You may not realise it, but here in the UK, the chance of someone becoming radicalised is much more common than you may think. This is particularly true when it comes to children, young people and vulnerable people too.
The idea of radicalisation is that it encourages a person to show support for an extremist ideology or to become some of the causes that these groups present and put forward. They not only accept violence as a way for the group’s message to be understood but may actually act violently, this could even be an act of terrorism.
Here in the UK, we have the Prevent programme, which is designed to provide an early intervention to protect those who are most receptive to radicalisation and most likely to be radicalised, diverting them away from the ideologies and possibly criminal behaviour linked to these extreme groups.
One of the first things to know about radicalisation is that it doesn’t happen overnight, radicalisation is a process that happens over a period, which means that it is usually a gradual change, with many stages.
Of course, there can always be circumstances whereby it happens quite quickly, however, even when this happens there are still several stages where it is possible to intervene and stop the person on this negative journey that they are on.
The first stage of the process is the pre-radical stage. This is when the person first joins the group or identifies which a particular aspect of the group. They may find it on their own, or, more often than not, they may be introduced to it by someone else.
The next stage is self-identity. Which is when they start to believe and accept the views and beliefs that the group or organisation has and think of them as their thoughts, values and opinions.
The third stage is indoctrination. This is when the organisation will groom the person, encouraging them to believe more and more that their ideas are true and forcing them even further down the dark path of radicalisation.
Finally, if the person is not stopped and they still listen to and interact with those from the group then they could end up committing acts of terrorism in the name of whatever it is that the particular group believes.
There are several ways that a person can be radicalised and the beliefs of the group presented to them as “fact”.
One common way that those who are most likely to be radicalised first come across the groups, or are encouraged to believe their viewpoints is via online platforms.
Online radicalisation can be hard to stop because it is always being updated and it is always present. You can take down a website, social media account or profile to stop one message from getting through, only for many others to come up with the same ideology.
However, that said, some things can be done to try and limit the impact that online radicalisation can have.
It is all too easy for terrorists to use the internet and in particular social media platforms to radicalise, recruit and organise and carry out any form of terrorist attacks. To minimise this threat as much as possible the European Commission created a set of regulations to ensure that online platforms know the part that they play in preventing radicalisation.
The regulations state that any terrorist content that is identified by the online platform, either by their own checks or reported by others, is taken down. This must happen within an hour of it being identified.
Not only this, but online platforms also should have their own measures in place to ensure that their platforms and the services that it provides are not going to be misused in order to promote ideology and recruit new people.
Of course, many people worry about the fact that freedom of speech may be limited by these rules. However, freedom of speech is something that can be presented and shared, without it being seen to be hateful towards certain groups of people.
For many people, it is believed that the best way to counter online radical content is to block it or delete it when it is trying to be posted online. Of course, this will have a positive impact, as fewer people will see it and be able to be impacted by it. However, it is better to try and stop it from happening in the first place
If people who want to share radical ideologies are not able to present on social media and other online platforms, then they do not have a place to share their propaganda. This means that they have no option in trying to recruit people and they cannot use this as an approach.
It is also important to educate others too on what can be done if they believe that the content that they have seen is radical. Helping to stop the spread and ensure that fewer people are radicalised online.
The idea of digital literacy is that someone can properly and safely navigate the online world in front of them. They know what is safe to read online and they also can utilise their own best judgement when it comes to deciding what is real and what is not.
Whilst there are lots of fascinating facts online and lots of amazing information that people can learn for themselves, more often than not, it is best to remain sceptical about what you see or hear online.
In doing this you are less likely to believe something that is not true, be led astray or fall for the ideologies that radical groups present.
Although there have been lots of strategies and ideas put in place to try and limit radicalisation, this doesn’t mean the groups have stopped trying to recruit new people. What it does mean however is that they have to change their approaches to get their messages out there to their targets.
Not only does this mean that there are new challenges to be faced, but also that the Prevent strategy may need to be strengthened to stop these new approaches in their tracks.
Just like many other things in our lives, radicalisation and how it is achieved have different trends depending on the world around us. One current emerging trend that we have seen of late is a link between radicalisation and video gaming.
Those who are looking to recruit can be found playing a host of different video games, often those that allow for online interactions with others. They then either facilitate the voice chat functionality of this, or the written chat to bring new people into their community to radicalise them.
More than not, this is seen as harmless fun by those who are targeted and they will want to be a part of the group of friends that they have met online.
Several vulnerabilities come with online spaces. The first is the simple fact that most people can post, wherever they want, saying whatever it is that they want to say. Whilst this may not be kept online for a long period, more often than not it can still have the intended impact before it is taken down.
As well as this, those who are radicalising people online via a voice or text chat, may not be monitored or checked. What they are saying/writing is not monitored in any way, which can be incredibly dangerous (as well as working well for those who want to utilise this approach).
It is important that here in the UK we take steps to strengthen our Prevent strategy for the future. whilst we cannot know everything that is around the corner, and what this may mean when it comes to radicalisation, we can plan for what may be likely to happen and think about ways that we can change this to protect as many people as possible.
There are many links between mental health and radicalisation. Not only as a possible vulnerability (and therefore target) in those people that may be easiest to radicalise. But also for those who have been a part of the process and who have been able to come out the other side.
We must help people when it comes to their mental health, not only to reduce the chance that they are going to be radicalised but also to help them return to normal life after they have been able to have their radicalisation turned around.
Whilst having a mental health illness does not necessarily mean that you are going to be radicalised, it does make the risk of radicalisation higher. Recent research has shown that there is a link between autism, depression and psychoses and a chance of being radicalised.
The reason for these links can often be because those who are suffering from low mental health could be looking for help, support, a sense of belonging and some kindness, to help with the way that they feel. However, rather than looking for this in a positive place, they find it with terrorist groups.
Not only this, but the groups themselves know that those people who have mental health problems are a much easier target for them because they know that they need these things and that they will be much more willing to get on board with the ideologies of the terrorist groups.
Once someone has been radicalised, there is a chance that they may be left with lasting mental health issues. They may feel low self-esteem, have PTSD from their experiences and they may also be more likely to develop anxiety too. All things that can have a big impact on the rest of their lives.
To give those who have been a part of radicalisation the best chance of recovery, they are going to need to have the right level of support and access to services that will help them. This means that there should be counselling services and support groups that are designed to do just that.
These groups will not only have people who are experts in helping those who have been a part of the process but also will bring those with experiences together, giving them a chance to share what happened to them and ensure that they feel that they are amongst people with similar experiences.
It is one thing to offer support and talking groups for those who have experienced radicalisation in their lives, or who are most at risk of it; however, it is another thing for them to feel able to ask for that help or access it.
One way that we can do this is to reduce the stigma that is attached to someone being radicalised. It is important to remember that they are as much a victim as others who have been abused in some way. This means that they should be treated with respect, particularly because they are trying to find a way to get out of the belief system and get back to being themselves.
When they don’t feel any shame or stigma for what has happened to them, then there is a much greater chance that they will actively seek out the help that they need to move away from the radicalisation group.
There is a chance that someone who has been radicalised may end up committing an offence that ends with them spending time in prison. Whilst this is not a good thing, it is important to identify that prison can be a place whereby they can access rehabilitation, which in turn can de-radicalise them.
Prisons are not only a place where people can be de-radicalised and rehabilitated, but they also play an important part in preventing radicalisation. Prisons are a place where it is possible that someone can come into contact with extremist beliefs, which they may not have been able to access in the outside world.
This puts them at risk of then being radicalised; this is made an even greater risk because they may feel a variety of new emotions whilst they are in prison, they are feeling anxious about their time there and they are also isolated from those in their network who could have a positive impact on their thought process.
Prisons have to ensure that they stamp out any possible extremism and radicalisation in their prison setting. They need to make sure that others in the prison can alert them to the possible cases of this happening and have stringent measures in place to ensure that it is stopped as early as it can be.
One of the key parts of Prevent is to stop people from becoming terrorists in the first place, however, it is also there to help those who have already become a part of extremist activity or who have been targeted to become radicalised in the future.
Two examples of deradicalization programmes that can be seen in prison include “the Healthy Identity Intervention” and “the Resistance and Disengagement Programme.”
Both of these have proven to be effective in a prison setting in helping with the possible spread of extremist beliefs and turning people to terrorism.
Whilst it is important to support people whilst they are in prison, it is also important to give them an equal amount of support when they are released from prison. This is particularly true if they are going to be returning to an area that they previously lived in.
This is because they may still be a target for those who wish to radicalise them, they may still be contacted and this can then lead them to be taken back into that particular belief system.
Whilst Prevent is focused on the UK and how we counter radicalisation, it has to be said that beating terrorism is a worldwide, global effort. For the chance of it happening to be minimised, countries all around the world need to work together, thinking about what each one of them can do to stop radicalisation and the possibility of terrorist events from happening.
Prevent is a part of the UK counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST. Which is designed to reduce the risk of terrorism, not only for those who live in the UK but also in the wider world. Along with Prevent, CONTEST is made up of Pursue, Protect and Prepare. Every stage is a key part to stop this threat.
The UK have a hugely influential role in global counter-terrorism efforts, we have created this approach which is recognised as being effective and we can then work with other countries, providing them with the support that they need to be able to develop their strategies when it comes to countering terrorism.
To move forward with countering radicalisation it is vitally important that all countries that are involved with possible terrorism share what they have learnt. They can discuss what they have done to stop, reduce and rehabilitate terrorism and think about what lessons have been learned through these choices.
By sharing best practices, countries around the world, including the UK, can give themselves the best chance possible of stopping radicalisation as much as possible and helping to protect people all around the globe.
One of the key international partners that the UK works with to limit the threat of terrorism in the UK and the wider world is INTERPOL. INTERPOL stands for the International Criminal Police Organisation and is made up of 195 member countries, all of which come together to fight international crime, including terrorism.
For Prevent to work the best that it can, it must be evaluated and assessed regularly. This will help to identify whether or not the preventative measures that have been put in place are proving to be as effective as possible.
Of course, it can be hard to always know whether or not there has been a reduction in the number of people who have been radicalised, however, the idea of these measures should be to look at the successes and whether or not there has an impact on the lives of those in the UK and even wider.
There have been some concerns about overreach when it comes to Prevent. This is when there has been too much action taken to prevent radicalisation and perhaps it has been targeted at people that it does not need to be targeted at.
Of course, it is always better to be cautious, particularly when it comes to protecting people in the UK and across the world. However, when overreach occurs, it can often have the opposite impact and make it easier for people to be radicalised.
As we have mentioned, much of the evaluation when it comes to Prevent and the wider CONTEST approach is to see what success there is. Every single person who has moved away from radicalisation and becoming a possible terrorist is a success story and shows the positive impact that Prevent can have in the lives of those who are likely to be impacted by terrorism.
Whilst there may be some great things that have been put in place as a part of Prevent, it has to be said that there are always areas for improvement. It is important to identify these areas, by assessing and evaluating the progress and impact.
Once they are identified, then the time has come to think about what can be done to change and improve and make sure that the risk is minimised as much as possible.
As the world moves and changes, so does the way that people try to recruit new followers into an ideology or terrorist group. This means that there needs to be adapted approaches and areas for improvement to keep up with these changes.
It can be hard to be proactive when it comes to protecting people against radicalisation, but, there are ways that you can monitor the possible threats, and then, with time, plan what can be done to reduce their risk.
For Prevent to have the impact that it aims for, it needs to ensure that it is implemented in the UK in the best way possible. This will reduce the threat to the UK from terrorism and stop people who are most at risk of becoming a terrorist in the future.
Many different approaches apply to implementing the Prevent strategy in the UK, each of which is equally as important as the others.
The first approach is to ensure that the role of key Government Agencies and Local Authorities are aware of and meet their expected roles. They should be making sure that those who need to follow Prevent and take action, does so, this includes schools, prisons, colleges and of course within the faith communities too.
As we have just mentioned, faith leaders and faith-based communities have a key part to play within Prevent. They need to be aware of what the risks are within their communities and provide education and support to ensure that it does not happen.
They should be a safe space for those who possibly have identified radicalisation to go and talk to and they should also present the fact that those who want to follow and appreciate their religion and beliefs, but not taking it to the extreme.
A key part of Prevent is to ensure that those who are most at risk are protected. But how can you do this if you do not know who they are? Those who are most at risk must be identified, in whatever way this can be and then referred.
The hope is that with the right support and guidance, they are going to be able to be protected from extremist beliefs and not turn into possible terrorists of the future.
One of the simplest ways to try and stop the chance of terrorism occurring is to ensure that everyone who could help those who are at risk has been a part of Prevent training. The idea of Prevent training is to present the key aspects of Prevent and ensure that as many people as possible are aware of what it can mean for someone to be radicalised and what they need to look out for too.
These courses are ideal for those who work in hospitals, general practices, nursing homes, care homes, domiciliary care, as well as in religious and community organisations. By completing this course, you will be better equipped to handle safeguarding concerns and to ensure the safety and well-being of vulnerable adults.
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