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Security-centric approaches bar effective de-radicalization

States have failed to evolve comprehensive counter-radicalization and de-radicalization responses and strategies because of their largely security-centric approaches and less emphasis on dealing with extremism and radicalism in sociocultural, economic and political perspectives. This argument emerged as a consensus point among the participants of a focused group discussion on ‘assessment of de-radicalization models’, organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) on July 31, 2012 in Islamabad.

The discussion was chaired by Dr. Tahir Abbas, associate professor of sociology at Fatih University, Istanbul.  The other discussants included Dr. Khadim Hussain, head Bacha Khan Educational Trust, Ms. Shabana Fayyaz and Ms. Salma Malik from Defense and Strategic Studies Department at Quid-e-Azam University, Ms. Arshi Saleem Hashmi from the National Defense University, Adnan Rehmat, director Intermedia Pakistan, Imran Khan, head Khudi Pakistan, Rashad Bukhari, director Peace Education Institute, Hassan Khan, anchorperson of Khyber News, and political analysts Shakil Chuadhary, Aqeel Yusafzai and Moazzam Hashmi.

The participants noted that drivers of radicalization may differ in different countries but few parallels could be drawn as the phenomenon followed some common patterns.

In his keynote address, Dr. Tahir Abbas presented a summary of his research findings from his upcoming book on the subject of Islamic radicalism in the United Kingdom (UK). He noted that social exclusion, Islamophobia, lack of effective theological and political leadership, regressive anti-terror laws and geo-political events were principal factors generating radicalization in the UK. He emphasized that the ideological factors only facilitated the process, whereas common driving factors of radicalization lied in sociocultural, political and economic milieus. Radicalization, according to Dr. Abbas, was almost converse or inverse of Islamophobia and defined Islam as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change. He also noted that misrepresentation and misreporting of Muslims create the concept of Islamophobia in the west that is a major cause of radicalization and vice versa.

Commenting on the UK government’s efforts, Dr. Abbas said that community engagement programs had not proved effective and Muslim communities were encouraged to develop alternative media and social organizations instead of facilitating them to be part of mainstream system in the UK. Responding to a question about the kind of de-radicalization strategies the British government or civil society had adopted, he elaborated what are known as four P’s of the Contest Strategy initiated by the UK government: Pursue is to stop terrorist attacks; Prevent is to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting violent Extremism; Protect is to strengthen our protection against terrorist attack; and Prepare is to mitigate impact of a terrorist attack where it cannot be stopped. The strategy has three main objectives, which are to:

  1. Respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat from those who promote it;
  2. Prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure that they are given appropriate advice and support; and
  3. Work with sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalization that we need to address.