The policy response to the threat of radicalisation has focused on law, security and intelligence. As the problem spirals out of control, this one-dimensional response, which includes the government’s Prevent policy in schools, seems merely to be repeated more aggressively. Applying security and surveillance policy across society not only risks limiting civil liberties, but also isolating mainstream Muslims. This does not counter the manipulative interpretation of Islam being used by extremists to play upon grievances held by some Muslims.
A sensible alternative is a long-term educational policy that would support Muslim communities to address the rise of religious extremism in their midst. Since 9/11, official counter-terrorism policy has largely been determined by right- and left-leaning thinktanks. Right wing pundits tend to explain Islamic extremism by the supposed inability of Islam to reform itself, together with Muslims’ unwillingness to integrate into wider society. Analysts on the left try to understand extremist action as a political struggle that has almost nothing to do with religion. While the former avoids sharing responsibility for addressing the root causes of the problem, the latter dismisses the possibility that a form of theology defines the central ideology of Islamic extremism.