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Confronting Home-Grown Terrorism and Muslim Crime

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Confronting Home-Grown Terrorism and Muslim Crime
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  Confronting home-grown terrorism and Muslim crime Whatever the reasons for the development of home-grown terrorism, radicalisation andrising crime rates, effective methods of accessing hard-to-reach communities and creatingmeaningful connections with the disaffected are critical to counteracting these phenomena.To date, however, the government has had difficulties in shaping such an approach to fit itsdiverse Muslim communities A recent study published by the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, and the YouthJustice Board (YJB) found that the number of males in young offender institutes who identifyas Muslim rose from 16 per cent in 2010/11 to 20 per cent in 2011/12. Although Muslimsmake up around 4 per cent of the UK population, the Muslim prison population accounts for 12.6 per cent of inmates.Those imprisoned for extremism and terrorist activities, a small but significant number at 110across the UK prison system, are closely monitored for signs of attempting to proselytizeother inmates, while imams, in the capacity of Muslim prison chaplains, work together withpsychologists to guide them towards moderate interpretations of Islam.What is behind such a disproportionate number of Muslims ending up in prisons, though?Weekly Zaman spoke to Owais Rajput, a doctoral candidate at the Leeds MetropolitanUniversity who has been researching the dynamics at work in hard-to-reach communitiesand what factors lead to crime and radicalisation. He argues that the Prevent strategy,launched in 2 007 as the preventative aspect of the government’s counter  -terrorism strategyCONTEST that sets out to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism,misses the mark in some respects by failing to recognise the cultural background and ethnicmake- up of the communities it works with. “There are a lot of questions in communitiesabout the Prevent programme. The authorities don’t consult the local communities enough and the general public think [the programme] is just to spy on their communities. How canthe people who are actually working directly with the communities deal with these issues if  communities think they are just there to spy on them?” he asked.   A key element of the Prevent strategy is the Channel programme, which aims to protectpeople at risk from radicalisation. Using a vulnerability assessment framework, it works withlocal authorities, police and education, health and social services together with localcommunity members to identify individuals at risk of being drawn into terrorism, interveningwith appropriate support to protect and divert them away from the risk of getting caught up interrorist-related activities. According to Rajput, the programme fails to recognise the significant Kashmiri element inradicalisation and crime-related activity, thereby not fully understanding the causes behind these. “The design [of the Channel programme] is implemented based on the Pakistani diaspora model, or the Bangladeshi diaspora model or the Indian diaspora model, but thereis no model for the Kashmiri diaspora. At the moment, out of a hundred radicalisedindividuals, more than 80 per cent are from a Kashmiri background. Authorities really needto understand the real issues of British Muslim citizens from Kashmiri heritage. These reallyne ed attention from policymakers.”  British people of Kashmiri descent are often seen as a belonging to a problematic community, getting involved in radicalisation, gangs and drugs. Rajput’s research shows that  British Kashmiri people aged 15-21 feel the police do not understand or pay attention to their problems and issues and feel a need to form gangs in order to protect themselves.Because Kashmir is partitioned between India and Pakistan, there are no accurate figureson the number of Kashmiri people in Britain as they are not recognised as such in the ethnicmonitoring system, instead being categorised as Pakistani or Indian. There are variousestimates of the size of the Kashmiri population in the UK, and these range from two-thirdsto four-fifths of the Pakistani population. There was a debate over whether a specificKashmir tick-box in the ethnic group question should be included in the 2011 census, but itwas concluded that there was not a strong enough case for inclusion due to spaceconstraints.The Pahari languages, spoken by most Kashmiri people, have received scant attention ingovernment initiatives to provide interpreting and translation services, which have tended touse Urdu or Punjabi to communicate with Kashmiri people who do not speak English,assuming that they speak these languages, as they are officially identified as Pakistanis.This oversight highlights the lack of recognition of the Kashmiri community and their culturaland communications needs.Kashmir was partitioned between India and Pakistan in 1947, but this has been a source of constant dissent and conflict and has led to instability in the region as India and Pakistanhave disputed the border and many Kashmiri people themselves supported independence.The highly disputed region has also become the focus of human rights organisations,campaigning against violations, including the endemic practice of torture as well as rape,unexplained disappearances and the mass graves found in the Indian regions of Kashmir.Religious tensions in the area run high. Religious radicalisation is fanned by thedisproportionately small representation of Kashmiri Muslims in government and their exclusion from key decision-making structures.For decades, the region has benefitted very little from tourism due to instability. Tourismcollapsed after the abduction of six backpackers in 1995, one of whom, a Norwegian, wasbeheaded. While one from the group managed to escape, the other four disappeared. InNovember 2012, the Foreign Office lifted its travel warning for the cities of Jammu andSrinagar. Although the warning remains in place for the rest of Kashmir, hopefully this is asign of increased stability in the region.The international status of Kashmir is a difficult, intractable problem to solve due to themyriad cultural, religious and national interests at stake and its long history of militancy andinsurgency. It is from the injustices in the world that radicalisation usually springs, however.Whatever the reasons for the development of home-grown terrorism, radicalisation andrising crime rates, effective methods of accessing hard-to-reach communities and creatingmeaningful connections with the disaffected are critical to counteracting these phenomena. A more comprehensive recognition of Kashmiri issues, identity and language would perhapsbe a good starting point in this process.
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