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3. VIOLENT EXTREMISM AMONG MUSLIMS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM Thalia Tzanetti

INTRODUCTION

BACKGROUND

The London bombings in 2005 raised challenging and urgent questions as to how to address the increasing radicalization and extremism of young British Muslims and the potential security threat this radicalization poses. A lot of effort has been put into better comprehending the complexities behind an individual's choice to commit violence in the name of Islam. Motivations, triggers, justifications, and underlying factors have been at the center of research and analysis, which have provided a better and more nuanced understanding of the phenomenon of violent extremism in the United Kingdom. But, in turn, new and more complex questions have been raised.

The first sizeable Muslim populations arrived in the United Kingdom after World War II. Post-war reconstruction needs in Britain meant there was high demand for unskilled and low-skilled labor. Soon after, the first restrictions on immigration were introduced after the economic recession of the 1950s. One of these restrictions, the Commonwealth Immigration Act of 1962, ended up having the opposite of its intended effect of curbing immigration. During the years before the Act, as restrictions were considered imminent, there was an increase in economic migration. Immigrants already in Britain were also reluctant to visit their home countries since there was no guarantee they would be able to return. As those who had arrived earlier were predominantly men who had left their families behind, a second immigration wave followed shortly afterwards, triggered by family reunification programs that were widely used in the 1960s. As a result of this second wave, immigrant communities no longer consisted primarily of men but of families. This contributed to these communities becoming permanent as whole families now resided together. Later, in the 1990s, the most recent influx of Muslims took place. This time however, the motive was not economic migration; most of the new arrivals were refugees and asylum seekers fleeing conflict and oppressive regimes in their home countries.

This chapter will explore the reasons behind the appeal of the extremist message, the indoctrination and recruitment mechanisms, the level of logistical support from the extremist movement to violent actors, tipping points to violence, the use of religious language to justify violent acts, as well as lessons learned. The analysis that follows has been informed by the existing literature, a number of interviews conducted especially for this project, as well as the author’s previous interviews and research. Before proceeding, it is important to clarify the specific target population on which this chapter focuses. We are interested in examining not extremism among Muslims in general, but violent extremism in particular. Although only a minority of extremists is likely to commit violent acts, the focus is exactly on them and what makes violence possible. Also, we are deliberately concentrating on the 'foot-soldiers' and not the leading figures of radical Islam. The motivations and triggers for violent action are not the same for the two groups and leading figures are not very likely to commit violent acts (at least not anymore). Despite their involvement in facilitating, inciting, or glorifying violence, it is the 'foot-soldiers' who are more likely to resort to violence and thus they will be our focus here. The chapter outlines the historical background of Muslim communities in the United Kingdom, as well as the current socio-economic and political context in which they exist. It then explores the rise of Islamic revivalism among young Muslims and analyzes the radicalization process and the choice to commit violent acts. Finally, the policy implications are synthesized from the research findings.

Since the settlement of the first Muslim communities in the United Kingdom, relations with non-Muslim communities have witnessed numerous crises and tensions. Some of the most prominent examples of tension included the demands for better schooling, housing, and job opportunities in the 1980s, and the 2001 race riots in Oldham, Leeds, and Bradford that followed inflammatory moves from the British National Party (BNP).1 Another event that became a milestone for intercommunity relations was the “Rushdie Affair.� The publication of book The Satanic Verses, which included implied insults to the Prophet Mohammad, resulted in angered demonstrations by Muslims, demands for the withdrawal of the book from circulation, and a book-burning ceremony.2 Most recently, foreign policy has been at center stage, with many Muslims (and non-Muslims) loudly voicing their disapproval of their government's policies. As

1 2

Malik, Islam and Modernity, 82. Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies.

http://www.ewi.info/system/files/reports/Countering%20Violent%20Extremism-%20Lessons%20from%20the%20  
http://www.ewi.info/system/files/reports/Countering%20Violent%20Extremism-%20Lessons%20from%20the%20  

http://www.ewi.info/system/files/reports/Countering%20Violent%20Extremism-%20Lessons%20from%20the%20Abrahamic%20Faiths.pdf