Terrorism and Violent Extremism

As violent extremism and terrorism continue to be of huge concern in the modern world, they are a major focus of research for members within the Secure Societies Institute. SSI members, led by Dr Jason Roach and/or Professor Paul Thomas, are currently involved with projects focusing specifically on different 'extremist ideologies' (e.g. Far-Right and Islamic extremism), 'radicalisation’ (e.g. identifying the 'push' and 'pull' factors involved) and the prevention of acts of terrorism in the UK (e.g. situational crime prevention). This work is conducted in partnership with a host of different agencies, groups and individuals including: the North East Counter Terrorism Unit; the Centre for Research in Security and Terrorism; West Yorkshire Police, and a plethora of different Councils and Community Groups.

Community Reporting Thresholds: Sharing information with authorities concerning violent extremist activity and involvement in foreign conflict: A UK Replication Study

Graphic showing the logo of Community Reporting Thresholds (CREST)

The first people to suspect that someone is involved in acts of violent extremism will often be those closest to them; their friends, family and community insiders.  The willingness of them to step forward and report them to the authorities is seen as a critical step towards the prevention of violent extremism. 

A total of £124,950 has been awarded to a team from the SSI at the University of Huddersfield from the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST), to look into people’s views, experiences and concerns, if faced with the dilemma of whether to report to the authorities that someone close to them has become involved in violent extremist activity. ‌

 

Paul Thomas

Professor Michele Grossman

Professor Paul Thomas  from the University’s School of Education and Professional Development is working in collaboration with Professor Michele Grossman from Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.‌ Also working on the project are Dr Shamim Miah and Kris Christmann. Together they are developing the first truly internationally comparable data on the subject and conduct original research for understanding, mitigating and countering threats to national and international security. 

‌‌‌“Our UK study will replicate the Australian study but with a significantly increased sample size,” said Professor Thomas.  “It will also extend to include a sub-sample of White British community respondents from marginalised communities and will intentionally over-sample young people, in recognition of recent American evidence which has stated that they are ‘associate gatekeepers’ for young friends at risk of radicalisation,” he added. 

 

The Role of Religious Narratives in Use in the Radicalisation of British Muslims

Zaf Shah is a PhD Researcher in the SSI, working closely together with the North East Counter Terrorism Unit. His research interest is primarily rooted in religious and political narratives. Anti-Terror legislation also features in the research. The Government’s Counter Terrorism Strategy (Prevent) has created untestable suspicions for British Muslims. The research looks specifically at both political and religious narratives told by scholars and political ‘leaders’. Consequently, the British government have recognised that in order to fight terrorism and prevent it from taking permanent hold of impressionable Muslims, they need to try to find a counter argument to the extremist narrative. Preliminary analysis of sermons and speeches delivered by scholars and state actors, use discursive techniques and a particular linguistic style, reveal that the speaker is able to manipulate the truth. The effect of which is to mobilise adherents. In all the speeches analysed thus far, it was evident from the discourse, vocabulary, phrases and reference to a “divine” obligation that it is incumbent upon the actor to participate in “Jihad” wherever they may be. This is by no means an assumption of the psychological impact of the narratives on the person who watches and thus participates in them. No evidence-base such as this currently exists, and this research will help to mitigate the risks of radicalisation and its impact on Muslim communities.

 

Email: zaf.shah@hud.ac.uk

Twitter: @therealzafshah

As violent extremism and terrorism continue to be a major concern and challenge for policy and practice in the modern world, they are a major focus of research for the Secure Societies Institute. SSI members, Professor Paul Thomas, are currently involved with projects focusing specifically on community reporting of terrorist involvement, different 'extremist ideologies' (e.g. Far-Right and Islamic extremism), 'radicalisation’ (e.g. identifying the 'push' and 'pull' factors involved) and the prevention of acts of terrorism in the UK (e.g. situational crime prevention). This work is conducted in partnership with a range of key stakeholders including: the North East Counter Terrorism Unit; the Centre for Research in Security and Terrorism; West Yorkshire Police, local authorities and civil society groups.

Community Reporting

Paul Thomas

Professor Michele Grossman

Professor Paul Thomas  from the University’s School of Education and Professional Development is working in collaboration with Professor Michele Grossman from Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.‌ Also working on the project are Dr Shamim Miah and Kris Christmann. Together they have developing the first truly internationally comparable data on the subject through the recently-completed UK study, which further and replicated the original Australian study. The tam is now hoping to develop a further replication study in Canada with support from Public Safety Canada.

‌‌‌The UK study used in-depth interviews with community members and with front-line professional practitioners to investigate barriers for community members sharing concerns about the involvement of an ‘intimate’ in violent extremism.

A key finding is that community members are primarily motivated by care and concern for their intimate when considering reporting.

The gravity of reporting to the police means that most community respondents would only report after a staged process. First, they attempt to dissuade the intimate, and also take counsel and guidance from family members, friends and trusted ‘community leaders’. Some younger respondents would also share concerns with lecturers or teachers, but most were dubious about confiding in a GP or health worker.

Community respondents want to report to local police, not counter-terrorism specialists. They also want to do so by face to face means, so that they could assess how seriously their report was being taken and enable discussion.

Telephone hotlines, especially the national Anti-Terrorism Hotline, were not seen as appropriate for a non-emergency concern, whilst social media was not trusted on security grounds.

Community reporters also want support and updates after reporting. Some respondents are unsure how to report, a perspective echoed by professional practitioners, who see national reporting mechanisms as confused and made more difficult by the controversial public image of Prevent.

 Graphic showing the logo of Community Reporting Thresholds (CREST)

Rethinking community reporting

The full UK research report is available for free from the CREST website at www.crestresearch.ac.uk/resources/ and it includes strategic considerations for future policy and practice.