The vast majority of deradicalization programs in the UK are at best ineffective and at worst counter-productive, according to a recent study by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT, also known as the “nudge unit“), a social purpose company partially owned by the UK government, but that works in partnership with the Cabinet Office.
As the Times reported recently, BIT examined 33 deradicalization programs across Britain, in schools, youth centers, sports clubs and English-language classes. Most of these are part of Prevent — a strategy presented in 2011 to the UK Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department — designed to keep vulnerable citizens from becoming terrorists or supporting any form of violent extremism inspired by radical Islamist or right-wing ideologies. BIT found that only two of the programs have been successful.
The main reason for the failure of the other 31 programs, according to the Times‘ report on the study, is:
“…that facilitators were uncomfortable dealing with sensitive topics and would often refuse to engage if they were brought up. BIT found that teachers in particular were afraid to bring up matters of race and religion with their students without appearing discriminatory, often causing them to refuse to talk about these topics entirely.”
The two effective initiatives, according to the Times, were “one defying political correctness and tackling difficult issues head-on and the other directly addressing extremism in religious [Islamic] texts.”
In Britain, the majority (82%) of the 228 people in custody for terrorism-related offenses espouse Islamist extremism. In August 2017, the EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, said that the UK has more radicalized Muslims than any other European country. He added that Britain “has identified 20,000 to 35,000 radicals. Of these, 3,000 are worrying for MI5, and of those 500 are under constant and special attention.”