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[Image] Speaker Dr Marat Shterin

WFD 3 Radicalisation Press

07 March 12

Press Release

Researchers warn that UK’s Anti-extremism Strategy has a Dangerous Lacks of Focus

Research presented at this Wednesday's Westminster Faith Debates, supported by the £12m AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme, suggests that the Government’s attempts to narrow the focus of the Prevent strategy have not gone far enough.  Targeting radical beliefs casts the net too wide, and risks fostering the anger and violence it seeks to prevent. Genuine potential threats are about behaviours above and beyond religious belief. What is needed is a narrower focus on warning signs of violent behaviour such as recruitment activities by known terrorist groups, preparation of terrorist acts,  travel to parts of Pakistan and conflict zones like Chechyna, and a history of violent behaviour.

Citing the current Prevent 2 definition of extremism as including "vocal or active opposition to... mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs", Mark Sedgwick challenges the government to explain why this doesn’t include his Spectator-reading stepmother and large sections of the British population.  Intolerant attitudes, hostility to democratic institutions, or belief that duty to God overrides duties to the state, are not reliable indicators of support for violence. Marat Shterin shows how state attempts in Russia and the Northern Caucuses to eliminate non-violent expressions of “radical” political, religious and ideological positions make violent expressions of these positions more likely by reinforcing an "us and them" culture and alienating young people. After 10 years in force, loosely defined provisions of the Russian Law on Combating Extremism have led to hundreds of police raids on Jehovah’s Witnesses, a ban on the Gülen Movement, and not a single arrest leading to preventing terrorism.

Drawing on his research in the UK, Matthew Francis describes attending a WRAP (Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent) during which he was shown a film clip from “This is England” showing “vulnerable” people sitting chatting in a council flat, and told that this was a good example of “the process of radicalisation”.  The audience ended up not knowing what they should look for. Lots of money is being spent on an initiative that, because it casts the net too wide, doesn't work.

Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary and co-host of the Westminster Faith Debates said: "For the last decade there has been a tension between averting potential terrorist threats and alienating broader communities. This is not an easy balance and no government has yet got it right. This research shows the need to focus very closely on those at risk of violent behaviours, not broader groups holding illiberal beliefs."

Ed Husain and Mehdi Hasan will respond to the research.

More information about the research can be found on the new “Radicalisationresearch.org” website sponsored by the Religion and Society Programme: http://www.radicalisationresearch.org/ 

Watch the video and listen to podcasts of the debate here: http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/faith_debates/radicalisation


  • Al Pessin 'Analysts Assess Motives in French Shootings' feat. comment from 7 March WFD speaker Marat Shterin, Voice of America 22 March: http://www.voanews.com/english/news/europe/Analysts-Assess-Motives-in-French-Shootings-143876076.html
  • Bjarne Nørum 'Sæt ikke lighedstegn mellem religion og radikalisering' in a Danish newspaper about the 7 March WFD debate on radicalisation, Kristeligt Dagblad 17 March: http://www.kristeligt-dagblad.dk/artikel/455170:Udland---Saet-ikke-lighedstegn-mellem-religion-og-radikalisering?all=1
  • 'Religion and radicalisation' discussion on Iain Dale's show on LBC with 7 March WFD speakers Mehdi Hasan and Ed Hussain, 7 March. Listen here: http://lbc.audioagain.com/player_popup.php?channel_id=361&user_id=0&sec_id=nosubscription&guid=2012-03/07/ddee9b64c139f3f0c44de53522b8a86d
  • Marat Shterin 'The lesson of the New Muslims', guardian.co.uk 7 March: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2012/mar/07/new-muslims-lesson?newsfeed=true
  • Mark Sedgwick 'First find the finger on the trigger', The Tablet 3 March.
  • Marat Shterin 'What makes radicals turn violent?' , The Tablet 3 March.
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