Tuesday, 3 June 2008

'Deradicalisation' Labour style

. There is something bitterly ironic about Jacqui Smith launching a nationwide 'deradicalisation' program at the behest of this Labour government, perhaps the irony stems from Labour' s loss of any kind of radical drive itself. Substantively it seeks to target 'vulnerable individuals' and provide them with mentoring and also the creation of "safe spaces for debate about grievances" where young people can debate "extremism issues".

One wonders if the government would willingly concede that it's own foreign policy is an 'extremism issue'. It is hard to see how offering people places to let off steam will change much unless they are given clear means and motivation to use alternative, non-terroristic, means to change them. This is part of the problem with the government's mindset, it sees what are legitimate grievances as 'extremist issues'.

Similarly, giving support to 'moderate voices' will have little impact without responding to these grievances. All the proposals around 'vulnerable individuals' assume that people who are radicalised are so not for political reasons but because of some individual character flaw, like low self-esteem or some other 'fixable' problem. Thus Ms Smith is quoted on the BBC saying

"Where someone is beginning to think about becoming a violent extremist, it is probably better if you get the mentor alongside them, discourage them from that, argue with them, prevent them from going that extra step to actually becoming an extremist."

So, it has nothing to do with having a political agenda to address their concerns and this is why the strategy is highly unlikely to succeed.

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