Islamic Extremism: Is There Any Going Back? – Liberal Article
The case of Shamima Begum has not left my mind since her circumstances came to light in the Summer of 2019. As a quick recap: Shamima left the UK at 15 after being radicalised into Islamic extremism for Raqqa (ISIS’s headquarters). She married a Dutch ISIS soldier with whom she had three children, all of whom later died. Now, she is 21 and has been stripped of her British citizenship ‘for the public good’. We presumed she would have Bangladeshi citizenship by descent; the Bangladeshi government has since denied this, leaving her stateless.
I am not excusing her actions. What she did was clearly wrong and she should be punished and receive treatment. But the lack of accountability the British Government is taking for the radicalisation of a child on British soil is abhorrent.
As much as I would want to go into the inhumanity of stripping someone of their human rights, Shamima’s treatment has made me realise how intolerant we are of those that deradicalised from Islamic Extremism in comparison to those that leave Neo-Nazi movements, the Westboro Baptist Church and those that have considered becoming school shooters, for example.
I do not think platforming those that have broken away from such harmful beliefs and organisations is a bad thing. Utilising the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of those in such extreme circumstances can help prevent others from going down the same rabbit hole. But we do not extend the same willing listening ear to those that have deradicalised from Islam. In fact, we do not even consider deradicalisation a possibility.
So, why is this?
Originally I thought it was fear. Over the past 20 years, especially if you live in a city, “Islamic” terrorism has become (legitimately or not) a major issue. Though I’ve chosen to use the term ‘Islamic’ – as that is how it is portrayed in the media – Islamic terrorism is in no way a representation of Islam. It is not representative of the vast majority of Muslims’ beliefs.
I remember before a school trip to London in 2017 having to practice Run, Hide, Tell, for example. So, I can understand the rationale behind being against the idea of those that have been deradicalised from Islamic extremism/fundamentalism reentering society, when that threat has been advertised as omnipresent in our lives.
However, that explanation does not satisfy me; far-right extremists in the US pose a realised huge violent threat to the population. Yet those who have overcome those extremist sympathies are very much part of the current political conversation.
Could it be the fact that in some European countries Islamic radicalisation often occurs in prisons? Therefore the punishment or the deradicalisation of extremists usually requires expensive holistic therapy, and extremists are deemed ‘unworthy’ by the public for receiving this treatment? Again, no and no. This still does not answer why we believe Islamic extremists can not be deradicalised.
Then, it could be the practicality of measuring how someone has become deradicalised as it can not be quantified. The lack of privacy it would require to measure this would be a possible infringement of human rights. Though one could argue the right to privacy is redundant due to the crime committed.
Another problem we face is that these deradicalisation programmes are in their intimacy and long-term effectiveness is still unknown.
The physiologist Christopher Dean has claimed that “we can never be certain terror offenders can be cured” as those that have been responsive to deradicalisation programmes have gone on to commit further terror offences such as Usman Khan, who killed two people near London Bridge on 29 November 2019.
Having said this, other studies have shown that between 2012 to 2018, out of 189 offenders, after completing a Dutch rehabilitation process, only eight showed signs of recidivism, and a Belgium study shows that only 5% of terrorist commit further terror offences, which is a lot lower than the average rate of reoffending which is between 40-60%.
Understandably due to the severity of the crime, one in 20 is not good enough. However, it does demonstrate the effectiveness of the treatment in comparison to regular prison sentences. In comparing Islamic terrorist groups, with other terrorist groups on the rate of re-offending I could not find any data, so I will not make any assumptions.
So, my conclusion is that our treatment of deradicalised extremists is down to racism and permissive Islamophobia. I’m not arguing the general public’s fear of deradicalised extremists is irrational. It is, however, slightly inconsistent with its treatment of its white counterparts.
The lack of understanding the west has of the normal day-to-day peaceful practices of Islam leaves us with a warped, fear-driven understanding. This has in turn made us balk at the idea of rehabilitation and deradicalisation. This is detrimental, as one of the best tools of education is telling your own stories. Silencing and denying this ultimately puts more people at risk.
Written by Junior Liberal Writer, Lucy Severn
Point of Information
Our Paranoia is Crippling Our Principles – A Conservative Response
Firstly, I must agree with Lucy when she talks of our responsibility in the Begum case. Begum was (and still should be, in my mind) a citizen and the responsibility of the UK. It is our responsibility to punish and/or reform her; I am disappointed that we have just washed our hands of the issue.
To move to the main point of her article, I do feel as though Lucy has got her finger on the pulse. However, I don’t think that the ‘racism’ idea is correct, but ‘Islamophobia’ may be closer to the point.
I certainly feel as though there is a latent cultural incongruence between indigenous and Islamic. No matter how you try to square it, Islamic ideals are not compatible with western democratic ones. They’re more akin to opposites.
Now, I very much like the fact that Britain is multi-cultural, multi-faith, and the like. However, I merely make the previous point to try to understand why we see Islamic terrorists more readily – if erroneously – as the ‘other’ or an external, invasive force. Even if the perpetrators are British, born and bred. I think it has little to do with skin colour and a lot to do with differing ideology and culture.
Another point is that the terrorism threat is actually massively overblown. This set of data, from 1970 to 2019, here shows that deaths have not surpassed 300 in a year, with the most deadly years being during the Troubles.
Road fatalities in 2019 were 1,752 and medical error deaths year-on-year could be as high as 22,000. These far outweigh terrorism as a whole. Yet we are not paranoid every time we hop in the car, or when we go to the GP. The fact is: MI5, MI6, and all the police forces, are fantastic at what they do.
Of course, each loss is a tragedy for all involved. I am not trying to diminish the pain felt by their loved ones. What I am trying to diminish, is this strange (inadvertent) collusion between the media and the terrorists. We massively overreact to the threat we face, in large part due to the incessant coverage.
This is our biggest problem. Perhaps if we can turn down the paranoia, we may be able to make better decisions in cases like Begum’s. Driven by our principles, not our paranoia.
Written by Chief Conservative Writer, Alexander Dennis
Paranoia Is a Symptom, But Racism and Islamophobia Are The Cause of These Mentalities and Behaviours – A Labour Response
This is an important article that Lucy has written, tackling a huge and very complex topic. As argued by both her and Alex, paranoia, fear, and racism have clouded judgements and this is fundamentally wrong.
Education is a key part of de-radicalisation but also of countering the paranoia of the general public. Misinformation, ignorance, and a lack of understanding are often a significant reason behind prejudiced views. UK society could benefit from greater knowledge about Islam as a religion but also about extremism and terrorism.
Education and rehabilitation are favoured approaches by academics, the UN, and other organisations working on PVE (Preventing Violent Extremism) and CVE (Countering Violent Extremism). Thus, this should extend into prisons. Prisons are a well-known weak spot for radicalisation as prisoners are often a vulnerable, easy target to recruiters.
There is an intrinsic link between racism and islamophobia. In 2018, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims consisting of MPs, academics, lawyers, communities, and activists published a working definition of Islamophobia: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.” This definition was adopted by Labour, the LibDems, and the Scottish Conservatives but was rejected by the Conservative Party.
We cannot ignore this duality due to the nature of attacks and the motivations behind them. There have been numerous occasions where Sikh men, bearded men, or women wearing headscarves have been victims of anti-Muslim violence because their appearance was associated with Islam.
Moreover, Alex’s point that “Islamic ideals are not compatible with western democratic ones” is a dangerous throw-away comment. Without evidence, this statement is desperately missing the nuance that it needs.
It verges on absolutism, suggesting that Muslims don’t integrate into British society at all. Countless generations of Muslims who have assimilated and integrate would probably disagree that their religion, culture, and politics were incompatible.
This tries to combine a theological debate within a conversation about society. There are parts of Christian doctrine which are also not compatible with western democratic but we don’t see this as an issue in the same way.
Racism and Islamophobia are huge issues in UK society and they taint our culture, politics, and economics. Empathy and education are the best tools to tackle radicalisation and we must use them to challenge and dismiss these prejudices that are so pervasive and damaging.
Written by Junior Labour Writer, Zoë Olsen-Groome