“You will not change a person’s deeply entrenched radicalised mindset with only a couple of hours of deradicalisation support a week“
Our CEO Sajda Mughal OBE has written an opinion piece in inews about the attack on London Bridge that occurred on Friday the 29th of November 2019.
She says that tackling and challenging the ideology of terrorists can only be addressed through effective deradicalisation via preventative and rehabilitation programmes.
She believes that a significant change with the government’s outlook on counter-terror is required or there will be more loss of innocent lives. She also says that prioritising and funding preventative and rehabilitation work has to be funded properly.
Read more here or below:
On 7 July 2005 my life irreversibly changed forever. If I had managed to get my usual seat in my usual Piccadilly line carriage that day, I would not be here today. I would have been one of the dozens of people who lost their lives when Germaine Lindsay detonated his bomb. The moments that followed were utter chaos: thick black smoke filled the carriage, the lights went out, people were injured and screaming. I thought I was going to die.
It was not until after I had walked home, unable to contact my family and in shock, that I discovered I had in fact been in a bombing – and one carried out in the name of my religion. To me this was incomprehensible. This was not Islam.
As with every terror attack that has taken place since, the horrendous events on Friday at London Bridge took me back to what happened that day in 2005. Yet, as a result of working in counter-terror for over a decade, I was sadly not surprised by what happened.
After months of counselling following the tube bombing, I channelled my energy into preventing extremism and online radicalisation. I joined the charity JAN Trust and began researching and speaking to hundreds of Muslim women. What emerged was the very real need for a bottom-up grassroots community solution to the ideology that had made 7/7 and the attacks since possible.
I developed a programme that works at the heart of communities, supporting those closest to people vulnerable to radicalisation to develop the skills and knowledge to spot the signs that their loved one might be at risk and challenge the ideology and mind-set that fuels terrorism. My team and I work face to face with women, mothers and young people. Initiatives such as this provide us with durable and preventative solutions to an ongoing problem.
The London Bridge attack that took place last Friday, that resulted in the loss of two innocent lives, has raised numerous questions and brought with it calls for harsher sentencing and curbing the movement of convicted terrorists as means to tackle and prevent further attacks. Usman Khan, the man who carried out Friday’s attack, was a convicted extremist who was electronically tagged and had taken part in two rehabiliation programmes.
However, in short, longer sentences and restricting movement simply will not work. These so-called ‘solutions’ neglect the true issue at hand, the very act of spending time in prison or being prevented from going to cities, does nothing to challenge the mind-set that makes these attacks possible.
The drivers that cause an individual to be radicalised are incredibly complex, and there is no single reason – radicalisation arises out of a myriad of factors which are often inextricably linked. Such drivers can include a lack of socioeconomic opportunity, social marginalisation or isolation, foreign policy or racism. Many individuals are seeking, in an incredibly unconventional manner, a collective identity or belonging. This is then often exploited by extremist individuals/groups to recruit.
Tackling and challenging the ideology and mind-set that result from being radicalised can only be addressed through effective deradicalisation via preventative and rehabilitation programmes. You will not change a person’s deeply entrenched radicalised mindset with only a couple of hours of deradicalisation support a week. For it to be effective, individuals need intensive ongoing support – in and out of prison – and that requires greater funding and dedication from government. The current programmes are clearly not adequate.
Longer prison sentences – without this substantial rehabilitation support – could be counter-productive. There is little to suggest that a convicted terrorist would not be radicalising others in prison as was seen in the case of Mohibur Rahman, an associate of Khan, in 2012 who plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange. This puts other prisoners at risk and society when they are released.
We must focus efforts on preventative work, just as former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal has highlighted, we must continue to focus our efforts and funding into programmes that work on debunking extremist mind-sets.
As Friday’s attack demonstrated, there have been serious failures in this regard: that many who work in counter terror have been highlighting for years. Just as with the Prevent programme, the Desist and Disengage programme (which Usman Khan was part of) seems to be shrouded by secrecy and it looks as if no one is being held accountable for the London Bridge failures as well previous failures.
The inner mechanism of the UK’s approach to counter-terror needs to be seriously shaken up – this requires a significant shift in the way things are currently being done. As someone who worked with Prevent for a decade, and attempted to challenge the inadequacies and failures from within (which may I add was not liked!), I know that without a significant change in our government’s outlook on counter-terror there will be more loss of innocent lives. Prioritising and funding preventative and rehabilitation work has to be funded properly.
I ask you, how many terror attacks have we suffered since 7/7? Too many to name. Things need to change. I’m tired of listening to ‘lessons learnt’ and nothing changing – people’s lives are at risk.