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Tackling extremism needs a multi-faceted approach, says Sajda

14 AUGUST 2019

Sajda Mughal highlights that a lack of social mobility and inclusion cannot be considered the main cause of the development of home grown terrorists. Instead Sajda states that ‘a lack of social mobility and inclusion cannot be considered a driving force for homegrown terrorists being recruited in the UK. She highlights that home-grown terrorism is ‘complex and not uniform across cases’.


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An independent senior government advisor has urged “a whole society response” on radicalisation, as the UK’s counter-terrorism chief claimed last week that homegrown terrorists were being recruited due to a lack of social mobility.


Sara Khan, the lead commissioner for countering extremism, said she believes all of society has a role to play in combating radicalisation.


“It’s not just a job for the police, or indeed public bodies and education,” she told Eastern Eye on Monday (12). “There’s a role for us all. Our first-of-its kind call for evidence shows the public want to see faith leaders and social media companies do more.”


Khan added: “If we’re going to unite the country, we need a whole society response in which everyone – government, local bodies and communities themselves – play their part.”


Her comments come after Neil Basu, the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, claimed homegrown terrorists are being recruited as a result of a lack of social mobility and inclusion.


Basu, who is Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, added policing and state security were not enough to tackle the problem and the UK must improve community cohesion. He has also called on sociologists and criminologists to take a principal role in helping police challenge the issue.


However, contrary to Khan’s comments, some academics and campaigners have disagreed with Basu’s remarks on social mobility being a core cause of radicalisation.


Sajda Mughal OBE is the chief executive of JAN Trust, a charity which aims to prevent extremism and hate crime. Mughal, who is a survivor of the 7/7 London terror attacks, said a lack of social mobility and inclusion cannot be considered a driving force for homegrown terrorists being recruited in the UK.


“It is understandable why Mr Basu made this comment, as being marginalised in society and withdrawing from your community could likely feed into the wider radicalisation process (but) this does not mean every homegrown terrorist case boils down to a lack of social mobility and inclusion,” she told Eastern Eye.


“Ultimately, the development of homegrown terrorism is complex and not uniform across cases.”


Professor Aisha K. Gill CBE, who is the professor of criminology at the University of Roehampton, highlighted a number of reports on terrorism which dismissed the notion that social mobility was the primary motivational forces behind extremism.


Several studies of terrorism emphasise that terrorists are neither alienated nor disengaged individuals, she explained, so the root causes of extremism require further investigation.


“It is crucial to map the root causes underlying the rise of extremism because terrorism does not emerge in a political, socioeconomic, or religious vacuum,” Gill told Eastern Eye.


Fellow academic Dr Noémie Bouhana, from University College London (UCL), has recently had a paper on radicalisation commissioned by the commission for countering extremism. In it, the author questions the contributing factors behind extremism.


On Basu’s comments, Bouhana said there are many things which researchers and policymakers think contributes to terrorism and radicalisation, but those things are factors or characteristics of processes which impact a large proportion of individuals.


“Millions of people are faced with poor social mobility and lack of inclusion, and yet when it comes to radicalisation and extremism, we are talking about a handful of people,” she told Eastern Eye.


“I don’t think you can say people are being recruited solely or even mostly as a result of lack of social mobility and inclusion, because if that were the case, we would have a much bigger problem.” She added: “That’s not to say (social factors) can play no part, but it’s just that – a part. The pertinent question is: which part?”