have come to the fore:
tensions are heightenedcultures of racism and prejudice
have been addressed over the last few years within prisons but
there are still tensions which exist within intra-prison "communities"
and those communities and staff;
of awareness of mainstream staff of the theological and ideological
realities they are dealing with;
of grounded evidence based training for staff on actual evidence
based characteristics and behaviours to be aware of when dealing
with such casesyet there are additional burdens that have
been placed on prison staff in terms of "policing" extremists
and terrorists and seeking to look out for their activities and
signs of radicalism as opposed to religious conversionwhich
is a common phenomenonand gang related extremism/embracing
of "religion" and criminality justified in the name
extremist/terrorist preachers and activists from the wider Muslims
populacehow can this be justified? How can it be done?
How can interaction be regulated? What lessons can be learned
from previous experiences eg with the IRA and their direction
and engagement with the outside group?; and
are successful interventions and unsuccessful ones? There are
some or rather a few successful interventions which have taken
place but not enough of an actuarial sample/data to be able to
develop specific understanding though I would outline the following
points from the limited number of cases that have taken place
that I can build on:
without confrontation initially.
but not justify positive and negative emotions and motivations.
seek to develop a positive basis for interaction and change.
the effectively and consequences prior to the theology, as a means
to questioning the theological basis of terrorism.
an alternative theology within their own theological framework
and gradually build alternatives as well as criticize extant extreme
points of view.
clear and measurable analysis criterion which are constantly being
reviewed and monitored for change over a period of time.
through time, positive external foci to build upon.
above is the best description that I can give without elaborating
into massive details of some apparently successful interventions
in a prisons set up. It is not a generic formula that can be replicatedeach
intervention, whether by prisons, probation's, community based,
through the police etc, is different, and the role played by theology
is different which will be elaborated further.
Key components for a successful deradicalization
approachagain this is based upon our experiences in interventions
over the last two years and engagement with individual extremists
from violent and so-called non-violent backgrounds, and also discussions
with other providers and local delivery units that we work with.
The following are key in our view:
assessment of all factors: cognitive, behavioural, hygiene, extended
environment, mental health, social factorspersonal to him,
and additional risk factors such as exposure to people etc.
developed analysis and justification for how judgements are made
and based should be (a) documented, (b) the basis for developing
a plan, (c) monitoring and assessing and evaluating change and
effective engagement and (d) evaluating the initial assessment
and continuously amending it based upon evidence and reassess
developed understanding of the type of trajectory that the individual
has taken and not having a formulaic approach.
key issues related to an individual undertaking violencepre-requisites
that are almost required and manifested in an individual.
isolating individuals from their human needs and working alongside
mainstream services in dealing with the individual.
and addressing key motivations and the associated thought patterns
as well as attitudes and perspectives that reinforce them within
the individual and addressing them.
styles, upon gaining confidence enough for the individual to even
consider what you are saying/questioning, being able to first
dismantle the specific emotional drivers, world view, theological
bases/claims, context in which they live, separate them if necessary
from the source of the radicalization. All of this depends upon
the specific trajectory and as we have defined and explained above
an outline process of engagement above (see abovePathways).
Much of the discussion again in this regard in my
opinion is either based upon external lenses being forced onto
the debate; ideological biasright-wing and Far-Right anti-Islam,
left-wing grievance primacy assumptions for motivators and then
building analysis accordingly. In my opinion the following needs
to be documented thoroughly but can be elaborated upon briefly
in the following manner:
of the various strands of theology in two respects (1) where do
they stand on a theological map and sectarian and intellectual
very clear calibration of views on a clear legal and criterionthis
may sound simplistic but it has not been done in an effective
manner; types of violence, which are all classified as illegal
violence in the UK, overseas, against civilians or against UK
troops in illegal insurgencies.
When looking at individual motivationsthese
can be categorized according to the above pathways outlined: the
theology either fits into an ideological framework, the world
view which presents things from an anti-Islam/anti-Muslim perspective;
there are those that hold on to core theological bases for the
Islamist justifications; those ho have specifically embraced a
salafi-jihadi theological perspective.
Accordingly the level of theological input depends
upon the above. If the emotional, the intellectual parameters
for viewing the world, the Islamist ideological narrativewhich
is partially theological and partly intellectualcan be
effectively addressed, the role of theological reinforcement is
not as essential, though arguably it is a resilience factor. In
the case of actual engagement with certain theologically motivated
salafi-jihadists inspired radicals and radicalization, and also
strongly slamist inspired, there are particular types of calibrated
sources and challenging them.
of theological authenticity and challenging the sources.
that their views are supported by medieval theological,putative
authorities, and demonstrate that these claims are factually untruethis
is different to make a Socratic theological challenge.
are other cases where there is little to no theological engagement
as the case in certain individualsparticularly those who
are people with mental health problems or those with personal
experiences that have radicalized themin one case as an
example it was instilling an emotional and intellectual connection
with human rights as a universal ethical criterion that can never
do believe that there is a precise and specific role in various
cases for theological interventions and is necessary but not in
all cases and to different extentswhich requires a formal
and detailed study.
I would challenge the common usage of the distinction
that is being made between Violent and non-Violent Islamists.
For example the group, the Muslim Brotherhood is often described
as a non-violent extremist organization by people in the area.
This is factually (not analytically) not true at all, Hamas, the
terrorist organization is officially in its constitution, a part
of the Muslim Brotherhood. They undertake actions targeting civiliansthis
is both illegal, violates all sense of morality, fundamentally
in conflict with the objectives as outlined in CONTEST.
These are not minor issues but mean that it is fundamentally
impossible to describe them as non-Violent, we may say that they
do not support terrorism in the UK, they do support terrorism
and illegal extremists violence against UK troops. This is also
the case with groups that have received funding previously who
have referred to scholars who have justified Jihadist violence
in Muslim majority countries, support Jihad against the WestUK,
France and the USwhen they have the ability to do so and
the government of Saudi Arabia or any Muslim majority country-
it is at best a containment arguments and not a deradicalization
process, and the only difference between such groups and Hizb
ut-Tahrir is that the latter are overtly political and not of
Categorically, these cannot be deradicalization activities;
and fail to meet the basic minimal legal and strategic aims or
rational necessities as actual deradicalization efforts. This
is not to say that these groups are not genuine in their personal
belief. They are, but these beliefs themselves are radical, violent
and also very, very close to those who support terrorism in the
UK too. They are also a part of the ideological and theological
ingredients which produce terrorism in the UK.
1. It is understandably and practically necessary
as these groups violate legislation which requires their being
2. It has been applied inconsistentlymany
groups and individuals who have also violated the laws yet have
not been prosecuted.
3. There has been a failure to:
the ban consistently on the same groupsIslam 4 UK and al-Muhajiroun
and now Muslims against Crusadesthe same group despite
the claims of government that it would ban any resurgence of the
group with its various names.
of merely banning groups individuals should be prosecuted when
they violate such laws continuing activities of the banned/proscribed
group whilst not being prosecuted.
itself does not deal with the prevalence of the ideas and propaganda
of such organizations.
does not deal with individuals who are undertaking activities
towards radicalizing individuals.
does not deal with lone wolf terrorism.
All of the above does not invalidate the necessity
of proscribing organizations, but it is in some respects a very
limited means of effective deradicalization of communities and
CENTRICounter Extremism coNsultancy Training
Research & Interventions.
CENTRI delivers evidence-based solutions in counter-extremism.
We specialise in issues related to Islam, faith, cultural diversity,
and integration. Our services are aimed at:
regional, and local government.
and those working in the security sector.
research institutions, and think-tanks.
and educational establishments.
and communications professionals.
and documentary makers.
policy makers and policy implementers.
in faith-related dialogue.
CENTRI works with other individuals and organisations
to facilitate effective project delivery. CENTRI has links to
a network of:
practitioners and interventionists.
The amalgamation of experts allows CENTRI to be in
a unique position to have a real impact within all levels of the
Prevent arena and help to plug holes in certain gaps that are
naturally emerging in the strategy and our experiences and backgrounds
inform our perspectives on issues surrounding terrorism, Islamism,
With academic, theological, and practical de-radicalization
expertise and first-hand experience of Islamist extremism we aim
to enhance current thinking and practice in counter terrorism,
counter extremism, and community cohesion.
Furthermore, there is a vast network of people that
are currently working with CENTRI in cyberspace as researchers,
activists and bloggers as well a number of leading Think Tanks
specialising in this area.
This allows CENTRI to have a wide reach and be able
to target vulnerable individuals and organisations at all levels
within the community.