In previous blogs, we have talked about the Prevent strategy (What is Prevent and why does it exist?) and the government’s definition of British Fundamental Values (Prevent and British Fundamental Values).
In this blog, we will explain which members of society might be vulnerable to radicalisation and why, and also how they might be approached.
What is radicalisation?
The government’s Prevent strategy aims to challenge terrorism, radicalisation and extremism, and also to keep the public safe from harm.
Radicalisation is a path that an individual follows leading to their extremist beliefs, which can in turn lead to them supporting terrorism. The process can vary from person to person and can happen quickly or over a long period of time.
Who is vulnerable to radicalisation?
The profile of those vulnerable to radicalisation can vary significantly. The February 2012 Home Affairs Committee report on the Roots of violent radicalisation stated that:
“It became apparent during our inquiry that radicalised individuals come from a wide range of backgrounds: recent research described them as ‘demographically unremarkable’.”
However, those who become violent extremists often feel disempowered and dissatisfied with mainstream politics. Many also perceive themselves as discriminated against and have a negative view of policing.
In the case of extreme right-wing radicals, the government says in its Prevent documentation that those involved tend to be male, unemployed, poorly educated and susceptible to peer pressure, plus often Islamophobic with a supremacist ideology.
What are the pathways into radicalisation?
The Roots of violent radicalisation report cited four main pathways into radicalisation: ideology, theology, grievance and mental health problems.
A Vulnerability Assessment Framework created by the government’s Channel initiative in 2012 is available to download from www.gov.uk. This looks at the psychological hooks that lead to individuals engaging with a group, cause or ideology. These are wide-ranging and can include:
- Feelings of grievance and injustice
- Feeling under threat
- A need for identity, meaning and belonging
- A desire for status
- A desire for excitement and adventure
- A need to dominate and control others
- Susceptibility to indoctrination
- A desire for political or moral change
- Opportunistic involvement
- Family or friends involvement in extremism
- Being at a transitional time of life
- Being influenced or controlled by a group
- Relevant mental health issues
However, it’s not clear why some individuals become radicalised while others who have similar backgrounds and experiences do not, or why some who belong to non-violent extremist groups go on to support terrorist acts and others don’t.
It’s therefore also important to consider “intent to cause harm” separately. Factors can include:
- Over-identification with a group or ideology
- “Them and Us” thinking
- Dehumanisation of the enemy
- Attitudes that justify offending
- Harmful means to an end
- Harmful objectives
Finally, an individual must also be capable of causing harm and factors here can include:
- Individual knowledge, skills and competencies
- Access to networks, funding or equipment
- Criminal capability
How are individuals vulnerable to radicalisation approached?
Those vulnerable to radicalisation may be approached through a number of routes, including:
1. Family members, friends, work colleagues
Many of those radicalised are influenced by those closest to them, such as family members. However, families often say they are shocked by the secret radicalisation of a family member. Radicalisation through friendships and/or peer pressure can be a factor, or through people they meet at work or socially.
2. Members groups, political groups, religious groups and other organisations
These can range from well-known non-violent groups to banned organisations. The group itself may not be radical but may have radical members within it who carry out activities outside the group.
3. Printed literature, websites, social media
Printed material might be handed out on the streets, during a rally or at a meeting. The easy access to online material can allow individuals to be radicalised without any knowledge of those close to them. Although websites and social media groups that support extremist views are often shut down, it’s easy for them to immediately spring up again under a different name.
How are educational facilities and training providers involved?
Both educational facilities and training providers must demonstrate that they have a strategy for actively promoting fundamental British values and for identifying those who are vulnerable to radicalisation. They must also have safeguarding policies to protect those in their care.
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