4 FEBRUARY 2020
Nazir Afzal OBE has written in The Times about the Streatham terror attack and has emphasised that the state’s response needs to be resource heavy – including redirecting funds to innovative work such as Sajda Mughal and JAN Trust’s Web Guardians™ programme.
Read the article here or below:
The latest atrocity linked to Islamist extremism once again shines a spotlight on the inadequacy of our deradicalization and disengagement programmes, the resources required and whether we can ever reduce the risk of harm from released prisoners with terrorism related convictions.
The focus on sentencing is something of a distraction because at some point those with the least serious convictions will be released and, if they haven’t been deradicalized, we will simply have delayed the virtually inevitable atrocities they will go on to commit. This is an issue I and others have raised time and time again. A ticking timebomb in our prisons.
The view of most with inside knowledge of the prison system is that funding cuts have reduced the ability to manage this risk. Outside prison, organisations committed to preventing radicalisation like the celebrated Jan Trust headed by 7/7 survivor Sajda Mughal have seen their resources slashed. Look at what the police had to do to the Streatham terrorist. Surveillance from several officers on a continuous basis is mightily expensive, and even a small proportion redirected to deradicalization would be an impressive saving in limited resources, never-mind the saving of lives.
I have looked at what works and whilst some of it is here, most of the successes can be found in countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Denmark. In the first 3 countries, it was tackling home grown insurgency, whilst in the latter it was returning jihadis from Syria & Iraq.
First thing you notice is that special divisions were created at some cost to undertake this work. Secondly, that the community is involved including faith leaders. Thirdly, that psychologists are at its core. The extremist is seen as someone who was groomed by ideology and who sees his status as being the only thing important to him. Narcissism on an industrial scale needs treating. Fourthly, as with all criminal gangs, the social network (consisting of other extremists) is important to them, so a new one has to be created for them that is substantially less toxic.
These countries recognise that the process of radicalisation is undertaken by a virtual army of extremists on each terrorist they create. So, the State’s response has to be similarly resource-heavy. They also utilise former extremists effectively, but this country is less keen to do the same. Vetting being cited as a concern. To make a difference, you have to act differently and innovatively.
International Independent evaluations have commented on how successful these programmes have been. We cannot say the same for ours. I am ashamed to say that the events of Streatham and London Bridge will be repeated until we take a different approach, and even then it will take time.