A Study exploring Questions relating to Partnership between Police and Muslim Communities in the Prevention of Violent Extremism amongst Muslim Youth.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Institute of Applied Social Sciences


In the UK, in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings, alongside a series of attempted terror plots, the prevention of violent extremism has become a significant issue for policy makers, with Muslim youth being identified as being particularly 'at risk' from engaging in violent extremism. Within this heightened security context, the police are being viewed by government as taking the lead in strategies that are being developed to prevent violent extremism, alongside local authorities, working in partnership with other agencies, and importantly, working with Muslim communities, since 'communities defeating terrorism' has become an accepted counter-terrorism maxim. Although counter-terrorism policies and practices have been dominated by 'hard-sided' strategies involving surveillance, intelligence gathering, the use of informants and the implementation of a number of anti-terror laws, under the Pursue strand of the government's CONTEST strategy (HM Government, 2006), post 7/7, the Prevent strand within the CONTEST strategy is being given much greater prominence, whereby policing is being viewed as playing a significant role in developing and implementing initiatives that involve community engagement. Importantly, the bombings on July 7th 2005 have helped to blur distinctions between the roles of the police and the security services, with community-based approaches to counter-terrorism policing emerging.

The role of policing in the prevention of violent extremism raises many questions, and the study being proposed here builds on a previous AHRC-funded study that focussed upon partnership work between Muslim communities and the police (Spalek & El-Awa, 2008, AH/F008112/1). For example, the AHRC study that was conducted included a focus upon police-community partnerships involving mosques for the purposes of counter-terrorism, whereby mosque leaders were interviewed about how they have worked with police to try to prevent young people from becoming violent extremists. This issue merits further examination, however, as it may be the case that young people are not generally actively involved in mosques and do not see existing religious leaders as exercising authority. Therefore, it is important to build on and question the study's findings in order to examine more fully whether existing religious leaders exercise authority within Muslim communities and specifically with Muslim youth in London and Birmingham, and whether and how mosques are partnering police for the purposes of preventing violent extremism. The previous AHRC study undertaken by Spalek & El-Awa (2008) also raised wider questions on issues of trust-building in partnership work, the role of police officers and community members in negotiating conflicting values and commonalities on which to build trust and focus on shared goals relating to preventing violence, and, especially interesting to the case of de-radicalisation, the impact of emotions, positive and negative, on those engaged with these issues. In relation to young Muslims, these questions are particularly pertinent: how can police officers and young people overcome the tensions traditionally associated with their relationship and start to build trust ? On what grounds is this negotiated ? How are emotions handled by officers and young people - is there a way to harness anger and frustration in positive ways ? And critically, is there evidence of success, not only in trust building, but in actually preventing violence, actual or ideological ?

This study will focus on partnership work between police and Muslim communities that focusses upon young male and female Muslims aged 16-25, this being the age range identified by security experts as key to violent extremism.


10 25 50
Description Counter-terrorism policing in the UK is undergoing a steep learning curve due to the introduction of overt community policing models.
? Accountability towards communities is increasingly a feature or indeed a challenge for policing: community focused, problem-oriented policing requires police to be responsive to citizens" demands, and as such, counter-terrorism police officers working with and within communities must also be accountable to them.
? Accountability is not only about being accessible and visible to communities, it is also about police officers being open about the fact they are counter-terrorism officers.
? A key aspect of this accountability is information-sharing, and currently police officers are grappling with what information to release to communities regarding terrorism and counter-terrorism related issues, how to go about sharing this and to whom this should be made available. They are attempting to change the secretive culture of traditional counter-terrorism policing to see how this can be made more visible and open.
? Overt counter-terrorism policing models can be used to gain valuable information from communities that may have, traditionally, been obtained through covert policing strategies. This highlights the real value of an open approach by police and highlights the importance of considering the balance and links between overt and covert approaches.
Exploitation Route Future research could address some of the following key questions:
? Are there different types of trust between police and community members in relation to counter-terrorism and what might this mean for any model of police-community engagement ?
? Are overt counter-terrorism policing initiatives influencing covert counter-terrorism policing, and if so, how and in what ways ?
? To what extent are counter-terrorism operations coming from information provided by communities themselves rather than from covert, intelligence-led, approaches ?
? To what extent does a programme of initiatives involving police and communities within an area constitute a community-focussed approach ?
? To what extent does a programme of initiatives involving police and communities within an area constitute a community-targeted approach ?
? How and in what ways are prevention initiatives involving Muslim youth influencing wider community dynamics, in particular, the resilience of communities to withstand violent extremism?
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

Description This research has been used by policing units who are interested in understanding how to build trust and partnerships with communities for the purposes of counter-terrorism.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Policy & public services