Counter-Productive Counter-Terrorism. How is the dysfunctional discourse of Prevent failing to restrain radicalisation?

Lauren Powell

Abstract


This paper explores why the Prevent strand of the UK Government’s counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST, is failing to achieve success in reducing radicalisation of young Muslims. By refusing to engage with extremists, and denying ‘extreme’ ideas a platform for expression, this paper will explain how the importance of cultural-linguistic epistemologies, and their role in extremism, has been overlooked. Rather than striving to understand how socio-political factors influence one’s reading of religious doctrines or interpretation of ideology, Prevent understands ideology to be the core radicalising agent, used by influential figures who can exploit the grievances of the vulnerable. The problematic repercussions of this will be addressed throughout, highlighting the various, and extensive, criticisms that Prevent has faced from academics, practitioners and commentators – primarily that it is counter-productive. The importance of the post-9/11 neoconservative paradigm in underpinning Prevent will be explained, but a Neo-Weberian approach, as a better lens through which to understand radicalisation, will be proposed, to ultimately trump the simplistic, yet currently dominant, ‘Conveyor Belt’ theory. Based on this, recommendations are made for an improved Prevent, rooted in the notion that radicalisation, extremism, or terrorism cannot be prevented, without knowing the motives, the views, and the assumptions of the radicals, the extremists, and those vulnerable to engaging with them.  


Keywords


Prevent; Deradicalisation; Extremism; Counter-Terrorism; Neo-Weberian Approach

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References


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