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In Extremis: a Self-defeating Element in the ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’ Strategy

Discussions on PolicyIdeologiesRegions

The Political QuarterlyJournal abstract

The main policy reaction to the terrorist attacks of 7/7 and 21/7 of 2005 has been the development of the £6 million ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’ (PVE) initiative which aims, as part of the government's broader counter-terrorism strategy (CONTEST), to tackle support for, and the promotion of, violent Islamist ideologies within British society. One crucial component of this strategy is providing support for Muslim groups and individuals to tackle radicalisation and extremism directly at the local level. Funding and charitable status for mosques, Muslim community and youth groups and initiatives, ‘forums against extremism’, anti-extremism ‘road shows’, and the training of imams are included as part of this strategy. This article argues that this aspect of PVE is not only ill-advised, but potentially deeply counter-productive. It takes issue with two reasons that inform the PVE strategy: first, that what motivates individuals to join extremist groups are the religious ideas themselves; second, that government intervention or involvement is an effective method for rendering the moderate antidote attractive. Arguably, neither of these assumptions is warranted in the face of contrary evidence. Consequently, this arm of PVE is, at best, barking up the wrong tree; at worst, fuelling extremism.

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