Supplementary memorandum from Institute for Policy Research & Development (PVE 19A)
The UK Government's 'Prevent' programme has directed public funds to a variety of organisations based in Muslim communities across the UK who are involved in excellent work in terms of capacity-building to counter and deter violent extremism. Yet despite these very positive efforts, the UK Government's 'Prevent' strategy is unlikely to remain successful.
The Government's analysis of the factors involved in the radicalization processes that have culminated in a minority of British Muslims becoming involved in activities promoting violent extremism is empirically weak and theoretically inconsistent. The Government has increasingly adopted a broad definition of violent extremism, or of the processes, ideas and values conducive to violent radicalization, that threatens to alienate already marginalised Muslim communities from mainstream society.
The Government's understanding of extremism acknowledges, but inadequately analyses the core social factors behind violent radicalization, seeing these factors as separate and contingent, rather than as mutually interdependent dynamics of a single failed social system that has 1) marginalized the majority of Muslims from British civil society; and 2) facilitated the capacity of Islamist extremists to mobilize on British soil. This has meant that the Government's capacity-building programmes have insufficiently addressed key problems at the root of radicalization processes. Worse, the Government's inability to engage with Muslim communities on terms other than related to counter-terrorism has exacerbated widespread distrust and apathy toward Government, and discouraged communities from supporting the 'Prevent' agenda, which is often viewed instead as a self-serving tool of political control by the very communities that most require Government support.
1. Pathways to Violent Extremism?
The Government's revised counter-terrorism strategy (aka 'Contest 2') advocates that religious and political "views which fall short of violence and are within the law" will be challenged by the Government if they "reject and undermine our shared values and jeopardise community cohesion", because such opinions "can create a climate in which people may be pulled into violent activity." Such views, however, could include religious beliefs held by many British Muslims, related for instance to the Caliphate, Shariah Law, homosexuality, jihad, and so on - conviction in which would identify an individual or group as extremists vulnerable to violent radicalization.
Government's current approach to identifying the pathways to violent extremism
has the effect of 'widening the net' to such an extent that there are few
meaningful criteria for isolating the real characteristics of a violent
extremist at risk of participating in terrorist activity in the
3. This sweeping approach is mirrored by the Government's anti-terror legislation, which over the last decade has consistently not only expanded the powers of police and security agencies, but also broadened the scope and definition of what constitutes terrorist activity. The counterproductive result is apparent from the fact that after nearly 10 years of 'widening the net' further and further, MI5 reports that despite some outstanding intelligence successes the terrorist threat has not diminished at all, has evolved, and remains as elusive as ever. If the Government cannot assure the public that we are now measurably safer, then how can the 'Prevent' programme be described as a success? The incongruence between the continued alarmism of the security service, and the Government's insistence that 'Prevent' is working, does not evoke confidence in Government policy in general.
4. Indeed, the trend of 'widening the net' has meant that huge amounts of public funds are being expended on developing increasingly comprehensive and intrusive surveillance techniques and police powers, which increasingly encompass larger numbers of innocent British citizens with diminishing chances of actually identifying/apprehending real violent extremists who pose a terrorist threat to British security. Huge resources, in effect, are being wasted on apprehending and pursuing greater numbers of normal citizens to discern evidence of violent extremism.
5. This is an approach that focuses on surveillance to deal with symptoms, and is therefore bound to fail by way of largely ignoring the key 'push' and 'pull' factors, and their relation to root structural causes. If the terrorist threat was as potentially broad-based and elusive as the Government's analysis currently frames it, then such actions might be justifiable. However, evidence in the public record disconfirms this. Had there been a link, for example, between adherence to certain 'extreme' religious beliefs undermining shared values and propensity to violent extremism, then we would expect far larger numbers of Muslims who hold such beliefs to become involved, or potentially involved, in terrorist activity, or activity that promotes violence.
6. Yet surveys show that while between 30 and 40 per cent of British Muslims would support the introduction of Shariah Law in some form by British authorities into some areas of public life; the number of British Muslims who believe terrorist attacks against civilians in the UK are justifiable is between 1 and 2 per cent. There is therefore no causal correlation between the adherence to certain beliefs believed to undermine shared values, and actual vulnerability to terrorist recruitment. Thus, the promotion of shared values, while clearly critical for community cohesion, should not be conflated with countering violent extremism. These are overlapping, but quite distinct, areas of work.
7. Social Factors Behind Violent Extremism
Rather than a diverse "range of causes" being responsible for violent radicalization, as the Government argues, violent radicalization is the culmination of a hierarchy of interdependent causes operating as a mutually-reinforcing system, which needs to be addressed holistically, necessitating not just a targeted and focused counterterrorism strategy, but intensified Government efforts to revitalise the social contract with British Muslim citizens on its own terms.
8. Social Exclusion & Institutional Discrimination
Social exclusion and institutional discrimination by themselves do
not explain the phenomenon of violent extremism in the
the majority of Muslims in the
exclusion is linked to institutional discrimination. Another survey sponsored
by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, undertaken by the Islamic Human Rights
social exclusion of the majority of British Muslims is a disturbing phenomenon
preceding the phenomenon of Islamist terrorism, and worsening in its aftermath,
representing the systemic discriminatory violation of the inalienable social,
civil and human rights of one of the
12. Identity Crisis, Civic Exclusion and social polarisation
The combination of social exclusion and institutional discrimination
affecting a majority of Muslim communities in Britain contributes to a general
collective sense of marginalisation, disenfranchisement, and disenchantment; a
sense of being excluded from civil society, which thus exacerbates the
experience of a separate or segregated identity to mainstream Britain. This sense of civic exclusion is reinforced primarily by a perception of blocked
social mobility and discrimination, rather than individual socio-economic
status per se, which erodes
confidence in the British socio-political system, and consequently negatively
affects the sense of belonging to
13. The good news is that despite the prevalence of social exclusion, only a minority of British Muslims are likely to respond by negating their sense of British identity and citizenship, becoming vulnerable to a powerful sense of civic exclusion. A 2009 Gallup poll finds that while only half the general British population identifies strongly as British, 77 per cent of Muslims in the UK identify very strongly as British, with 82 per cent affirming themselves as loyal to Britain. Although employment levels for British Muslims are at only 38 per cent, British Muslims have a higher confidence in the judiciary than the general public, and 67 per cent of them want to live in a neighbourhood that has a mix of ethnic and religious people, compared to 58 per cent of the general British public.
are less heartening regarding non-Muslim perspectives of Muslims in
15. Islamophobia in the Media
These increasingly negative
perceptions of Muslims by the general population play a fundamental role in the
formation of British Muslims' self- and social-identities, serving to reinforce
a sense of exclusion from British society. Yet
these perceptions are largely fueled by reactionary and irresponsible reporting
in the mass media, catalysing processes of social polarisation. A media study
commissioned by the Mayor of London found that in a single week in 2006, 91 per
cent of newspaper articles published nationwide about Muslims were negative "in
tone and content." Muslims in
16. Ironically, then, the media has served to reinforce the sense of blocked social mobility, discrimination and alienation experienced by many British Muslims, while simultaneously stoking widespread paranoia about Islam amongst non-Muslims and promoting the views of Islamist extremists as representative of British Muslims. Together these factors interplay to create an environment that undermines the notion that Muslims belong intrinsically to British society, culture and values as citizens. Indeed, research shows that the media is among other external factors, such as statements by the British government, which affect the formation of British Muslim social identity - currently in an overwhelmingly negative fashion.
17. Exclusion and discrimination are known to be key causative factors in mental health problems, and there is little doubt that these processes have detrimentally affected British Muslim mental health, raising the question of the link between mental illness and young Muslims' vulnerability to identity crisis. Although there are insufficient studies of this, a recent survey by Rethink found that 61 per cent of British Pakistanis believed that negative perceptions of them by the media and society had damaged their mental health, but were reluctant to seek help due to lack of community-based or women-based faith- and culturally-sensitive mental health services.
18. Extremist Ideology & Foreign Policy
By themselves, the social factors described above do not lead to violent radicalization, even while they do undermine community cohesion. However, they all constitute necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for violent radicalization, generating a climate in which British Muslims are vulnerable to identity crisis.
19. It is at this sociological moment that the 'pull' of Islamist extremist organisations becomes significant. These extremist groups, often financed by overseas networks in the Middle East and Central Asia, exploit conditions and perceptions of disenfranchisement fuelled particularly by grievances over British and Western foreign policy, to recruit British Muslims who due to a convergence of personal, psychological and social reasons linked to their peer-networks, family environment and so on, may find a potential resolution of their identity crises in these organisations.
to conventional wisdom, there is only one Islamist extremist organisation that
has been implicated in the fomentation of terrorist plots in
major Islamist terrorist plot in the UK, including 7/7, the fertiliser bomb
plot, the liquid bomb plot, and so on, have been linked to al-Muhajiroun. Both
Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shahzad Tanweer (the lead 7/7 bombers) had been
al-Muhajiroun members, as had others convicted in relation to different plots.
Al-Muhajiroun founder Omar Bakri had advanced warning of the
British authorities deny al-Muhajiroun's involvement in planning, organizing or
carrying out terrorist attacks in the
exploits grievances not only about perceived discrimination in
24. Intelligence Co-optation of Islamist Extremists
Here, the role of British and American intelligence policy in
directly and indirectly facilitating the activities of Islamist extremist
networks becomes significant. According to senior government and intelligence
officials, at the time of al-Muhajiroun's founding in 1996, the network was
mobilized by MI6 to send British Muslims to Kosovo - coinciding with British
and American military assistance to the Kosovan Albanians. This
continued prior actions in the former
to Graham Fuller, former Deputy Director of the CIA's National Council on
Intelligence, the selective sponsorship of al-Qaeda terrorist groups after the
Cold War continued in the Balkans and Central Asia to intensify the rollback of
Russian and Chinese power: "The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of
helping them against our adversaries worked marvellously well in Afghanistan
against the Red Army. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what
remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in
after 9/11, elements of this relationship were not discontinued. Concurrently,
reliable reports indicate that the Bush administration in around 2003 began
encouraging Saudi government financing of al-Qaeda-affiliated extremist Salafi
groups across the Middle East and Central Asia (particularly in Iraq, Lebanon,
and Pakistan) to counter Iranian Shi'ite influence. A Presidential Finding
signed by President Bush in early 2008 confirms that the CIA has backed this
programme with at least $300 million. In
27. Bakri appears to have benefited indirectly from US-Saudi intelligence sponsorship of extremist groups, with potentially deleterious consequences for US and British national security. This disturbing prospect is made all the more worrying given that his extremist network, al-Muhajiroun, continues to operate with impunity in the UK, openly inciting to violence, yet ignored by law-enforcement authorities. Bakri himself still addresses his British followers through video link and internet broadcasts.
28. Violent Radicalization: a Positive-Feedback System
Overall, these factors alone constitute necessary conditions for violent radicalization, but their cumulative interaction creates a mutually-reinforcing positive-feedback system, acting in totality as a sufficient condition and causal basis for a minority of British Muslims to experience violent radicalization:
29. Social structural inequalities and institutional discrimination have generated a groundswell of social alienation, civic exclusion, and political impotence that fuels psychological instability and vulnerability to identity crises in many Muslim communities, including those which are more upwardly mobile.
30. This is reinforced by
Islamophobic media reporting, which in turn has fuelled social polarisation
between Muslim and non-Muslim communities in
31. Foreign policy grievances exacerbate this condition and provide a focal point and critical catalyst for a sense of generic victimization that potentially undermines attachment to British national identity.
32. While the preceding items highlight 'push' factors, the key 'pull' factor comes in the form of Islamist extremist ideology, in the form of organisations which exploit all these circumstances of exclusion, navigating the groundswell of potential discontent to identify vulnerable individuals for recruitment into various forms of ideological indoctrination as a means to resolve their identity crises. The only group in the UK which has been linked directly and indirectly to actual terrorist activity is al-Muhajiroun, and it is this network in particular that should be recognised as providing a radicalizing social network opening material prospects for individuals to participate in terrorist activities that threaten public safety, at home and abroad.
33. The radicalizing activities of such groups in turn serve to feedback into the previous processes of social and civic exclusion, negative perceptions of Muslims, and so on, processes which become further intensified in the aftermath of terrorist attacks or plots by associated individuals.
34. However, the impunity with
which al-Muhajiroun networks continue to operate in
35. The Government's 'Prevent' programme has focused on trying to build the capacity of Muslim communities to counter extremism without properly addressing these social factors and their mutual reinforcement. It is for this reason that even during the 'Prevent' programme, as the statistics cited clearly prove, Britain has continued to face systemically escalating trends of social polarisation, breakdown of community cohesion, and both Islamist and right-wing extremism. Urgent interventions are therefore required to holistically address all these fronts to dampen, and eventually extinguish their positive-feedbacks. Despite the gravity of the task ahead, it is worth noting that the continuing positive attachment the vast majority of British Muslims feel to their country as citizens despite these trends is a testament to the anti-Islamic nature of the terrorist threat, and strong grounds for hope in the near future of a safer country and more cohesive society.
Recommendations for 'Prevent'
36. In view of this analysis, the Government's focus on capacity-building remains pertinent, but requires re-orientation to address the factors identified, including more targeted law-enforcement and intelligence strategies. It should be recognised, however, that while these areas of work are directed at undermining violent extremism, implementing them all under the rubric of the 'Prevent' agenda is highly counter-productive, and communicates to Muslim communities that the only line of engagement between them and their government concerns terrorism (i.e. Muslims as either conducive or a hindrance to terrorism). It is necessary, therefore, to widen the terms of engagement beyond the 'Prevent' remit so that the Government addresses Muslims as British citizens with inalienable social, civil and human rights (not simply as potential terrorists), even if some of the outcomes of doing so would fulfill that remit.
is a two-way social contract between Government and citizens, involving mutual
rights and duties enshrined in the rule of law. The sheer entrenchment of
social exclusion of Muslims in
38. New long-term social policies must be devised to address the severe social inequalities faced by the country's majority of Muslims, particularly in terms of unemployment, housing, and education, in order to open up opportunities for social mobility - an area completely neglected by the Prevent agenda. In the near-term, this can be kick-started by mobilising civil society organisations, particularly Muslim community groups and charitable bodies, to open up voluntary opportunities for young British Muslims especially in deprived regions in a wide variety of professions and skills. This should be accompanied by the introduction of more community-based faith- and culturally-sensitive local services, particularly in the health and social care sectors. Further, new research is needed to understand the link between British Muslim social exclusion, mental illness and identity crisis.
39. This should be pursued in tandem with stronger legislation and procedures to tackle institutional discrimination against Muslims, especially in the form of Islamophobia. Such measures should be extended and enforced in relation to Islamophobic media reporting, which violates journalistic obligations to report with honesty and integrity, and implicitly encourages hate-crimes. This should include establishing transparent and enforceable professional standards to avoid demonization of Muslims as a group, as well as ensuring more equal representation of Muslims as journalists, editors and commissioners in media institutions. Such standards need not be established solely for Muslims, but should be developed to protect the safety of all ethnic, religious and racial groups.
40. Tentative acknowledgement by Government of the centrality of British foreign policy as a recruiting sergeant for extremists is welcome, but should be supplemented by greater inclusion of Muslim community stakeholders in the consultative processes by which foreign policies for Muslim-majority countries is formulated. This should include cultivating formal institutions for sustained consultative dialogue between security agencies and British Muslim civil society organisations concerning the extent to which these policies genuinely conform to the national interest. These should provide space for meaningful grievance platforms providing opportunities for Muslims disaffected with foreign policy to critically engage with policymakers.
41. More focused
counter-ideology measures should be adopted against Islamist extremist
organisations to de-legitimize violent extremist ideology. Rather than being so
broad-based as to potentially demonise common Muslim religious beliefs whose
relation to British shared values is contested, focus should be on actively de-constructing
and de-legitimizing the specific Islamist jihadist theological, ethical, and
socio-political interpretations mobilised by al-Qaeda, and adopted by groups
like al-Muhajiroun. This also requires the cultivation of alternative
progressive interpretations of Islam - particularly regarding the key issues
such as jihad, voting, women, Shariah, and so on - that remain authentic,
traditional and scholarly, while also distinctively dynamic, modern and
British, so as to be truly appealing to grassroots British Muslim communities.
This inclusive, progressive vision for British Islam needs also to provide a
positive outlet for positive political activism commensurate with British civil
society, such as social welfare, ecology & environment, human rights, and
so on. Such a dynamic and vibrant vision of Islam as indigenous to
42. Finally, parliamentary
oversight over the conduct of the British intelligence services is deeply
inadequate. Far greater scrutiny of intelligence policy - particularly the
HM Government, Pursue Prevent Protect
Prepare: The United Kingdom's Strategy for Countering
International Terrorism (
 Mark Hughes, "Police identify 200 children as potential terrorists", Independent (28 March 2009) <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/police-identify-200-children-as-potential-terrorists-1656027.html>
Patrick Hennessy and Melissa
Kite, "Poll reveals 40pc of Muslims want sharia law in
 1990 Trust Survey, Muslim views: foreign policy and its effects (London: The 1990 Trust, October 2006) p. 8 <http://police.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/equality-diversity/faith/muslim-survey?view=Binary>
 HM Government, op. cit., pp. 43, 82-5
 For a nuanced sociological definition of social exclusion and relevant disadvantage discourse, see Matt Barnes, Social Exclusion in Britain: An Empirical Investigation and Comparison with the EU (Hampshire: Ashgate, 2005)
Trades Union Congress, Poverty,
exclusion and British people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin (
 Guy Palmer and Peter Kenway, Poverty rates among ethnic groups in Britain (London: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, April 2007); Lucinder Platt, Poverty and ethnicity in the UK (London: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, April 2007)
Saeid R. Ameli et. al., Social
Discrimination: Across the Muslim Divide (
Humayun Ansari, Muslims in Britain (
Tufayl Choudhury, The Role of Muslim Identity Politics in Radicalization
(a study in progress) (
Muslim West Fact Project, The Gallup Coexist Index 2009: A Global
Study of Interfaith Relations (
 Philip Johnston, "Islam poses a threat to the West, say 53 pc in poll", Telegraph (25 August 2006)
 Muslim West Fact Project, op. cit.
 This process of social identity construction through the perceptions of others is known as 'reflected appraisal.' Although contested as to its function in different circumstances, several studies show that ethnic and racial identities, and self-esteem, can be significantly affected by the perceptions of others. See for instance Nikki Khanna, "The role of reflected appraisals in racial identity: The case of multiracial Asians", Social Psychology Quarterly (2004, Vol. 64, No. 2) pp. 115-131; Shaun Wiley, et. al, "Through the looking glass: Ethnic and generational patterns of immigrant identity", International Journal of Intercultural Relations (September 2008, Vol. 32, No. 5) pp. 385-398
Greater London Authority, The search for
common ground: Muslims, non-Muslims and the
Kerry Moore, Paul Mason and Justin Lewis, Images
of Islam in the UK: The Representation of British Muslims in the National Print
News Media 2000-2008 (
 Choudhury, op. cit., pp. 9, 16
 Saffron Karlsen and James Y. Nazroo, "Relation between racial discrimination, social class and health among ethnic minority groups", American Journal of Public Health (2002, vol. 92, no. 4) pp. 624-631
Report from the Aap Ki Awaaz
Project, Our Voice: the Pakistani
community's views on mental health and mental health services in
See Ahmed, Inside the Crevice, op. cit.; and Ahmed,
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, Inside the Crevice: Islamist terror networks
and the 7/7 intelligence failure (
Quintan Wiktorowicz, Radical Islam
Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West (
 CSC Press Briefing, "One in Seven UK Terror-related Convictions Linked to Islamist Group Now Threatening to Relaunch" (London: Centre for Social Cohesion, 1 June 2009) <http://www.socialcohesion.co.uk/files/1243874438_1.pdf>
John Gieve (ed.), Draft Report on Young Muslims and Extremism
See Choudhury, op. cit. and Change
Institute Report for the European Commission, Studies into violent radicalisation: the beliefs, ideologies and
This has been confirmed for
instance by John Loftus, former
 See Ahmed, op. cit.
Richard Labeviere, Dollars for Terror:
See for example Professor
Emeritus Peter Dale Scott, The Road to
9/11: Wealth, Empire and the Future of the American Empire (
 Sibel Edmonds interviewed on Mike Malloy Radio Show (31 July 2009). Transcript available here <http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14596>
 For sources see Ahmed, Inside the Crevice, op. cit., Appendix. Also see Brian Ross (The Blotter), "Bush Authorizes New Covert Action Against Iran", ABC News (22 March 2007) <http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/05/bush_authorizes.html>; Seymour Hersh, "The Redirection: Is the Administration's new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?" New Yorker (5 March 2007)
 Daily Star (20 April 2007)
See for example Gary C.
Gambhill, "Salafi-jihadism in
Richard Edwards, "Omar Bakri
 Ishtiaq Hussain, "Preacher Omar Bakri 'Is a Danger'", Sky News (13 December 2008)