Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, in Tower Hamlets, have proposed a new approach to prevent radicalisation. One of the surprise findings from the study was that violent radicalisation is more common in young people who are educated, isolated or marginalised.
The study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, suggests that current counter-terrorism initiatives stigmatise Muslim groups, and that they may even have increased membership to terrorist groups through alienation.
Findings showed that there is little evidence that “profiling” works, and that treating people as “under suspicion” distances radicals and pushes them towards extremist
groups.Kam Bhui, Professor of Cultural Psychiatry and Epidemiology at Queen Mary, said: “These home-grown terrorists are thankfully rare so trying to identify them individually is like looking for a needle in a haystack. And in doing so, lots of innocent people have been marginalised.”
As a result, the researchers say there should be a move away from the current method of preventing terrorism, which involves the criminal justice system, and towards a public health approach. They suggest that the key to intervention is through education in schools and universities. The research found that people are vulnerable to radicalisation during times of change, such as migration, changing schools or simply adolescence.
According to the study, the public health approach would mean looking at the population and trying to understand why people become radicalised. This information could then be used to develop prevention strategies.
Bhui said: “Using a public health approach we can work with a large group of people to make radicalisation less likely while also improving inclusion and health in general.
“This approach doesn’t condone terrorism but it does aim to understand how people become radicalised and provides new tactics for preventing terrorist attacks.”