Exclusive: Sophisticated analysis says there is no single pathway to violent extremism: MI5 has concluded that there is no easy way to identify those who become involved in terrorism in Britain, according to a classified internal research document on radicalisation seen by the Guardian. The sophisticated analysis, based on hundreds of case studies by the security service, says there is no single pathway to violent extremism. It concludes that it is not possible to draw up a typical profile of the “British terrorist” as most are “demographically unremarkable” and simply reflect the communities in which they live. The “restricted” MI5 report takes apart many of the common stereotypes about those involved in British terrorism. They are mostly British nationals, not illegal immigrants and, far from being Islamist fundamentalists, most are religious novices. Nor, the analysis says, are they “mad and bad”. Alan Travis reports.
The MI5 briefing note, Understanding Radicalisation and Violent Extremism in the UK, seen by the Guardian provides a unique insight into current thinking within the security service about how a modern-day British terrorist is made. The analysis, based on hundreds of case studies of those involved in or closely associated with terrorism, concludes that there is no single pathway to extremism. All had taken strikingly different journeys to violent extremist activity. However the security service does say that most individuals in the sample had some vulnerability in their background that made them receptive to extremist ideology. For most, radicalisation takes months or years with no one becoming a terrorist overnight, and it is always driven by contact with others. Exposure to extremist ideology, whether in the form of online communities, books, or DVDs, although crucial, is never enough on its own. Personal interaction is essential, in most cases, to draw individuals into violent extremist networks. Alan Travis reports.
A nationwide “deradicalisation” programme is being developed to tackle people who have been drawn into Islamist violent extremism in Britain, the government will reveal today. The Home Office said the strategy was needed to help bring back those who had “already crossed the line” in terms of ideology and outlook, but not yet committed any clear criminal offence. The local schemes involved so far aim to reverse the process of radicalisation possibly through mentoring those involved: “Nationally we are developing a UK deradicalisation programme,” says the government’s new strategy document on preventing violent extremism published today. “That involves learning from overseas, from other professions, and through pilot programmes. We recognise that more specialised techniques are likely to be necessary but a key element of this approach is for local partners to identify and work with organisations that may be able to provide this capacity.” It cites the example of a community based programme in Leicester that is already mentoring “vulnerable individuals” using techniques including encouraging them to feel more valued and to eradicate myths and assumptions which have led to them becoming alienated and disempowered. Alan Travis reports.
The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, last night expressed her “extreme disappointment” at the decision yesterday by three high court judges to order the release of the radical preacher Abu Qatada, who has been described as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe. Qatada, who was still in Long Lartin maximum security prison in Worcestershire last night, is expected to be released next week, when bail conditions are expected to be agreed. It has already been agreed that at the minimum he will be placed under virtual house arrest and face a 22-hour curfew. Last month Qatada, a Jordanian, won his appeal against the government’s attempt to deport him on the grounds that he was likely to face a trial based on evidence obtained under torture by the Jordanian intelligence services. Alan Travis report.
The Muslim population in the United Kingdom may now number as many as 2 million, the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, disclosed yesterday during an official visit to Pakistan. The last published official estimate of the size of the Muslim community in Britain was 1.6 million, based on the findings of the 2001 census. The updated Whitehall estimate confirms the position of Islam as the second largest faith community after Christianity, and means that Muslims now make up 3.3% of the UK population. The 400,000 increase in the size of the Muslim community in less than seven years demonstrates its position as the fastest growing faith community in Britain, and also reflects the age structure of the community, with more than one-third under the age of 16 at the time of the 2001 census. Outside London, Pakistani Muslims make up more than 43% of the community, with Bangladeshis accounting for 17%, and those from India at 9%. In London, the Muslim community is more evenly split between Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims. Alan Travis reports