Islamic State: Is Britain’s “Antiradicalization” Campaign A Bigger Threat? Will it even be effective?
Britain believes more than 700 of its citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq in order to join forces with jihadist groups like the Islamic State. Responding to the growing number of youths being drawn to the violence of terrorists, the British government has developed a new “counterextremism strategy.” Because the strategy involves preventing “radical material” from being posted online and creating a government panel to examine the application of Shariah to British Law, among other provisions, the impact on civil liberties must be examined and less damaging solutions developed, especially as other countries start to follow Britain’s lead.
Although it is alarming to hear a rising number of Britons are attracted to extremist movements, 700 is a partly sum when it comes to a nation of 64 million. England and Wales have around 40 thousand registered sex offenders and around 16 thousand violent offenders being monitored by probation services with that number on the rise, which makes these threatening individuals far more problematic than terrorist suspects. Like jihadists, however, the behavior of sex offenders and violent criminals is driven by socially destructive impulses, thoughts, and feelings. Just as sex offenders and violent criminals require behavioral retraining and healthy social pressure to avoid making harmful decisions, would-be recruits of extremists need the same.
This does not necessarily mean targeting the religious dogma and expression of individuals. Quite frankly, government censorship of what it deems to be “radical material,” undermines free speech and religious freedom. In Russia’s defense of the Assad regime, the Putin government declared all of the insurgents in Syria to be extremists and fair targets while Russia does not condemn Hezbollah’s involvement and supports the insurgents in the Ukraine Crisis. Clearly, the seemingly arbitrary declaration of who is an extremist, in this example, originates from Putin’s political agenda, yet it is a common problem when governments are allowed to curtail what people express. Instead of eliminating a threat to British and global security, Cameron’s strategy empowers Britain to threaten the most basic civil liberties of the Western world.
Meanwhile, any effort to convolute religious doctrines like Shariah to rationalize British Law in the eyes of Muslims undermines the very reason political figures are banned from using government influence to impose their religious and moral preferences on others. Just as the politicization of the Catholic Church pushed the religious organization to cover up child sexual abuse instead of pursuing the moral course, political authority over religious doctrine will merge political thinking and religious faith. In turn, this will empower those seeking to suppress disagreeable religious beliefs and those who would use religion to gain political leverage. Rephrased, it would enable the power hungry to legitimize, consolidate, and solidify power.
Furthermore, the primary problem with the David Cameron approach to “anti-radicalization” is that it targets ideology. Threats like the Islamic State stem from a convoluted ideology-based governing philosophy. By targeting ideology, Britain is simply doing the inverse of what the Islamic State is doing. Fire does not extinguish fire. Making efforts to effectively ban an ideology, whether traditional or radical, opens the doors to oppression, which invites backlash. The truth is that those being recruited by the Islamic State are attracted to these groups, because they are taboo. Rebellious youth and repressed adults tend to want what they are told they cannot have. By banning jihadist propaganda, government turns extremists into victims of government oppression and martyrs them, which resonates among those who feel alienated and repressed.
Consequently, honesty is the best policy. The brutality of the Islamic State is on display for the world to see and the Islamic State romanticizes its brutality, so it is not enough to scare people away from jihadist movements. For romantics and the deranged, it is what attracts them. For outcastes and those feeling repressed, government efforts to thoroughly demonize groups like the Islamic States inspires curiosity. When individuals eventually discover positive qualities of these groups, justifications for their wrongs, and/or the hypocrisy of governments, they start to see the extremist life as an opportunity to have purpose and belong. Dishonest and polarizing policies of many governments have done much to discredit and vilify them in the eyes of individuals while communities where exclusion and alienation rein push people to find communities where they are accepted. Only by addressing these issues can governments fight recruitments efforts by extremists.
Read old posts