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Empowering Salafis and Islamists Against Al-Qaeda: A London Counterterrorism Case Study

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This article discusses a combined police and Muslim community response to terrorism in London.  It highlights how this local initiative has used two kinds of negotiation strategies: police negotiation leading to partnership with Muslim groups conventionally deemed to be subversive to democracy; and negotiation by those groups with Muslim youth drawn to al- Qaeda terrorism that is aimed at challenging the al-Qaeda narratives that promote 9/11 and 7/7. However, the author argues that the small scale of the local initiative and its inability to distance itself from the adverse impact of the wider war on terror on the Muslim communities, whose support it solicits, means its success can only be measured in marginal, individual cases that have no impact on wider, perceptible trends. Moreover, like proactive outreach youth work in other fields ~drugs, street crime, sex education, etc. the initiative is bound to encounter failure as often as success. Consequently, for example, whatever the value of persuading nine young Muslims to abandon the al-Qaeda worldview, the implications of failing to prevent one other from becoming a potential suicide bomber are such as to make risk-averse counterterrorism civil servants nervous. Nonetheless, the street level police officers and Muslim community groups who have pioneered this approach on their own initiative insist that it could become a cost effective and complementary counterterrorism tool if it were modestly resourced and integrated into a cohesive national strategy.

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