Backlight: Radical in Birmingham

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Nirit Peled
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In Birmingham, the second largest city in England, one in five residents is Muslim. Stigmatization and exclusion ensure that young Muslims are sympatric to messages from jihad recruiters. A remarkably high number of convicted Islamists have a connection with Birmingham, also known in British media as the ‘Jihadi Capital.’

In an effort to prevent radicalization the British government started the anti-radicalization program ‘Prevent’ in 2003. The goal of the program is to detect early warning signs of radicalization by garnering information from the Muslim community. Teachers, social workers, spiritual leaders and parents were called upon to recognize the first signs of radicalization and to report this. Since 2015 there is a legal obligation in place for teachers for example to report any suspicious behavior of young people. The result is that the community is under threat of becoming an extension of the authorities.

Doesn’t this policy which in fact is targeted at the prevention of radicalization, bring about the complete opposite? And in doing so is it actually undermining the trust and social cohesion instead of it being strengthened?
In the largely Islamic neighborhood of Sparkhill, in Birmingham, we speak to ex-jihadists, youth workers and mothers about the powers of attraction of the jihad and importance of trust and resistance.