The sophisticated terror attacks that followed 9/11, the Madrid train station bombing in 2004, the murder of Dutch filmmaker Teo Van Gogh in Amsterdam, and the 7/7 attacks on the London transport system in 2005 have demonstrated the urgency of changing perceptions and policies on the new agenda in terrorism and counter-terrorism studies. Following these dramatic events, the literature of terrorism and counter-terrorism boomed and expanded. However, most of the new publications have analyzed the phenomenon of ‘home-grown radicalization,’ which leads to terrorism. Home-grown radicalization refers to the self-starting cell(s) and individual(s) mobilized against their host countries with little or no material support from foreign sources. The onslaught of home-grown radicalization has forged a whole new field of empirical study on radicalization, counter-radicalization, deradicalization, and how to counter violent extremism.
Although these new studies have triggered new, multi-disciplinary academic approaches, many states have remained reluctant to change their narrow and traditional counter-terrorism perspective, which served the purpose of fighting against Marxist/Leninist radical left terrorist organizations from the 1970s to the end of the 1980s. In those days, this ideology’s terrorist organizations had a hierarchical structure; in order to provide control over the members, they did not recruit large numbers, and consequently most of them consisted of approximately 40-50 members, leader cadre included. Given that, most European countries used police-led counter-terrorism initiatives which sought to penetrate into the terrorist organizations to kill the leader cadre and to learn of the group’s future terror plans. After the detention or elimination of the leader cadre, these terrorist organizations fell apart easily.
The new radicalization phenomenon, namely home-grown terrorism, is not easily defused by the police-led counter-terrorism approach. Contemporary terrorist organizations have reached large masses, thanks to new information technologies. Hence hybrid counter-terrorism strategies, including police/intelligence-led and society based initiatives are beginning to be applied in the contemporary times against current terrorist organizations. Some European states, including Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands and France, as well as the United States, have adopted a new counter-terrorism policy, characterized by ‘prevention strategies,’ which have affected nearly all Western counter-terrorism and counter-radicalization policies. According to these countries’ anti-terror and intelligence departments, knowledge of the ‘indicators’ of individual or group-based radicalization would allow for the construction of an early warning system to detect potential terrorist attacks.
As the new agenda became pervasive in Europe, along with police/intelligence-led and society-based counter-terrorism initiatives, most Muslims living in Western countries began to be seen as a potential threat to security. Authorities came to believe that they could monitor and profile Muslim citizens before they become radicalized, and then intervene to prevent their drift to extremism (p. 17). With the rise of the prevention strategy, Muslims became an open target group from the perspective of Western counter-terrorism departments. More than 250 mosques in New York and New Jersey and hundreds more ‘hot spots’ such as restaurants, cafes, bookshops, community organizations and student associations, were listed as potential security risks, for reasons that included endorsing conservative religious views or having devout customers (p. 29).
In Counter-Radicalisation: Critical Perspectives, Christopher Baker-Beall, Charlotte Heath-Kelly, and Lee Jarvis take a critical position by attempting to address certain ambiguities surrounding the definition of, and fight against, home-grown terrorism. The book was forged against three backdrops. The first of these was a conference held at King’s College, London in September 2012 by the BISA (British International Association) Critical Terrorism Studies Working Group. The conference, ‘Prevent and Counter-Radicalisation in 2012: Challenges and Ways Forward,’ brought together academics from a range of universities within Europe and beyond, as well as individuals within the worlds of policy and think tanks (p. 2). Many of the papers initially presented at the conference have been turned into chapters for Routledge’s Critical Terrorism Studies volume, which reflects the event’s focus on the critical interrogation of counter-radicalization programs such as the UK’s Prevent strategy (p. 2). This book critiques the Prevent strategy in four ways. Firstly, by excavating the impact of counter-radicalization programs on Muslim’s political process in the Western World. Second, by tracing the impact of such programs, such as ‘potential terrorist’ profiling, on individual citizens or subjects. Third, by exploring the consequences of counter-radicalization of communities that might disproportionally experience profiling. Most targeted profiles indicate that Middle Eastern and South Asian origins, but not all perpetrators came from these identities. This situation is also breeding the discourse of Islamophobia for the far right groups in the Western countries. The last and fourth approach involves tracing the interaction between knowledge claims and power effects in the context of radicalization, an approach mirroring the methodological structure of the book.
The book consists of thirteen chapters, most of which are written by authors from different academic backgrounds who have critically analyzed the UK Prevent Strategy. Only three chapters focus on Australia, Germany and Denmark’s counter-radicalization strategy. This situation reflects the weak side of the book. The book was published in 2015; in that period most countries, including the Netherlands, Poland, Finland, and Sweden, had also applied the Prevent Strategy for decoding home-grown terrorism. These countries’ cases should have been analyzed, since the editors could have easily reached these countries counter-terrorism experts. Had these countries been included, the book would have decoded the negative and undemocratic side of Western-centric counter-terrorism policies. The strong side of the book is its bringing together of Critical Terrorism Studies and Radicalization studies. When we look at the literature, state-centric publishing plays the dominant role. In Counter-Radicalisation, authors preferred a human-centric analysis.
According to the editors, we are living in a ‘radicalization era.’ Today, not only are Muslims radicalizing, but Christian and Arian extremism is expanding to new areas. The latest elections show that radical right parties have increased their voting rates with the support of far right extremism. Hence, political extremism is not exclusively Islamic. While in the wake of 9/11 and 7/7 the threat may have come to be associated with Islamic-inspired factions, this ideology is clearly not the only motivation of extremist behavior. This was demonstrated in all-too-vivid detail on July 22, 2011, when right wing extremist Anders Breivik killed 77 people –mainly teenagers– in strikes on Oslo and Utoya (p. 110). The authors stress that the Prevent Strategy actually says very little about far right extremism and radicalization, and also that while Prevent discuses Islamic issues in significant detail, the far right is barely mentioned. This bias highlights the hypocrisy of both the police/intelligence-led, and society based prevention strategies. The European intelligence and security services should seek to defuse this tit-for-tat far right radicalization process. This situation is inducing new tensions between Muslim minority groups and far right organizations. While the ISIL is resorting to anti-Western discourse, far right extremist groups promote anti-Islamic perceptions and images for seeking to penetrate societies in the Europe. These two reciprocal radicalization process are forging endemic radical milieu in the ghetto areas of the cities. If Western security and intelligence services do not focus on tit-for-tat process, the Prevent Strategy approach will not work in the long term.