Presented in the British House of Commons (last night)
- An official narrative holds that terrorism is caused by the presence of extremist ideology. Extremism is defined as opposition to British values. To prevent terrorism, according to this narrative, the government should intervene to stem the expression of extremist opinions and demand allegiance to British values.
- Over the last decade, this narrative has been repeatedly promoted by government ministers. Yet, as an account of what causes terrorism, it does not stand up to scholarly scrutiny. A growing body of academic work holds this position to be fundamentally flawed. Policy based on this narrative is at best partial and at worst counter-productive. A better account of the causes of terrorism would acknowledge that radical religious ideology does not correlate well with incidents of terrorist violence and that terrorism is best understood as the product of aninteraction between state and non-state actors.
- The factors which lead someone to commit acts of terrorism are complex and cannot be reduced to holding a set of values deemed to be radical. There is little evidence to support the view that there is a single cause to terrorism. Accepting this analysis has significant implications for the development of policies to reduce the risk of terrorism.
- Rather than a broad policy that seeks to criminalise or restrictextremist opinions, a better approach is to focus on individuals who can be reasonably suspected of intending to engage in a terrorist plot, finance terrorism or incite it. The best way of preventing terrorist violence is to widen the range of opinions that can be freely expressed, not restrict it.
- In light of this more authoritative understanding, the government should end its Prevent policy. This will help to avoid nurturing a new generation of antagonised and disenfranchised citizens. Ultimately, Prevent- style policies make Britain less safe.