Analysis Of Radicalisation And Extremism Criminology Essay

Radicalisation is a complex term which has different meanings and can be used in different contexts. To be radicalised does not necessarily mean that one has to resort to violence or terrorism. It is not a synonym to extreme religious teachings or activities either. Radicalism can be intolerant behaviour or intolerance towards the views of other people. It can be intolerance towards homosexuality, ethnicity, race, colour, religion. Being radical can be intolerance towards the western culture or Asian immigrants living in Britain as well.

The US Southern Baptists do not recognise homosexuality as a valid alternative lifestyle (Kahn, 2006). The army of God, a Christian extremist group in the US murders doctors who practice abortion (Gray, 2007). A former Dutch immigration minister sought to deny asylum to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Iranians, threatening to deport them back to Iran which imposes a death penalty on homosexual conduct (Human Rights Watch, 2007). Do the above examples not illustrate radical and extremist behaviour?

Therefore Radicalisation can vary from having extreme views about something to intolerant behaviour towards certain people, to violent radicalisation which has severe consequences. For the purpose of this research we shall look into extremist radicalisation or violent radicalisation with religious or political aims.

According to Precht (2007), “Radicalisation is a process of adopting an extremist belief system and the willingness to use, support, or facilitate violence and fear as a method of effecting changes in society”. In this definition we can see that a person is radicalised when they adopt an extremist belief system and perceive society as defective and aim to change it through non-violent or violent ways.

There is a very fine line between extremism and radicalisation. According to Archbishop Desmond Tutu “extremism is when you do not allow for a different point of view; when you hold your own views as being quite exclusive; when you don’t allow for the possibility of difference” (Tutu, 2006). One could argue that there is nothing wrong with extremism or radicalisation, as it does not necessarily lead to violence but on the other hand the very fine line can easily be crossed over. However when extremism starts to have a political end, for example to force governments to the table of negotiation or to changes in policy it then converges into radicalisation (Davies, 2008). And when the willingness to use violence for a political or religious change combines with this radicalisation it can lead to terrorism.

Radicalisation is a process where an individual adopts extreme political or religious ideas and goals, becoming convinced that the attainment of these goals justifies extreme methods (Ongering, 2007).

In the context of this research we shall look into Islamist radicalisation or violent Islamism. Before we look into the literature we should not confuse the terms Islam and Islamist. Islam is a religion and the follower of this religion is known as a Muslim not an Islamist. Islamist or Islamism is a term coined by the West to differentiate between Islam the faith or religion and Islamism as the ideology or political Islam.

Islamism refers to a political ideology that strives to create a state and society in conformity with religious doctrine and Shariah (Islamic) law. An Islamist is a person who uses religious arguments to further political goals; in contrast a militant Islamist or violent Islamism is when there is a willingness to use violence to advance their goals (Precht, 2007). Again there is a difference between adopting political Islam in a non-violent way, as many Muslim organisations in the contemporary world do, and adopting political Islam in a violent way portrayed by the violent acts perpetrated in the name of Islam by certain groups and individuals who distort the teachings of Islam in their own extremist ways. It is the latter that leads to terrorism.

How do young Muslims become radicalised and resort to violence. There have been numerous studies with respect to the process of radicalization. In the view of the NYPD (New York City Police Department) study, the adoption of the Salafi-Jihadi ideology is a key driver that motivates young men and women to carry out acts of violence and terrorism (Silber and Bhatt, 2007).

This study conducted by the NYPD (Silber and Bhatt, 2007) suggests that the radicalisation process is composed of four distinct phases.

The first phase is pre- radicalisation, in which an individual has a normal life and this is a period before the journey to extremism and the adoption of Salafi-Jihadi ideology. The second stage is self-identification, where individuals explore Salafi Islam and move away from their old identity towards a new world view and begin to associate themselves with like minded people. The catalyst in this phase usually is a cognitive opening or a crisis like losing a job or international conflicts involving Muslims. The third stage in the process is indoctrination, where the adopted Salafi-Jihadi ideology intensifies. This leads the individual into militant jihad and this phase is usually facilitated and driven by a ‘spiritual sanctioner’.

While the final and fourth stage is jihadization, where individuals accept their duty to participate in jihad and self designate themselves as holy warriors. Ultimately they begin operational training for jihad or terrorist attacks (Silber and Bhatt, 2007).

For Silber and Bhatt (2007) a person is radicalised when they go through these stages in a systematic way as if it were a funnel. Some would go all the way through the funnel and become terrorists and others would exit in any of the early stages. An important point to note in their study is:

Entering the process does not mean one will progress through all four stages and become a terrorist. However, it also does not mean that if one does not become a terrorist, he or she is no longer a threat. Individuals who have been radicalized but are not jihadists may serve as mentors and agents of influence to those who might become the terrorists of tomorrow (Silber and Bhatt, 2007:84)

I beg to differ with Silber and Bhatt (2007) on the observation quoted above. It is not necessary that if a person does not go through the whole process of radicalisation and exits at some stage, we should still perceive him or her as a threat. There is ample evidence that many individuals who have been radicalised and who do not become terrorists can still continue and live as normal peace loving citizens. They do not always serve as mentors or agents of influence for the terrorists of tomorrow.

If we study biographies of former Islamist radicals or extremists, we do come across real life examples of people like Ed Husain, Majid Nawaz, Shiraz Maher and Hassan Bhatt who joined radical Islam in Britain, got radicalized to a great extent and then left it, becoming normal peace loving citizens of their country (Biggar and Hogan, 2009).

Ed Hussain, a former Islamist radical tells his story of how he joined radical Islamist groups in Britain, moving from Jamaat Islami to Young Muslims Organisation (YMO) and then to the more radicalised Hizb-ut-Tahrir. After several years of activism in radical Islamist groups he finally realized in the mid 90’s that he was disillusioned with these groups and became more interested in traditional Sufi Islam and non political scholars in Islam. Living a normal life with his wife in Britain, he is a devout Muslim and a believer in traditional Islamic teachings and has shunned radical and political Islam (Husain, 2007). Realizing how he misinterpreted Islam initially and fell prey to radical and political Islam; and viewed Islam as an ideology rather than a religion, he states:

For me, being a Muslim is not a political identity- Islam does not teach us a monolithic approach to life. The Prophet did not create new systems of government, but adopted existing paradigms from seventh-century Arabia (Husain, 2007:269)

This refutes Silber and Bhatt’s (2007) study because their radicalisation process does not acknowledge that radicalized individuals can revert back to a normal peace loving life. It does not have room for individuals who have been radicalised and then shunned radicalisation, as they are still seen as a threat in their model.

Husain furthers his argument and explains how he feels about the non political nature of Islam, ‘In Mecca I met Muslims who were unalike in their background and culture but united in their belief. For me that is the true ummah- a spiritual community, not a political bloc’ (Husain, 2007: 269-70).

Another example is Majid Nawaz, who got involved with radical Islamist groups in Britain and later realized how he had misinterpreted Islam:

As I studied various branches of traditional Islamic sciences, however, I grew more and more surprised. The sheer breadth of scholastic disagreement that I found, on issues I had believed were so definitive in Islam, surprised me… It slowly dawned on me that what I had been propagating was far from true Islam. I began to realise that what I had subscribed to was actually Islamism sold to me in the name of Islam (Nawaz, 2007).

However, having explicated that, it does not mean that the study carried out by Silber and Bhatt (2007) does not hold any relevance at all regarding the radicalisation process. I concur with their view that extreme religious ideology (Salafi-Jihadi) is a key driver that motivates young people to get radicalised. The spread of Salafi-Jihadi ideology and books by radical ideologues such as Mawdudi and Syed Qutb have proven to have great influence in the radicalisation process of individuals (Husain, 2007; Nawaz, 2007; Change Institute, 2008)

I will shed some light on another model of the radicalisation process with similarities to Silber and Bhatt’s (2007) model.

Tomas Precht’s (2007) analysis on the radicalisation process is similar with the four stages by Silber and Bhatt (2007). Precht (2007) explains that there is no single cause or catalyst for radicalisation. One of the differences in these models is that in Precht’s model, he focuses on the far broader cause of extremism rather than the individual’s adoption of the Salafi-Jihadi ideology in his conversion and identification stage.

He focuses on three broad sets of causes which are:

Background factors: a Muslim identity crisis, experiences of discrimination, alienation and perceived injustices

Trigger factors: Western foreign policy and provocative events, the presence of a charismatic leader or adviser and the glorification of jihad

Opportunity factors: These are venues or locations where like minded people meet for the purpose of radicalisation by giving inspiration or serving as recruiting grounds. For example the internet, mosques, schools and universities and sports activities (Precht, 2007).

For Precht radicalisation or terrorism is:

Largely viewed as a sociological phenomenon where issues like belonging, identity, group dynamics, and values are an important element in the transformation process. Religion, as such, play an important role, but for some it probably rather serves as a vehicle for fulfilling other goals” (Precht, 2007:71)

Criticizing the ‘religious ideology’ driven radicalisation process, Sageman (2004), emphasises the role of social bonds in the radicalisation process, “social bonds play a more important role in the emergence of the global Salafi Jihad than ideology” (Sageman, 2004:178). In another research study he concludes that “the terrorists studied during trials in Western Europe and North America were not intellectuals or ideologues” (Sageman, 2008:156-7). He believes that less focus should be placed on ideology and religion and instead the discourse should focus more on social networking to radicalisation and the jihad movement.

Studying the profiles of radical Islamists we can see many inconsistencies. Some are well educated, some are well off, others genuinely poor, some are married, others single, some are western born and educated, others are foreign students, and some had integrated well in western society while others less so (Al-Lami, 2008)

On the other hand certain similarities have also been identified in studying radicalised individuals. A key factor is that the majority of Muslim youth in the west who became radicalised or got involved in terrorism were religious novices. They had superficial knowledge of Islam and were easy lured into radical and extremist ideologies, distorting their interpretation of Islam. Since they were novices they could not authenticate this extreme version of Islam taught to them by radical preachers (Sageman, 2004; Choudhury, 2007; Husain, 2007).

An interesting concept about radicalisation is offered by Mandel (2008), who says ‘to be radical is to be extreme relative to something that is defined or accepted as normative, traditional, or valued as the status quo’. What he means is that it’s a matter of perspectives. What one group may regard as radical, another may regard that as normal or acceptable.

Adversaries may each regard the other’s act and motivating belief systems as extreme, perhaps overly so. In this sense, the attribution of being a radical or radicalised may be intended by the attributer as a negative characterization of the attributee. More specifically, the attributer may use the term radical to convey that the attributee poses a source of threat to the attributer’s traditional way of life (Mandel, 2008:9)

Keeping this concept of perspectives in mind, it implies that for liberal governments in Britain, Islamists or Jihadists are seen as radicals who threaten their way of life. But for the Islamists the label may be seen as a virtuous characteristic associated with attempts to return to a society in line with their own belief systems and values. But this kind of concept can be a bit problematic in the sense that there is no universal definition of what is right and what is wrong. There are no black and white truths when it comes to belief systems or ways of life. What would be the limit of going radical in either direction, whether liberal or Islamist?

Some scholars do not differentiate between the different forms of Islam and see the problem with Islam as a whole rather than with Islamism or radical forms of Islam. In their view Muslims are a different civilization altogether, and are convinced about the superiority of their culture (Huntington, 1996).

The problem with this view is that it treats Islam as monolithic and uniform religion. In reality Islam is not like that and has many different faces and interpretations across both historical time and at the present (Murshed and Pavan, 2009:3).

Identity politics is another key factor that contributes to radicalisation. Muslim youth in the West feel a need to carve out their own identities, because they cannot relate to their parents ethnic communities and the Western societies they live in simultaneously. Another key catalyst for radicalisation and terrorism is western foreign policy, which has backfired domestically; conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Bosnia and Chechnya come to be seen as crusades against Muslims (Al-Lami, 2008).

Socio-economic disadvantage and political factors such as the West’s foreign policy with regard to Muslims and certain historical grievances play a part in the development of radicalisation (Murshed and Pavan, 2009). There have also been instances where opportunistic politicians in Western Europe have created hatred amongst the majority and minority communities, producing a backlash. Racism and anti Muslim immigration has also been seen as a driver for the radicalisation process,

All over Western Europe there has been growth in single issue, anti-immigrant, especially anti-Muslim immigrant parties…racist messages that breed fear of minorities like Muslims, can emanate from attention seeking politicians, who campaign on a single issue that scapegoat a particular group for all of society’s ills (crime, unemployment and so on) (Murshed and Pavan, 2009).

Socio-economic deprivation, low education and unemployment have been one of the most common explanations for radicalisation. Statistics show that Muslims, compared to other religious groups, have the highest rates of unemployment, high prison population and poor housing facilities (Awan, 2007:211).

However Sageman (2004) does not accept this explanation of radicalisation. He mentions that out of the 172 biographies of ‘Salafi-Jihadists’ he examined, over 60 percent were well educated and a high proportion of them were professionals and most had semi-skilled occupations.

Another interesting illustration of the radicalisation process in British Muslims is given by McRoy (2006). He suggests that there has been a systematic radicalisation in British Muslims mainly due to a number of incidents or events starting from 1988 with the controversial and anti-Islamic book, The Satanic Verses. ‘The publication of Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses in 1988 was the defining watershed for British Muslim Identity and activism’ (McRoy, 2006:10). The book was publically burned in Birmingham, giving very strong signs of radical behaviour.

The second major event was the Gulf Crisis of 1992-93, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, which was seen as an anti-imperialist action by Iraq. And when Britain supported the war against Iraq whilst rejecting similar action to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, it created more hatred towards the West and Muslims felt that the West had double standards when it came to helping out Muslims. And then came the Bosnian Crisis, when Muslims lost faith in the West and this fuelled radicalisation amongst British Muslims (McRoy, 2006).

It is almost impossible to say with certainty what the causes of radicalisation are, as it is difficult to know whether a factor is instrumental or merely present. It is more helpful to think about ‘radicalising agents’- factors which are present and appear frequently across different cases, for example, key places, charismatic leaders, relationship links, experiences and assumed grievances (Briggs and Birdwell, 2009).

As we have seen in the literature, there are many reasons scholars have stated for the radicalisation process. Religious ideology (Salafi-Jihadi), political ideology, social bonds, perceived injustices against Muslims around the world (Bosnia, Kashmir, and Palestine), Western foreign policy, influence by charismatic leaders, poverty and deprivation, low education, unemployment, identity politics, racism, anti- Muslim immigration and so on.

Having understood that the radicalisation process can occur by any of these reasons or factors, for the purpose of this research I shall look into another factor that has not been given the attention and importance it deserves by many Western governments, that is radicalisation and violence caused by state power or by the policies which are developed for countering radicalisation and violence. How the UK counter terrorism policies have impacted on radicalising individuals in the UK. It is surprising why the UK government and the intelligence committee’s, while assessing the effectiveness of the counter-terrorism policies, did not acknowledge the potentially damaging effect counter-terrorism measures themselves can have in contributing to radicalisation (Blick et al, 2006). When we say counter terrorism policies it implies both domestic and foreign policies for the purpose of this research. Although there has been literature regarding this aspect, but this factor (state-power) has rarely been treated as an independent factor which added to other factors could also perpetuate or contribute to the radicalisation process. I am undertaking this research to contribute to the growing literature in this area.

Chapter 2: Policy Development and UK Counter terrorism strategy:

If we look at UK’s history in creating coercive counter terrorism laws, which targeted specific communities, it dates back to 1974, when the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) was introduced, to deal with the Irish political violence (Hillyard, 1993).

These laws were targeting the Irish community as a whole and were seen as a cause of the continuity and increase in the scale of the Irish related violence. The PTA established a dual system of justice, where conventional criminals who committed crimes such as murder, rape, theft were tried in the ordinary criminal justice system while a shadow and more draconian system developed to deal with those suspected of Irish ‘terrorism'(Hillyard:1993).

However For the purpose of this research, I shall discuss and analyse the legislation and counter terrorism strategies, post September 11th 2001. This chapter is divided into two parts. The first part shall discuss the Counter terrorism strategy (CONTEST) of UK with special reference to the developments after September 11th 2001. The basis of the analysis on the legislation will be drawn from the terrorism act 2000. It will unfold the important components of the anti terror legislation through the analysis of CONTEST.

The second part will focus on how this counter terrorist strategy was developed and the sources which have influenced these developments by examining it through a policy transfer model.

This chapter will provide a foundation for the remaining part of the research.

I. UK Counter terrorism strategy (CONTEST)

There are five major pieces of legislation in the UK to combat terrorism, and these legislations and laws are the foundation of the CONTEST.

They are Terrorism act 2000; Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001; The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005; The Terrorism Act 2006 and The Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.

The UK’s Counter-terrorism strategy knows as CONTEST, has been in existence since 2003 but was first published in 2006 and revised in 2009 to acknowledge the changing threat of terrorism (HM Government, 2009). The strategy has four elements- ‘the four P’s’: Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare. For the purpose of this research I shall discuss the Pursue and Prevent elements of the CONTEST.

Pursue, is the most important priority for the government because it deals with stopping terrorist attacks. The pursue element of CONTEST aims to reduce the terrorist threat to the UK and UK interests overseas through the detection and investigation of terrorist networks and the disruption of their activities (HM Government, 2009:61).

The ‘Pursue’ element of CONTEST is intelligence led and it aims at close coordination and collaboration of domestic police and intelligence agencies as well as international agencies. This intelligence gathering is used to disrupt terrorists, by the use of prosecution as the first option but if that is not possible then other options like, deportation, control orders, freezing and seizing financial assets and proscription of organisations, can be used as alternative means. Successful prosecution in the courts, based on gathering the necessary evidence and apprehending those involved in planning acts of terrorism before they can carry out their intentions is the preferred method of disrupting terrorist activities according to CONTEST (HM Government, 2006:20).

In facilitating the prosecution of suspected ‘terrorists’, section 44 of the Terrorism act 2000 extended the police powers of stop and search, which were widely and sometimes disproportionately used as a component of the pursue element of CONTEST. According to section 44, ‘a senior police officer may specify or designate areas or places in which an officer may stop and search vehicles, drivers or pedestrians on suspicion of being involved or aiming to carry out terrorist activity’ (Terrorism Act, 2000 online:

These stop and search powers of the police have been very controversial and are disproportionately used against some communities.

In 2004-2005 police stopped and searched 35,800 pedestrians, vehicles and occupants under section 44 and arrested only 455 people (just over 1 percent of those stopped). Very few of these 1% arrested, relate to terrorism. This law has been targeting Asians communities and has created a wedge between community relations which has dangerous consequences (Blick, et al 2006).

There has always been speculation about the disproportionate use of these stop and search powers on certain communities. On one hand ethnic profiling could be seen as necessary to identify criminals or terrorists, as some people would argue that it is amongst some ethnic groups that terrorists belong. But on the other hand if a terrorist belongs to the Muslim community for example, is it fair to target the whole Muslim community and assume that there are more terrorists amongst them. Or do we need the help of that particular community to identify terrorists. If we target them disproportionately, there is a chance of isolating them and losing that opportunity of winning their support and confidence in order to identify terrorists or criminals.

After the September 11th 2001 attacks there was greater collaboration between UK and US police and homeland security departments which led to greater searches. Between 2001 and 2007 there were 205,000 police searches for terrorist related activities in England and Wales. Out of these 205,000 stops and searches there were only 2,571 arrests, just 1 percent of the total (Pantazis and Pemberton, 2009a).

Another controversial law is the pre-charge detention. Under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, ‘the police may arrest someone on reasonable suspicion that they are a terrorist and keep them in detention without charge till seven days (Terrorism Act, 2000). Pre-charge detention was further extended to 14 days in 2003 and then to 28 days by the terrorism act 2006, and now it is the highest number of days (pre-charge detention) compared to any democracy in the world (Liberty, 2007).

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has noted that preventive detention is not permissible under article 5 (the right to liberty and security of a person) of the European Convention and warned that it could not be introduced without a derogation, which would require the government to claim that the ‘life of the nation’ is in peril (Blick et al, 2006:48).

This 28 day pre-charge detention has been vilified by human rights organisations all over UK. They are of the view that the police don’t need 28 days to investigate someone on suspicion of terrorist activities.

Between the time the pre-charge detention for 28 days was passed and October 2007, there were 204 arrests under the terrorism act. Out of 204 suspects only 11 were detained for more than 14 days. Eight of these were charged and three were released without charge (Liberty, 2007). This shows how14 days are more than sufficient for investigating suspected terrorists.

The Terrorism Act 2000 gives the home secretary the power to proscribe groups involved in terrorism, and membership of a proscribed group is illegal. By 2009, 59 terrorist groups were proscribed by this act, including 14 groups belonging to Northern Ireland (HM Government, 2009). The 2006 terrorism act also makes it a criminal offense to encourage terrorism directly or indirectly inciting or encouraging others to commit acts of terrorism. This includes an offense of the ‘glorification’ of terror- people who praise or celebrate terrorism in a way that may encourage others to commit a terrorist act. The maximum penalty is seven years imprisonment (Guardian, 2010:

Many political groups and organisations are banned as a result of the pursue element of CONTEST, granted by the terrorism act 2000. A range of activities, including non violent activities of some of these groups, whose aims are geographical and political with regards to internal strife and conflict in their home countries such as Kurdistan, Sri Lanka, and Kashmir are banned and criminalized. These groups have connections to minority ethnic and refugee communities in UK. Supporting and even attending meetings of these groups is banned (Pantazis and Pemberton, 2009a). Some of these groups are not terrorist organisations but aim to over throw their local governments due to oppression and violence against them. Are we not limiting the freedom of expression through the use of these coercive measures? The UK has always been seen as a champion of the freedom of expression and the freedom of speech, but it is not true any more.

The 2001 Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA), which was introduced as a result of the September 11th attacks, led to new measures on asset freezing, account monitoring and cash seizures (HM Government, 2009).

The 2008 Counter-Terrorism Act further strengthens police investigatory powers by introducing post-charge interviews. Other measures have been introduced to deal with suspected terrorists who cannot be prosecuted. There are control orders, created by the 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act, for individuals suspected of posing a terrorist risk but for whom a trial or deportation is considered impossible. These place indefinite and severe restrictions on an individual’s movement, communication and associations through curfew, tagging and surveillance. They have proven to be among the most controversial of measures because they require no finding of guilt by the courts (Pantazis and Pemberton, 2009b).

The ‘Prevent’ element of CONTEST is concerned with radicalisation of individuals and how to stop them from becoming terrorists. ‘The aim of the prevent element is to stop radicalisation, reducing support for terrorism and discouraging people from becoming terrorists’ (HM Government, 2009:83). In order to understand how this strategy works I shall look into the definition of terrorism, provided by the terrorism act 2000, around which all these laws and legislations are established. But the Irony is that the definition of terrorism provided by the government is so broad, that it includes a lot of non-violent activity,

threats or acts of serious violence against a person, damage to property and serious disruption of an electronic system as well as acts that create a serious risk to the health or safety of persons, whenever such acts or threats are made for the purpose of advancing a political, ideological or religious cause (Terrorism Act 2000, online)

This definition gives the police and law enforcement agencies too much discretion. Many legitimate gatherings can be targeted by the use of this definition. For example, for several years cyclists have taken to the streets in cities around the world. The aim of the gatherings has been described as to ‘reclaim the streets’. However due to such a huge number of participants these rides can seriously disrupts traffic and can be said to pose danger to the health and safety of cyclists as well as other road users. They can also intimidate a section of the public; they arguably fall within the definition of ‘terrorism’ (ARTICLE 19, 2006).

The important components of the prevent element of CONTEST (HM Government, 2009) involves, challenging the ideology behind violent extremism and supporting moderate Muslim scholars and influential voices in order to defy the extremist ideology. Disrupting those who promote violent extremism and supporting the places where they operate. According to the government, the ‘radicaliser’ is as important as the radicalised. Therefore using the powers under the 2006 terrorism act, the police will prosecute those who encourage or glorify terrorism and take action against the places where they operate. Supporting ind

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