Police-Muslim Engagement and Partnerships for the Purposes of Counter-Terrorism: An Examination
Project Report | May 2009 Dr Basia Spalek Dr Salwa El Awa Dr Laura Zahra McDonald
The research team would like to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council Religion and Society Programme for funding the study presented in this report, reference AH/F008112/1. We would also like to thank all research participants for their time and for sharing their stories with us, in particular, the generosity shown by members of the Muslim Safety Forum and the Muslim Contact Unit. Finally, the research team would like to give their special thanks to Robert Lambert MBE, Lecturer, Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), University of St. Andrews and Research Fellow, Department of Politics, University of Exeter, for his significant help and support in his role as consultant and facilitator.
1 Introduction & Methodology 1.1 Introduction: setting the scene 1.2 Research Methodology and Approach 06 06 08
2 Key Findings: Community Experiences 2.1 Muslim Minorities as „Suspect‟ Communities 2.2 Muslim Identities as „Suspect‟ 2.3 Islamophobia 2.4 Community perspectives on engagement: the MSF case study 3 Key Findings: Counter-terrorism & Policing 3.1 The Muslim Contact Unit as case study 3.2 Policing in the „New Terror‟ Context 3.3 Conceptualising „engagement‟ 3.4 Mapping the main strands of Muslim Contact Unit work 3.5 The Importance of Partnership Work in Countering Terrorism 3.6 Engaging Radicals 4 Inclusivity: Youth & Gender 4.1 Gender issues and CONTEST 4.2 Young people and countering terrorism
12 12 13 14 15 24 24 26 28 29 42 55 60 60 63
5 Religion and religious knowledge in counter-terrorism work 5.1 Religion and countering terrorism: an introduction
66 66 71 74 77 78
5.2 Policing and religion 5.3 The role of religion in counter-terrorism work 5.4 Communication, openness & acceptance 5.5 Case studies illustrating the role of religion in countering terrorism
1 Introduction and Methodology
1.1 Introduction: setting the scene
In the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings and in the context of a post 9/11 „New Terror‟ discourse, the prevention of violent extremism has become one of the most significant issues for policy makers in the UK. Within this heightened security context in which Muslim communities have become a focus, the police are now viewed as key in leading a multi-layered, multi-agency approach to develop and support strategies to prevent violent extremism (Home Office, 2008). Crucially, this work is underpinned by the now established counter-terrorism maxim „communities defeat terrorism‟ (Briggs et al. 2006), therefore placing the notion of community engagement as central to counter-terrorism success. Counter-terrorism policies and practices have been dominated by „hard-sided‟ strategies involving surveillance, intelligence gathering, the use of informants and the implementation of a number of anti-terror laws under the Pursue strand of the government‟s CONTEST strategy (HM Government, 2006). However, post 7/7, the ascendency of a community-centred notion of counter-terrorism has seen increasing prominence given to the Prevent agenda (Smith October 2008 http://security.homeoffice.gov.uk/news-publications/news-speeches/speech-to-ippr). Under Prevent, policing is viewed as playing a significant role in developing and implementing initiatives that involve community engagement. So although the bombings on July 7th 2005 have contributed to a blurring of distinction between the roles of the police and the security services, community-based approaches to counter-terrorism policing are emerging at the forefront, in which local police officers are working with Muslim communities in order to help prevent violent extremism (Lowe & Innes, 2008).
The foundational role of policing in the prevention of violent extremism therefore raises many questions. The following report presents the main findings of research into this area, from a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under the auspices of the Religion and Society programme, headed „An Examination of Partnership Approaches to Challenging Religiously-Endorsed Violence involving Muslim Groups and Police‟. The project was undertak en by an interdisciplinary team from the University of Birmingham: Dr. Basia Spalek, Institute of Applied Social Studies, Dr. Salwa El-Awa, Department of Theology, and Dr. Laura Zahra McDonald,
Institute of Applied Social Studies, with Robert Lambert MBE, Lecturer, Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), University of St. Andrews and Research Fellow, Department of Politics, University of Exeter, as the project consultant.
The study explored issues relating to the following research questions:
What constitutes police-community engagement? How are the different forms conceptualised from different perspectives?
What are the key components to effective partnership work between police and Muslim groups for counter-terror purposes? What is meant by „partnership work‟, and how does this differ from other forms of engagement?
How do different participants view partnership?
What are the structures and processes of Muslim/police partnership?
How, and in what ways, might partnership work be compromised?
How, and in what ways, are the experiences and religious knowledges of Muslim groups working with the police important to the development of counter-terror strategies?
How do Muslim groups challenge religiously, or other, endorsed violence in counter-terror partnerships developed between themselves and the police?
Within the context of counter-terrorism, these are key questions, especially when considering that previous research has established that trust and confidence in the police can be seriously undermined in situations where communities feel that they are being over-policed (MacPherson, 1999; Miller 2000; Jones & Newburn, 2001), and that, moreover, this can have serious consequences upon the flow of information from communities, considered a key issue within the CONTEST strategy (Hillyard, 1993; Hillyard, 2005). For such reasons, it is of vital importance to fully research and explore partnership work between police and Muslim communities.
Of course, the terms „community‟, „partnership‟, „terrorism‟, „counter-terrorism‟ and „violent extremism‟ are complex, with multiple and contested meanings, and even the utility of „community‟ for social and criminal justice policy has been questioned. This report, although cognisant of these wider academic and policy debates, and whilst including some discussion of the main terms, will not feature an in-depth exploration of terminology due to the limited word space. Rather, it aims to flag up key issues that may be of interest to community members, counter-terrorism practitioners and policy makers alike.
Before setting out the main findings from the research study, the following section will briefly describe the methodological approach that was taken by the researchers.
1.2 Research Methodology and Approach
This is a small-scale, but in-depth, qualitative research involving semi-structured interviews, documentary analysis and participant observations of meetings. This approach reflects a concern to document the experiences and perceptions of police officers and Muslim community members who are involved in partnership work for the purposes of counter-terrorism. Such an approach is significant for two main reasons. Firstly, within counter-terrorism arenas research has often been dominated by state-centric perspectives founded on secondary sources and lacking the input of primary data collection and analysis. For this reason, traditional terrorism studies has been criticised for being analytically and methodologically weak, relying too heavily on secondary information and failing to understand terrorism and counter-terrorism not only through the perspectives and experiences of practitioners, but also those experiencing state repression (Breen Smyth, 2007; Jackson, 2007). Secondly, individuals‟ perspectives and experiences can produce new and different ways of viewing and understanding counter-terrorism policy, and as such constitute a way through which social policy can be explored. Individuals‟ narratives allow for a useful examination of government policy because they comprise of, and are underpinned by, people‟s lived experiences. In relation to counter-terrorism, individuals‟ narratives not only serve to problematise a number of key strands within British counterterrorism policy, but also provide rich contextual data that can serve to illustrate the complexities of the problem of the threat from terrorism that the government is trying to reduce. Although narratives are not static and contain elements of contestation,
they nonetheless enable researchers and policy makers to explore how individuals locate themselves and how they experience their social worlds (Hopkins, 2004).
Partnership approaches and engagement involving police and Muslim communities are likely to be experienced and perceived differently according to an individual‟s social location/identity. As such, it is important to document how different
participants in the engagement process view and experience partnership work. Another important dimension to the methodological approach taken in this study is the centrality of the concept of „positionality‟. The reflexive methodologies central to the theoretical and practical elements of the research have included a focus on the multifaceted significance of positionality. Positionality has been conceived by the research team as containing the following core components, which have been recognised and managed over the course of the project:
Our own positions as researchers: for ethical and methodological reasons it has been necessary to acknowledge, counter and subvert the power relations inherent in our roles as researchers in relation to participants. This has been done through the use of non-interventionist interview techniques, insisting on a high level of participant decision-making in relation to the research organisation, and through the inclusion of participants as partners and advisors to the research process and analysis. The impact of personal identities, roles and affiliations on research: the research team has a diverse set of identities, roles and affiliations in relation to faith, ethnicity, nationality, gender, political outlooks, academic disciplines, theoretical standpoints, expectations of the research and analytical styles. These facets therefore impacted on all aspects of the research, from our interaction with each other, with potential and actual participants, and with the research audience, to the ways in which we have understood, translated to writing, arranged and analysed the voices of participants as qualitative data. While recognizing this fact goes someway to giving the research an ethical and academically useful transparency, we have utilized a number of methodological techniques to interrogate and assess the impact. This includes the writing and subsequent analysis of a dialogic, reflective research diary; research team discussions in which our own positions and identities were reflected upon along with our interactions with research participants to
assess the impact upon data collection and analysis; and the centrality of participant voices to the study. This is in line with theoretical traditions that call for reflexivity over the research process as a way of ensuring rigorousness and reliability (Steier 1991) The identities participants in relation to „Muslim‟: it has been necessary to the research to analyse the complex identities, roles and positions of research participants in relation to Muslim communities and the police. This has allowed us to assess the relevance of our own research in understanding police-community engagement and partnerships, issues relating to counterterrorism, and in increasing knowledge from and about various sections of Muslim communities, groupings and organisations and the various units and sections within British police forces. The position of the project in relation to the wider academic and policy frameworks: it has been useful to understand where we have wanted to situate the research, and how it will be understood and situated by others within relevant academic and policy areas. This has required reflection on the inter-disciplinary nature of the study, the aims of the research, and the purpose of planned outputs.
Two case studies focussed upon in this research project were the Muslim Contact Unit (MCU) and the Muslim Safety Forum (MSF), along with participants affiliated with other policing bodies and community organisations. In total forty-two individuals were interviewed. Thirteen of these participants were police officers – MCU, NCTT and ACPO officers, and twenty-nine were members of Muslim communities and organisations involved to varying levels in partnership/engagement work with the police, either through the MSF or directly with the MCU or NCTT. Interviews took place between December 2007 and August 2008. At the same time, researchers attended and observed MSF community meetings and MSF meetings with senior police officers in Scotland Yard. The minutes of meetings were also examined.
2 Key Findings: Community Experiences
2.1 Muslim Minorities as ‘Suspect’ Communities
...guys were having their security clearance removed if they work at airports, if they worked at the Home Office... and they don‟t know why and they're not told, they can't have access to that information… One guy I know found it really depressing because he lost his livelihood, his access to overtime, and it really affected him and he found it really demoralising, he couldn‟t talk to his wife about it: he found it very depressing. Member of Muslim community organisation
A central concern of this study has been to document the voices of those involved in engagement and/or partnership for the purposes of counter-terrorism. Interview data with Muslim minorities reveal the ways in which Muslim communities have become „suspect‟: Within the notion of „New Terrorism‟ is the construction of Muslim minorities as comprising of numerous communities at various levels of risk from violent extremism. Young Muslim men in particular, especially those affiliating to religio-political groups or certain theological schools of Islam, have been viewed as constituting a „problem group‟ and they have become the predominant targets of anti-terrorist legislation and counter-terrorism surveillance policing in Britain (Blick et al., 2006; Poynting and Mason, 2006) and other European countries such as Germany (Bakir & Harburg, 2005), as well as in countries further a field including the US (Harris, 2006), Australia (Poynting et al., 2004; Pickering et al., 2008), and Canada (Poynting & Perry, 2007).
During the course of this research study, Muslim community members spoke about how they or their colleagues had been approached by the security services in order to act as informants. This has helped create a sense of grievance amongst many Muslims, with individuals arguing that they feel they are suspect communities. Individuals also talked about the consequences of being viewed with suspicion upon an individual‟s and their family‟s life, which can result in job losses, family breakdown and ostracisation from their wider communities. Participants also described how those people considered by the authorities as suspicious are often too frightened to
report incidents of being stopped and questioned - even to supportive community groups. The issue of how such „hard‟ approaches to counter-terrorism, based on surveillance and the use of other kinds of state powers, can significantly undermine any attempts at engagement between Muslim communities and state authorities was raised repeatedly by interviewees during the course of the research. In this context, members of community organisations, from diverse backgrounds and ages, argued that their experiences of anti-terror laws have reduced their motivations to engage with state authorities. Collectively, individuals‟ narratives illustrate the kinds of frustration and anger that „hard‟ approaches to counter-terrorism are generating within Muslim communities, significantly compromising efforts to engage with communities to reduce the terror threat. Individuals‟ stories powerfully illustrate that any initiative set up to counter terror involving state authorities and Muslim communities will have to be sensitive to, and be able to negotiate through, the negative and painful experiences that individuals have suffered. This negotiation is required at both the individual and collective level, in order to build effective strategies whereby Muslim communities feel that they are stakeholders and equal partners in such initiatives. A defensive response from state authorities, one which denies people‟s frustrations or one which tries to silence or marginalise people‟s experiences or dissent, will only serve to further compound individuals‟ anger, distress and sense of grievance, thereby placing limitations on any project trying to counter terrorism through engaging with Muslim communities.
2.2 Muslim Identities as ‘Suspect’
It appears that underpinning state level engagement strategies, including those within the Prevent strand, there are normative assumptions about what kinds of Muslim identities should be engaged. Muslim identities that appear to value the ummah over or even alongside feelings of Britishness, or who appear to isolate themselves from wider society, can be negatively judged, viewed as a threat to social cohesion and thus actively marginalised from engagement processes. Individuals spoke about how they feel pressurised to explain the construction of their Muslim identities, particularly in relation to Britishness.
Quite a few people wrote things like, „well you know apart from those looks you get from the bus driver‟ or „apart from the occasional comment, you know, nothing, not really‟. That‟s not „not really‟, that is actually saying people get some kind of abuse. A few said „well that‟s what we have to put with, that‟s normality‟ - [so] they're not even coming when they‟ve been spat at....I think that it just prevails. Member of community organisation on collecting data on Islamophobia
In Britain, under the 2001 Anti Terrorism Crime and Security Act, a religiously aggravated element to crime has been introduced, which involves imposing higher penalties upon offenders who are motivated by religious hatred. Following this piece of legislation, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has been collecting information on the number of religiously aggravated prosecutions carried out in Britain. There have been relatively few religiously aggravated prosecutions; nonetheless, the majority of victims involved here are Muslim. For example, between 2005 and 2006, out of 43 cases of religiously aggravated crime, 18 incidents involved Muslims as victims, three involved Christians as victims, and one involved a Sikh victim, with 21 victims‟ religious identities being unknown or not stated (CPS, 2006: 45). More
recently, a Crown Prosecution Service (2008: 19) report highlights that in the three years ending March 2008 there were over 33,500 defendants prosecuted for crimes involving racial or religious aggravation. It is important to note that the incidence of faith hate crimes can be influenced by particular national, international and cultural/religious events. In the aftermath of the bombings in London on 7 July 2005, the Metropolitan Police Service recorded a sharp increase in faith-related hate crimes, including verbal and physical assaults (European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, 2005).
It is important to highlight that the number of hate crimes that are prosecuted is tiny in comparison to the number of hate crimes that are actually committed, particularly as most victims do not report their experiences to the police (Victim Support, 2006). The study reported here found that Islamophobia was a significant issue for the individuals who were interviewed. Instances of Islamophobia that interviewees referred to include the following:
Being verbally and physically abused. Being threatened. Being physically assaulted. Having their homes or cars firebombed or attacked with acid
People spoke about how reporting instances of Islamophobia is rare – for one thing, there is a certain level of acceptance that Islamophobic instances are the norm rather than the exception, a part of individuals‟ everyday lives, also, individuals don‟t want to „create a fuss‟ around their experiences.
Key points The context of New Terror discourse and hard policing is creating tension between police and Muslim communities who feel suspect and vulnerable. The climate of suspicion is often reducing the level and willingness to engage with police for the purposes of counter-terrorism. Frustration, fear and anger resulting from increasing levels of Islamophobia and the perceptions of British foreign policy are further contributing to a feeling of alienation amongst many Muslims that can negatively impact upon engagement
2.4 Community perspectives on engagement: the MSF case study
The standpoints and experiences of Muslim community members are key to understanding engagement and partnership work between police and Muslim communities for the purposes of countering terrorism. The data collected in relation to community perspectives is particularly rich, being influenced by the ways in which community-police relations have been instigated and developed, and by the actors involved. This section analyses the successes and challenges of engagement and partnership work from the perspectives of individual community members – whether engaging or working in partnership as individuals or as part of community organisations. This section also includes the case study of the Muslim Safety Forum (MSF), an umbrella organisation based in London engaged in partnership work with the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).
2.4.1 Community engagement: diverse forms and experiences
Forms of engagement/disengagement The community participants in this research provide a complex picture of what might be referred to as „engagement‟ and „disengagement‟. The study‟s results highlight that engagement can take place at individual and organisational levels, at local and national levels, involving „harder‟ and „softer‟ approaches, in multiple and complex ways. There is also significant variation in the types of engagement that exist between police and communities. One type of
engagement that exists might be referred to as general, ongoing police-community engagement, whereby a number of organisations and individuals have developed a good relationship with one or two individual police officers from their local area or from units such as the MCU or NCTT, who will make regular face-to-face contact through informal meetings, attendance at community events, and police meetings. This type of contact may be best described as informal and dialogic engagement, and the research indicates that this is a fairly standard, commonly found practice, particularly since 7/7 and the shift towards Community Policing. Another form of engagement that exists is in relation to working partnerships developed between community members and police officers. This study has found strong examples of police-community work where positive engagement has developed the trust and commitment for individuals/organisations to enter into mutually beneficial, equality based partnership work for the purposes of counter-terrorism. In these cases, initial face-to-face contact with police officers has developed into working relationships that involve police officers working with community members on a host of areas related to counter-terrorism, from issues in relation to community safety and cohesion, to Prevent work with young people and direct challenges to violent extremist propaganda and structures.
Importantly, whereas the notions of engagement and disengagement may, at first appearance, be viewed as separate, comprising of binary opposites, the interview data suggests that a more realistic conceptualisation views engagement as being comprised of a continuum - from full engagement to full disengagement – and that individuals (both community members and police officers), community groups and policing units will at different points in time in different contexts be located on different points of the continuum vis-à-vis each other, being in constant flux, their positionings
influenced by wide-ranging factors. Therefore, it is important to note that what may appear initially as being „disengagement‟, whereby community members may leave existing processes and protocols of engagement with police, this may not always in fact comprise „full disengagement‟ as these individuals may create new ways of engaging with police, outside of existing processes and structures, with officers and policing units that they trust. At the same time, for some individuals and groups disengagement may be temporary, and may be used strategically to help negotiate a more empowered position within any future engagement that takes place.
It may be that in some instances individuals choose to fully disengage from police, particularly those who live and/or work in areas which have had an ongoing history of poor police-community relations, who describe a complete lack of positive engagement with police officers. In these cases, negative experiences of police activity - from sustained, low-level incidents of police harassment, to the over-use of stop-and-search, and in some cases having been subjected to „hard‟ counterterrorism techniques, have contributed to disengagement. For these participants, contact with the police is felt to be inevitably negative. Of particular concern are the experiences of participants who have engaged previously with the police individually, or as members of organisations – but whose experiences have been so negative that they have chosen to fully disengage. This is significant as it may be the case that it is more difficult to make links with those individuals and groups who have fully disengaged from police than those individuals and groups who have only partially or temporarily disengaged. Of further importance, interviewees spoke about how the manner in which police officers engage is key – Muslim community members argued that they can accept being stopped and searched and can accept other forms of „hard policing‟ if done in a manner that does not de-humanise individuals. Our research further suggests that it might be argued that police-community tensions are more likely to lead to full disengagement than intra-community dynamics.
The results of the study highlight that intra-community tensions and interpersonal dynamics can lead to individuals disengaging from established structures of engagement. The Muslim population in the UK is extremely diverse, ethnically,
culturally, religiously and politically, posing significant challenges for engagement. It may be that some groups place higher value on organising demonstrations and vociferously expressing their concerns to the police, whereas other groups prefer an approach that involves implicitly expressing their concerns whilst maintaining good relationships with police. These different styles and viewpoints of engagement
inevitably lead to tensions between groups and individuals and may lead to some groups and individuals partially disengaging from established police-community structures. It is important to point out, however, that this kind of disengagement is not necessarily negative because those individuals/groups who disengage from existing structures of engagement may continue engaging with police, albeit in new ways. Other intra-community tensions that may impact upon community-police
engagement include: the lack of representation and the perception that this has been reduced through intra-community dynamics and political manoeuvrings, including the marginalisation of certain ethnic and religious groups from engagement, the competition between groups for voice and influence, internal leadership disputes, and in some cases ineffective grassroots communication so that any engagement between community members and police does not filter down onto a wider population.
Motivations and goals As the research uncovered this spectrum of engagement-disengagement, further complexities have become apparent regarding the motivations and goals on which partnerships have developed. The focus on commonalities and negotiation over differences are an integral element in creating sustainable partnership work, and as such, the diversity of community perspectives on these aims and goals must be noted. Community members have described a variety of motivations and goals as underpinning their active engagement and partnership with police:
primarily as part of dedication to preventing violence underpinned by feelings of social justice, protection and security of British society, diverse communities and future generations; as a religious duty, which includes factors such as a feeling of being able to affect social change, to help bring communities together, to improve the image of Muslims and Islam; to represent a particular ethnic, religious, gender, political or ideological perspective; and to contribute a community voice to debates. These motivations and goals were sometimes shared, and at other times very different to those of police officers, illustrating the importance of shared goals, but also to the possibility of there being fundamental differences between individuals involved in engagement that can be overcome within partnership work.
The Wider Social and Political Context to Engagement The research data suggests that it is important to consider the wider social policy and political context to engagement within the counter-terrorism arena, as it would appear
social and political factors inevitably influence engagement
communities and police, regardless of how highly motivated or intellectually engaged communities and police may be. Research participants spoke about the difficult negotiation needed to overcome the tensions created by „hard-ended‟ counter-terror approaches and by a divisive New Terror discourse that, until recently, has involved the state denial of destructive structural factors such as foreign policy and social alienation, and has often problematised and homogenised Muslim communities. In particular, the focus on „community solutions‟, „community responsibility‟ and the normative use of the „moderate Muslim/extremist Muslim‟ binary have served to impede the contributions and activism of grass-roots organisations who want - and are best placed – to act in the interests of security. Participants described the active choices they have made in relation to engagement, disengagement and partnership work, as having been to some degree informed by the levels to which they have felt able to negotiate through the social policy and political terrain. It is important to note that the choice to engage in constructive and committed ways has often involved highly committed individuals, both community members and police officers, who have been able to negotiate and carve out spaces within which engagement can take place, notwithstanding the wider politicised context.
2.4.2 The Muslim Safety Forum An important case study for the project is the Muslim Safety Forum (MSF), which was chosen as an established point of police-community contact, with a high number of research participants as current or past members. The MSF is an umbrella organisation made of a large number of Muslim organisations and acting as an "advisory body to the Metropolitan police and ACPO on issues concerning British Muslims"1. Researchers spent time learning about the history, structure and purpose of the MSF, discussing perceptions and experiences of members during interviews, and through the generosity of members, attending several MSF community meetings as well as MSF meetings with the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in New Scotland Yard. The team was also given restricted access to the minutes of past meetings, to enable a longer-term view to emerge.
Further details on the www.muslimsafetyforum.org.
History The Muslim Safety Forum was launched in 2002, developing from a grouping of Muslim community organisations which had come together with the aim of establishing regular contact with the police regarding community safety issues in the early 1990s. Regular and emergency meetings were chaired by David Veness of the MPS, with London-based members including Zaki Badawi‟s Muslim College, the Iqra Trust, Al Khoei Foundation, Muslim Council of Britain, Islamic Human Rights Committee, Avenue School, the Forum Against Islamophobia & Racism, the Association of Nigerian Muslims, the Muslim Parliament and Union of Muslim Organisations. A period of debate over the aims, structure and relationship with police led to a formalising of the network into a more explicitly member-led organisation in 2004, with a constitution, elected chair and executive committee, and a membership base of over 30 Muslim community organisations who are involved to different degrees.
Working Each month representatives of member organisations meet to discuss the issues they feel to be relevant to the forum, and ways to approach these issues with police. A fortnight later, a meeting, chaired and organised by the MSF, and attended by members and senior officers from the MPS is held at offices of the MPS. The meeting functions on a number of levels for those attending: as a space for dialogue between community members and police; an opportunity to air grievances and debate; a way to offer mutual advice and criticism; to influence thought and action of member networks; and symbolically, as an example of sustained, positive engagement that has survived a high level of internal debate and negotiation with actors relating to expectation and purpose.
The MSF also has ongoing engagement with other agencies, for example, with the Home Office, the Greater London Authority, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, various policing authorities, the MCU, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and others, who may also be present at MSF-MPS monthly meetings.
How it works Through ongoing engagement through meetings, where there is an exchange of perspectives between communities and police, as well as through individual interaction outside of formal meetings.
There is a partnership element to the work of the MSF. The MSF is involved in partnerships with police to help implement wide-ranging initiatives, one example of this being helping local mosques to implement community safety strategies with police and the implementation of an anti-Islamophobia campaign.
The establishment of three working groups involving MSF and MPS members, comprising of the following: Islamophobia; counter-terrorism; and police recruitment and police training.
Success Success might be viewed according to the following key issues:
Bringing multiple communities together with police. Enabling Muslim community groups to present community perspectives on the impact of counter-terrorism policing and the wider war on terror. Enabling an exchange of information on counter-terrorism, Islamophobia and other policing issues. Allowing Muslim community groups to raise issue issues of concern. Allowing police to explain policy, strategy and tactics to Muslim organizations. Working consultations between police and Muslim organizations. Providing the opportunity for communities to scrutinise and challenge police policy and action.
Tensions & challenges Events that take place outside of MSF- police engagement, for example, the bugging of MP Sadiq Khan, can create tension, placing strain upon ongoing dialogue and partnership work.
There seems to be a general lack of clarity over the role and remit of MSF-MPS engagement. There seems to be a lack of clarity over the nature of engagement here, whether it is to be reactive or proactive engagement, and also who decides about what type of engagement is most appropriate for which situations.
The proactive and reactive styles of engagement are quite different. For example, in the model of proactive engagement, communities become actively involved in the
development of particular initiatives with police, having a decision-making role whereby communities are consulted and actively engaged at all stages of a project, from initial conceptualisation through to development and implementation. With
respect to reactive engagement, communities respond to initiatives/events that have already been developed/taken place, so that feedback is sought by police from communities rather than active involvement in decision-making – providing information to communities and consulting them for their feedback rather than police and communities deciding and acting together. Our findings suggest that both styles are in operation within MSF-MPS engagement, however, there is considerable tension because whilst some stakeholders may almost exclusively be seeking proactive engagement, others may be expecting and following the model of reactive engagement. Moreover, as engagement is in a state of constant flux, it is likely that further confusion is created by there being proactive engagement in some cases and reactive engagement in others, but without this being clearly articulated within the engagement process. It is also important to acknowledge the power differential between communities and police in engagement processes, so that police may at times assert their authority, which may involve them refusing to engage with communities according to how communities want them to engage, thereby frustrating those communities involved in the engagement process.
The breadth and scope of MSF-MPS engagement also lacks clarity. Some members of the MSF-MPS forum have been seeking a type of engagement that might be viewed as consisting of the airing of grievances, and involving case work whereby communities bring to the police particular cases of alleged injustice and want to work with the police to fully investigate these. Some members view engagement with police as necessarily involving points of contestation and conflict, embracing these dynamics and viewing these as integral to MSF-MPS meetings. Some members have been seeking a form of engagement that might be viewed as comprising of strategic-level engagement, whereby communities give their feedback on, and input into, policing processes and dynamics at a structural rather than an individual level, leaving the airing of grievances and case work for other forums of engagement. All of these dynamics create tensions within, and can bring confusion to, engagement work.
Expectations of MSF-MPS engagement may be unrealistically high, in that the causes of terrorism are global and wide-ranging, and it may be that any form of engagement work cannot directly impact upon these causes. This may also be the
case for other issues, such as Islamophobia, for example. It may be that there is a tendency by individuals involved in the engagement process to focus on failure rather than success, and it may be that success here should be viewed in terms of implementing a series of small steps towards reaching an overarching goal rather than judging performance according to whether the overarching goal has been achieved or not – which may in fact take many years and steps. For example, it may be the case that limiting the harmful impacts of state powers such as Section 44 under the UK Terrorism Act 2000 – relating to stop and search powers - upon communities, involves implementing a series of small steps, beginning with the development of a leaflet that can be handed out to community members which includes effective guidance on how to go about making a complaint.
Other tensions to engagement might be linked to capacity issues, the ability of communities to engage when considering the limited resources that they have access to. For example, the MSF largely relies upon the hard work of its volunteer members, more adequate funding therefore might help to increase the number of paid staff on the MSF in order to help it engage more effectively with police and communities. Another issue is whether capacity could be further built in terms of improving the level of diversity within the MSF along ethnic and religious lines. Also, whether grassroots communication might be improved by raising the capacity of MSF members to communicate directly with their community members, involving a wide range of different forums.
3 Key Findings: Counter-terrorism & Policing
3.1 The Muslim Contact Unit as case study
As previously highlighted, within the Prevent strand of post 7/7 CONTEST policy (HM Government, 2006), the police are viewed by the British government as key strategic partners in the development of approaches to preventing violent extremism in the UK, working with local authorities and other agencies alongside Muslim communities (HM Government, 2008). Against this background of post 9/11 and 7/7 policy and discourse it is therefore important to examine the nature of police-community interaction, including engagement and partnership work. Such analysis should act to further inform future policies and practices in relation to the prevention of violent extremism.
A particularly pertinent case study in relation to police engagement and partnership with Muslim communities is the Muslim Contact Unit (MCU) based in London. After 9/11, the MCU was established by two Special Branch police officers within the Metropolitan Police Service whose skills had been honed through long-standing work with a wide-range of communities for the purposes of countering terrorism. Therefore, although the MCU emerged in a post 9/11 context, it is important to emphasize that it is grounded in the experiences and successes of the unit‟s founders in relation to the long-term role of policing in counter-terrorism, and should not be mistaken as merely an innovatory and exploratory initiative. Empirical evidence gathered during the course of this study highlights that the MCU has built upon the tradition of community policing, now more commonly referred to as community engagement, which itself has a long history within British policing.
As a model of police work that has overcome considerable challenges in relation to working with Muslim communities to prevent violent extremism, building up a portfolio of police-community initiatives and winning respect from many sections of the London Muslim population in the seven years since its inception, the MCU deserves documentation and full examination in order to help develop current and future policing practice in this area. Amongst its successes, the MCU has:
Succeeded in reclaiming a mosque from hard-core violent extremist supporters.
Helped to put together community-based initiatives aimed at preventing violent extremism in London. Provided support to minority sections of the Muslim population who have experienced stigmatisation in relation to them being categorised as „suspect communities‟. Enhanced trust in policing with sections of the Muslim population by supporting victims of racist and Islamophobic attacks. Introduced Muslim police officers into counter-terrorism policing.
This expertise in working with Muslim communities is of paramount importance, as prior to 9/11, police engagement with Muslim communities was limited due to the normative focus on „racial‟ and ethnic identities - as opposed to faith identities - within criminal justice research and the wider social policy environment. Police services, alongside other statutory organisations, have therefore undergone a steep learning curve in relation to understanding and working with Muslim communities. Subsequently, the work of the MCU provides significant observations on the kinds of experiences and challenges that police officers faced in the UK in the aftermath of 9/11 when beginning to engage with Muslim, alongside other faith, identities.
Key Points The police, alongside local authorities, are being viewed by government as key leaders in the development of strategies to prevent violent extremism in the UK. Although the Muslim Contact Unit emerged in a post 9/11 context, it is important to highlight that it is grounded in decades of experience in relation to the role of policing in counter-terrorism and should not be mistaken for an innovatory and exploratory initiative. Prior to 9/11, police engagement with Muslim communities was virtually non-existent due to the normative focus on „racial‟ and ethnic identities as opposed to faith identities - within criminal justice research and the wider social policy environment. Police services, alongside other statutory organisations, have therefore undergone a steep learning curve in relation to understanding and working with Muslim communities.
3.2 Policing in the ‘New Terror’ Context
A fundamental focus of the research was the way in which policing is carried out in Britain, against the background of academic and political discourses of „New Terror‟ – the belief that counter-terrorism work is now operating against a new and unprecedented form of terrorism. Providing a critique of this scenario, and highlighting its potential reduction of police effectiveness, the research looks at the evidence presented by police officers and community members regarding the safeguarding of community policing and counter-terrorism.
It is important to stress that police engagement with Muslim communities is multilayered. Engagement in its differing forms is carried out by a cross section of policing, at a local level ranging from community liaison to counter-terrorism officers to national units such as the National Communities Tension Team (NCTT). There is also diversity in relation to the different parts of Muslim communities with whom engagement takes place, from grassroots youth groups, to various national representative bodies and religious institutions. The overall picture is therefore highly complex, with a host of different objectives and approaches being used at any one time.
In relation to community engagement methods, a model of policing rolled out nationally is „neighbourhood policing‟. In England and Wales all neighbourhoods have their own policing teams who are asked to engage with individuals and communities in specific areas. As part of this new development, a key policy strand links policing activity more closely to counter-terror activities: it has been argued that under the neighbourhood policing model, police will be more likely to persuade community members of the benefits of assisting officers by responding to individuals‟ routine security concerns such as anti-social behaviour or crime in return for their cooperation. For the purposes of counter-terrorism, this mutual benefit means that „neighbourhood policing is a process that can be harnessed to establish the presence of any suspicions about potential terrorist activities‟ (Innes: 2006: 14). Moreover, it is argued that the indicators for suspecting terror activities may be subtle and not known to any one individual. Therefore, neighbourhood policing should be well placed to handle the diffuse information coming from different individuals, due to the beneficial „weak community ties‟ developed between police and community members through such a policing model (Innes: 2006: 14). In this approach, communication of intelligence is conceptualised as a vertical, two-way process: from bottom to top with
neighbourhood policing teams connecting community intelligence to counterterrorism units (CTUs) through to the NCTT, and vice versa, with collated national community intelligence and policy from top to bottom – from the NCTT, through to CTUs, down to neighbourhood policing teams. The NCTT is the driving force in this model under the auspices of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), gathering, analysing and distributing community intelligence relating to Prevent and community tensions in a weekly bulletin known as Operation Element, and promoting the policy of community engagement and intelligence to all forces
Although neighbourhood policing signifies an important development in policing, there has so far been limited in-depth study of police partnership work for the purposes of counter-terrorism, and as such, the effectiveness of neighbourhood policing in preventing violent extremism is unclear. What is clear, is that the prevention of terrorism within policing is helping to blur distinctions between the role of the police and the security services (Lowe & Innes, 2008), with community policing being viewed as an important resource for counter-terrorism policing (Gregory, 2009).
These developments raise many questions for both policing and for the prevention of violent extremism. The empirical evidence gathered by this study clearly illustrates significant issues in relation to policing in a post 9/11 and 7/7 context. In particular, it suggests that the practices developed by the MCU have wider implications for policing both in relation to the Prevent agenda and for the model of neighbourhood policing. It may be that for the purposes of preventing violent extremism, there should be room alongside neighbourhood policing teams for such specialised counterterrorism policing units to develop a specific remit to engage with Muslim communities, partnering community-led initiatives at a local level.
With this in mind, the following section highlights the key findings relating to policing within this study, before discussing their implications for policing more generally. In highlighting the micro-level processes and aspects to engagement, a key concern is that an account of police-community interaction can inform current and future policy and practice around the Prevent agenda and suggest that community policing does not merely become a tool through which to secure intelligence, whereby communities are viewed as suspects or informants rather than as minorities, a process that appears to contribute to the alienation of community members.
3.3 Conceptualising ‘engagement’
Before we specifically focus upon the work of the MCU, it is important to briefly discuss the terms community „participation‟, „empowerment‟ „engagement‟ and „partnership‟ as although the three may overlap, there are subtle differences. Importantly, our empirical evidence suggests that the MCU has been involved in engagement and partnership work in particular within a counter-terrorism context, going beyond mere community participation. „Community participation‟ may be thought of as largely consisting of information, i.e. telling people what is planned, and consultation i.e. involving offering options, listening to feedback, but not usually encouraging new ideas. In contrast, „community engagement‟ suggests a process involving individuals, organizations and
communities achieving power not for domination but to act with others to implement change (Wallerstein & Bernstein, 1988). Community engagement may therefore include things such as police and communities deciding on a course of action together (where opportunities for joint decision making are provided), and supporting independent community interests, for example where local groups are offered funds, advice or other support to develop their own agendas within guidelines (Cook, 2006). Similarly, „individual empowerment‟ refers to “achieving reasonable control over one‟s destiny, learning to cope constructively with debilitating forces in society, and acquiring the competence to initiate change at the individual and systems levels” (Pinderhughes: 1995: 136).
Increasing in levels of positive engagement and aiming for a balance of power, „partnership‟ can be defined as involving equality, transparency and legitimate cooperation between partners, which may involve participants with different interests forming a partnership to carry out work that they collectively decide to do. Partnership work has a number of inherent difficulties. For example, there may be differences in the resources that are available to different groups in the engagement process, and different organisations are also likely to have, to varying degrees, diverging sets of priorities. As such, there can be considerable difficulties arising from, and tensions within, partnership approaches. In addition, partnership work can be difficult as it involves power differentials: in the case of police focussed work, community groups may not feel that they are actual partners in the policy process. In cases where there are power imbalances between partners it is important for those in positions of relative power to create spaces within which all partners are equals, included and
respected (Thacher, 2001; Friedman, 2003). This is especially important in the context of police-community engagement as police officers are in positions of relative power over community members.
At this stage it is important to consider the work of the MCU as this work sheds important light upon engagement and partnership work in a counter-terrorism context.
Key points Contrary to the notion of „New Terror‟ there is evidence that the body of experience, skills, knowledge and styles of policing, such as Neighbourhood and Community Policing are invaluable tools in countering terrorism, independent of the „type‟ of terrorism involved. The ways in which police-community engagement is approached affects its form and impact. Where policing work goes beyond encouraging community participation, and nurtures partnership, the potential for engagement for the purposes of countering terrorism is increased.
3.4 Engagement & Partnership Work for the Purposes of CounterTerrorism: mapping the main strands of Muslim Contact Unit work
Empirical evidence gathered during the course of this study indicates that the core aspects to the work carried out by the MCU are as follows:
3.4.1 MCU specific, though not exclusive, focus upon engaging with Muslim communities It is important to emphasise that the MCU has largely concentrated upon engaging with Muslim communities. This focus deserves further analysis, particularly because it appears to be at odds with the prevailing „equality and diversity‟ agenda within the public sector which has overseen a major shift in focus on „race‟, ethnicity and gender, to a recognition of other social groupings including on the basis of sexual orientation, faith, disability, and age in all aspects of policy and practice, including community engagement. Despite this trend, the MCU has nurtured its specific remit to engage with Muslim communities, grounded upon the following arguments:
3.4.2 Efficacy of specific remit In a post 9/11 and more specifically post 7/7 context, the security services, alongside government, have placed particular scrutiny upon Muslim communities, with alQaeda inspired networks viewed as constituting the most significant terrorist threat. It would therefore seem logical for a specialist police counter-terrorism unit to work with Muslim communities to try and reduce the terror threat, particularly when taking into consideration that some Muslim communities in the UK have had long-standing experience in tackling extremism prior to the events of 9/11.
3.4.3 In-depth understanding of complex communities to contextualize intelligence The MCU‟s specific focus upon Muslim communities has enabled police officers to gain an in-depth understanding of the Muslim population of London, a major task due to the layers of complexity making up this diverse population. Empirical evidence gathered by this study illustrates that developing a nuanced understanding of communities has taken many years of sustained and focussed engagement. The Muslim population of London is extremely heterogeneous in terms of „race‟, ethnicity, gender, age, class, culture, politics, country of origin, religious strands within Islam and schools of Islamic thought. Of course, with this level of diversity, as with other communities, there are intra-community dynamics and at times complex divisions that may have historical, political, doctrinal, familial, tribal, as well as other, roots. Within the arena of counter-terrorism context is key to interpreting and evaluating pieces of community intelligence that are often far from being clear-cut and further still from constituting criminality. It is therefore vital for police officers in units such as the MCU to develop an in-depth understanding of Muslim communities and their issues.
3.4.4 Identification of most effective partners The knowledge gained through the focus Muslim communities also helps MCU officers to make rational assessments regarding which specific community groups in London can best help combat extremism, and to partner them in order to facilitate such preventative work. This part of the MCU remit is perhaps the most controversial, and will be returned to later on in this report.
3.4.5 Grassroots connection and trust building In addition, the specific interest in working with Muslim communities has enabled the MCU to develop a methodology of engagement underpinned by an active concern to understand and explore the root causes of terrorism and ways of countering it from
the perspectives of Muslim community members. This methodology, implicit within the working practices of the MCU, may be conceptualised as a more grass roots orientated, horizontal „bottom-up‟ approach to engagement, within a counterterrorism arena dominated by state-centric „top-down‟ approaches that fail to understand terrorism and counter-terrorism through the perspectives and experiences of those who comprise „suspect communities‟. MCU engagement has enabled police to gain an understanding of community perspectives about a widerange of terrorism related issues, such as for example, the impact of counter-terror operations on Muslim communities. Moreover, in attempting to understand violent extremism from the perspectives of those communities who have been particularly affected by extremism, the approach helps the MCU to facilitate working partnerships with community groups for the purposes of preventing of violent extremism. At the same time, it might be argued that this approach enables empathy to be built, with MCU police officers attempting to understand the fears and hopes of Muslim community members. This may be viewed as an important aspect to building trust, because as argued by Booth & Wheeler (2007), trust requires empathy. The issue of trust is a key issue and will be returned to later on in this section.
Key Points The MCU focus on engagement for the purposes of counter-terrorism allows for: An in-depth understanding of the diverse and complex Muslim population of London, vital for police officers to contextualize, evaluate and analyse intelligence. A methodology of engagement underpinned by an active concern to understand and explore the root causes of terrorism and ways of countering terrorism through the perspectives of Muslim community members. Practice in developing a „bottom -up‟ approach to engagement, significant in a CT field dominated by state-centric „top-down‟ approaches that fail to understand terrorism and counterterrorism through the perspectives and experiences of those who comprise „suspect communities‟. An approach that enables empathy to be built, in which MCU police officers have attempted to internalise the fears and hopes of Muslim community members. This might be viewed as an important aspect to building trust. 31
3.4.6 MCU bridge-building Another important aspect to the work of the MCU is bridge-building, both within Muslim communities and also between Muslim communities and wider society. Within a context where there are - as in many other communities - political, cultural, ethnic and generational tensions, among others, it is important for police officers not to add to these divisions. Moreover, a balancing act must be made in terms of strategic engagement with certain sections of Muslim minorities (in the case of the MCU, Salafis and Islamists - see Section 3.6) but at the same time maintaining a good relationship with the wider Muslim population, who may be less than enthusiastic about the police engaging with certain sections of their community. The MCU has striven not only to build trusting relationships with specific community groups but also with a wide range of other Muslim community members, mindful of the potential to add to intra-community tensions if seen as favouring some groups/individuals over others.
As well as partnering Muslim community groups, the MCU has networked with a wide range of other key stakeholders, including local authorities, government departments, youth organisations, academics and think-tanks. This has enabled the MCU to learn about the perspectives of other key stakeholders on the issue of the prevention of violent extremism and has also helped MCU officers to facilitate community projects, by building partnerships with other organisations that may be able to provide the kinds of resources necessary for community projects to take place. This approach reflects contemporary developments in governance, whereby responsibility and accountability for preventing violent extremism has been progressively shared across statutory, voluntary agencies and community groups in the form of partnership work. A recent government policy document highlights how representatives from the education sector, children‟s and youth services, probation and prison services, alongside police and local authorities, are all to be involved in the prevention of violent extremism (HM Government, 2008). Rather than working in isolation, the police therefore need to build links with wider society to help facilitate work around the Prevent agenda.
In this context, the work of the MCU provides an insightful example of the ways in which police officers can build relationships with a wide range of organisations, including Muslim communities, in order to help put together strategies to prevent violent extremism. As recently highlighted by DEMOS,
„public engagement needs to be expressed in practical relationships between the police and the community, not abstract structures. Done properly, community participation can help solve problems for police officers; it need not be seen simply as a way of causing them‟ (DEMOS „A force for change‟ 2006:33).
According to Oppler (1997), this form of policing can be linked to a multi-agency approach, whereby the police, communities, elected officials, statutory and other agencies work in partnership to address crime and community safety, underpinned by a principle of finding local solutions to address local issues. In addition, the MCU demonstrates that for such wide ranging and sensitive partnership work, trust remains a vital component, a subject to which the next section is dedicated.
3.4.7 Trust Previous work in this field has established that trust and confidence in the police can be seriously undermined in situations where communities feel that they are being over-policed (MacPherson, 1999; Miller 2000; Jones & Newburn, 2001), and that, moreover, this can have serious consequences upon the flow of information from communities, which in the context of counter-terrorism is a key issue (Hillyard, 1993; Hillyard, 2005). As illustrated in this report‟s section on Muslim Minorities as Suspect, Muslim communities in the UK have been approached by security services to act as informants, while some have directly experienced the implementation of counterterror laws, creating a sense of grievance for many. Moreover, counter-terror operations that have drastically gone wrong, such as Forest Gate, have severely eroded trust between Muslim communities and the police. Yet interestingly, Muslim community members who participated in this study are generally supportive of the MCU, individuals having voluntarily engaged with MCU officers on a regular basis, in some cases building working partnerships. This is a key finding of the study, given that a recent DEMOS report highlighted that:
In the age of home-grown terrorism, effective national intelligence needs strong local roots into communities. The targeting of particular ethnic minorities makes cooperative, high-trust relationships with local communities seem more necessary and less feasible than ever. (DEMOS 2006 (ibid):22)
Given this context, the question that needs to be raised is how MCU officers have managed to negotiate the difficult terrain in order to engage with Muslim communities and build strong partnerships?
Empirical evidence gathered by this study suggests that developing trust between community members and the MCU has indeed been a key strategy for MCU officers. Trust has been accomplished through sustained interactions and reciprocal exchanges, also involving „leaps of faith‟. The basis of trust has a number of int errelated components:
MCU officers openly tell community members that they are counter-terror police officers working within a specialist unit, arguing that in order to be trusted by community members they have had to build up sincere relationships which are based upon being frank about the unit‟s remit. Without such honesty, the climate of fear generated by counter-terror laws and operations in Muslim communities cause people to be distrustful of any approaches from police, particularly those that are not clearly-defined.
The MCU acknowledges community grievances. As illustrated in the section on Muslim Minorities as Suspect, individuals‟ narratives illustrate that any initiative set up to counter terror involving state authorities and Muslim communities will have to be sensitive to, and be able to negotiate through, the negative and painful experiences that individuals have suffered, either individually or at the group collective level. By doing so, the MCU demonstrates the possibility of building effective projects whereby Muslim communities feel that they are stakeholders and equal partners in an initiative.
Another element to the trust that MCU officers are engaged in building, involves ongoing interaction and dialogue regarding general community affairs. This has included MCU officers attending seminars on terrorism organised by community members, visiting people in their homes for social gatherings, participating in weddings or death ceremonies, being interested in wider community activities that individuals are organising and so forth. It would appear that MCU officers have been able to engage socially and culturally to such an involved degree with Muslim communities because they are part of a specialist counter-terror unit which has focussed specifically on building partnerships between themselves and Muslims.
This involvement with Muslim communities might be considered as being linked to Reassurance Policing whereby in a climate of fear – communities being fearful of hard policing tactics, as well as of racial and Islamophobic attack – it is particularly important for members of „suspect‟ and „victimised‟ communities to develop an ongoing and trusting relationship with a counter-terror police unit. In the context of counter-terrorism, it might be argued that the MCU has played a key role in providing reassurance to Muslim community members, being one identifiable counter-terror unit within London that community members can approach. Thus, the MCU has provided a more visible, familiar and accessible policing unit within the context of counter-terrorism, which generally is characterised by secrecy. The MCU also provides Reassurance Policing in the context of racist and Islamophobic attacks. One individual that we interviewed recounted how he had directly contacted the MCU when witnessing a racist incident because he was concerned by the general police response. At the same time, MCU officers have provided Muslim community members with emotional and practical support in the aftermath of racist and/or Islamophobic attacks. Of course, critics of Reassurance Policing, and community policing more generally, have argued that this is merely a superficial veneer, the sugar-coating on a bitter pill. Nonetheless, as will be outlined later on in this section, part of the MCU‟s role, and indeed an important part of building trust with communities, is in helping communities to access the resources they need in order to implement projects. As such, the role of the MCU goes beyond mere appearances, or symbolism, but rather also involves empowering members of Muslim communities, as will now be described in more detail below. 3.4.8 Community Participation – MCU officers as Facilitators An important aspect to the work of the MCU, which has also helped to generate trust from within Muslim communities, is the high level of community participation that MCU officers have facilitated within the partnerships that have been created. This provides a good example of how community policing, which has been criticised in the past for being nothing more than a public relations exercise (Fitzgerald et al. 2002) or a form of „soft power‟ in getting communities to follow wider policing or political agendas (Innes, 2006), can, in an alternative form, involve a high degree of community participation or even community empowerment.
The interview data suggests that the MCU has facilitated community participation at the highest level, by supporting independent community interests, and providing advice or other forms of support to help communities develop their own projects
aimed at preventing violent extremism. For example, community members have approached the MCU with ideas for projects which officers have been instrumental in facilitating, such as helping to provide advice on sources of funding and the writing of applications and so forth. The MCU has also helped to facilitate a change of leadership within mosques under the influence of extremists. It has succeeded in such sensitive operations by working with members of the mosque communities, including brokering meetings between influential individuals to facilitate change (see Lambert, 2009 for an insider‟s analysis of these London-based police and Muslim community partnership initiatives ). At the same time, and equally sensitive bearing in mind that the MCU operates in a counter-terrorism environment, MCU officers have also helped to facilitate community organised seminars involving Muslim clerics who, whilst being held in high regard with substantial sections of the Muslim population, have been deemed „suspect‟ by influential political commentators. They have done so by helping community members to write cases of support as to why these clerics should be allowed to visit the UK. Furthermore, the MCU has also worked to help communities get permission to organise political demonstrations in London. This is a significant achievement, given that the theory of community participation often falls short, with the supporting of independent community interests rarely being put into practice (Cook, 2006).
3.4.9 Negotiating Conflicting Values Supporting independent community interests, especially within the highly politicised environment of counter-terrorism, is particularly problematic for police officers, who may find that helping communities to achieve their goals means going against the grain of particular strands of government policy and the top-down approaches which dominate the counter-terror context. Indeed, within the context of counter-terror policing, the adoption of community-based policing may clash with national security policing values.
Drawing upon the work of Murphy (2005), Hanniman (2008) argues that national security policing derives its authority from a state or government. Therefore, national security policing traditionally employs policing strategies that are secret, meaning they do not require public consent or support and are not open to public or legal scrutiny. Furthermore, the national security-based version of community policing may see communities as merely a source of security information and criminal intelligence. In this context, community members are encouraged to watch and share information on suspicious neighbours or friends with police - viewed as informants rather than
partners. Local police may also be encouraged to use their community-policing programmes and relationships to penetrate local communities and provide intelligence. These strategies, Hanniman (2008) argues, can rapidly alienate a community.
Previous research has highlighted that conflicts over values can create tensions within, and undermine, police-community partnerships (Thacher, 2001). In this regard, researchers have argued that although some community groups might be viable police partners, other groups are not likely to develop partnerships with police due to their goals being different from policing aims. As a counterpoint, Thacher (2001) argues that police may be able to resolve conflicts that develop in their community partnerships by implementing strategies that are compatible with multiple values, highlighting that in the case studies of police-partnerships that he examined, effective police practitioners were able to manage conflicting values.
In attempting to understand the issue of terrorism from the perspectives of Muslim community members, it might be argued that the MCU has succeeded by attempting to draw upon and understand the standpoints of community members in relation to wide-ranging questions. This includes sensitive issues such as political views on the war in Iraq, viewpoints about arrest, deportation or investigation under counter-terror laws, and gender issues. It is important to highlight that this has not been a matter of questioning community members in the form of interrogation or intimidation but rather through dialogue instigated through social interaction, valuable to mutual understanding and trust.
The study of the MCU highlights that in the context of police-community engagement, partnerships can develop around the shared goal of the prevention of violent extremism whether or not parties hold different values with respect to notions of multiculturalism, Britishness, faith and so forth. However, it is important to note that values and identities are far more complex than the dualistic term „police-community‟ suggests - police officers are also members of communities and may have the same or similar values to the members of the community groups that they are in partnership with. In addition, mutual differences and commonalities can interact to great benefit within partnerships as police officers may draw upon these values when building trust with community members – indeed, MCU police officers, like other individuals in contemporary western society, hold multiple identities in relation to their ethnicity, age, faith (or lack of faith identity), being male, and so forth, and it seems
that these facets constitute a mechanism through which connections are made with community members. In some cases even common interests such as football, for example, can act as common ground and a vehicle for trust building.
However, this approach may stand at odds with government policy around Prevent because it actively avoids trying to influence the values of the community groups with whom the MCU enters into partnership. Whereas government agendas have so far appeared to focus on involving „moderate Muslims‟ in partnership work, negatively judging as a threat to social cohesion those Muslim community members who are viewed, - in a now normative binary - as valuing the ummah over or alongside feelings of „Britishness‟ or who appear to isolate themselves from wider society, it seems that the MCU‟s work involves it making an assessment about which groups can best help combat extremism, relegating questions of cohesion and national identity to other fields of policy and practice (see Spalek & Lambert, 2008 for more detailed discussion of this). Engaging radicals is probably the most controversial aspect of the work of the MCU and this will be focussed upon in a specific section of this report.
3.4.10 Intelligence In the case of intelligence gathering, the interview data reveals that trust is a key issue with respect to communities speaking to police about sensitive issues and concerns. Individuals are unlikely to approach the police unless they already have a trusting relationship with a particular officer. Importantly, the empirical evidence suggests that within a partnership based on trust with police, community members expect that any information that is provided to police should be taken on board by the police officer in a sensitive and constructive way, from a perspective that seeks engagement with Muslim communities rather than to immediately criminalise members of Muslim communities. Approaching police with information means that the individual loses control of that information and this can lead to a number of different policing outcomes, with immediate criminalisation being warranted in only the most dangerous instances. Therefore, trust is key to building the right kind of context in which sensitive information is relayed to police. It may be that for community members to approach police, trust needs to be developed at two levels – the predictive and normative levels. The former level is about trusting to behave predictably, the latter referring to trusting to do what is the „right thing‟ although this can be open to interpretation (Booth & Wheeler 2007).
It is important to highlight, however, that although so far this report has been focussing on trust in the sense of Muslim communities trusting police in the context of counter-terrorism, trust is reciprocal and partnership work is enhanced in situations where police trust the individuals that they are partnering. This may be particularly difficult given that research exploring „cop culture‟ has highlighted the often inwardlooking nature of police culture (Reiner, 2007). It may be that in the context of counter-terrorism, it is the role of police to make the first move and to seek and act to bring about a relationship of trust. This may involve ground-breaking police officers taking a policing „leap into uncertainty‟ in initiating a process of trust -building, particularly when the context of counter-terrorism is embedded in a system of distrust rather than trust. A founding member of the MCU is perhaps one such police officer, and the empirical evidence gathered by this project suggests that partnership work between police and communities can be greatly enhanced by police officers who are prepared to take such a leap, as the following section will now highlight.
3.4.11 Police Officers as Facilitators Many community members that we interviewed as part of this project described a particular MCU officer as being „a friend‟. Breaking this down further, research participants talked about the police officer in terms of him giving time to Muslim communities, to try and sit down and understand problems and positionings on moral questions. He was also seen as approaching members of Muslim communities in a respectful and polite way. This police officer was spoken about in terms of wanting to engage with people on a genuine level rather than on a political level, and was viewed as a police officer who was genuinely interested in community interests, in creating safe spaces for community members and for engagement and encounters to take place. Participants also praised the officer as being someone of high intelligence who was able to provide community members with considered advice. This section highlights the importance of leadership in trust-building activities, however, other MCU officers were also key to the engagement and partnership work that took place between the MCU and Muslim communities. In the next section the case of Muslim police officers is highlighted.
3.4.12 Muslim Police Officers within the MCU Another key feature of the MCU is that Muslim police officers have been employed on the unit, this being a rare feature of counter-terrorism units. MCU Muslim police officers not only have brought with them operational policing and community policing experience, but also social and cultural capital that has enabled the MCU to build
partnerships with particular minorities of the Muslim population, including communities labelled and/or self-identifying as Islamist and Salafi. MCU Muslim
police officers have played an instrumental role in building bridges with members of mosques, developing trusting relationships with mosque communities and then extending these relationships to the non-Muslim police officers working on the MCU. This study has found that in order for Muslim police officers to access certain communities they must have credibility with those communities and respect for the religious identifications of community members. Muslim MCU officers participating in this research suggested that in order to partner people for whom religion is important, it is often necessary for police officers who are making initial contacts with community members to show religious sincerity and credibility. In addition, they have also played an important role in helping to over-turn police misunderstandings or stereotypes of Muslim communities that tend to be portrayed in the media through dialogue with other police officers and through establishing working relationships with non-Muslim police officers. It has to be stressed, however, that the Muslim police officers working on the MCU have had to negotiate their dual identities as police officers and Muslims on an ongoing basis. They have had to draw upon significant personal resources in order to operate in a wider counter-terrorism context whereby police and community alike tend to operate around the binaries of „insider‟ and „outsider‟ and/or „innocent‟ or „suspect‟. Muslim police officers working on the MCU are in a particularly difficult position as their identities as Muslims and police officers mean that they challenge these simplistic binaries and as a result may experience suspicion from both communities and police officers. Employing Muslim police officers on a counterterrorism unit raises significant issues and will be returned to in this report on the section headed Islamic knowledge. 3.4.13 Outstanding and Key Questions This study has focussed upon interviewing those individuals that have engaged in dialogue with the MCU, some of whom have been involved in partnership work with MCU officers. However, there are of course Muslim community members who have refrained from entering into engagement and partnership with the MCU and future research would seek to try and contact these individuals to try and find out why they have not engaged with, nor partnered, the MCU.
Although counter-terrorism policies and practices have been dominated by „hardsided‟ strategies involving surveillance, intelligence gathering, the use of informants and the implementation of a number of anti-terror laws under the Pursue strand of the government‟s CONTEST strategy, policing can play a significant role in developing and implementing preventing extremism initiatives that involve community engagement.
In order to ensure effective engagement, key lessons learned from the work of the MCU are as follows:
Key Points Community policing underpins effective engagement between police and Muslim communities. Such engagement is predicated by sensitivity and an in-depth, longterm understanding of the complexities and diversities of Muslim communities. Focusing on work with communities identified as being effective in countering and preventing violence – including those deemed „radical‟ or marginal – is an effective and proven methodology that overrides current political agendas. Trust-building is of paramount importance in developing good partnership practice. Grassroots led, „bottom -up‟ approaches engender the reciprocal trust needed in partnership work and allow for mutually beneficial and therefore sustainable relationships in which partners may gain on a number of levels. Community intelligence gathering can be a positive, empowering process, only if generated through a two-way, equality based relationship. It is both ineffective and counter-productive to attempt to „handle‟ communities as informers. Inter-personal skills, risk-taking, trust, and an open, honest approach to diverse identities, interests, values and goals are vital components to the MCU approach, which strengthen rather than undermine partnership work.
3.5 The Importance of Partnership Work in Countering Terrorism
But without the MCU who do I go to? Who do I go to? ... now suspicion means five years in Guantanamo. It‟s not just okay, let‟s keep one eye on that person. It‟s not let‟s go and, and have a friend go and have a word with him so that…it‟s not that anymore. It‟s go raid their house, break down their doors, you know, tie them up in front of their children. Dehumanise them in whatever time they spend in Belmarsh or Guantanamo and then just tag for the rest of their lives. Th at‟s what suspicion means. So who in their right mind would go and say „hang on, I think…?‟ Who would do that? And we all lose out. Muslim community activist
The discourses of „New Terror‟, which pitch an ideological and physical war between „Islamist‟ terror groups and Western democracies, inevitably inform the work of, and discussions around, counter-terrorist policing. As explored in Section 3.1 of this report, the MCU is unusual in its approach to counter-terrorism, working specifically through partnership with Muslim communities. To more fully understand the partnership work of the MCU, it is important to situate it in the wider context of counter-terrorism, including its impact on communities (Spalek & Lambert 2007:1), the different approaches or methodologies and the measurement of success and failure.
3.5.1 Impact of Counter-Terrorism on Communities In a time when the media response to counter-terrorist operations is swift and comprehensive, the British public at large is fully conscious of the threat of violent action from terror groups and the responses of the state. Although this creates a sense of anxiety that may affect a cross-section of the population, the impact is most acute for communities directly affected as the suspects or „hosts‟ of those involved or suspected of involvement - in terrorism and related crimes. In the current context of „New Terror‟, these suspect communities (Hillyard 1993) are without exception, Muslim communities. This constructs a very particular relationship between the
British state and Muslim communities, informed by the following:
Muslims as a faith community are deemed an „at risk‟ group, with little attention paid to the complexities of multiple communities, or in differentiating between a terrorist threat and Muslims in general (Body-Gendrot 2007:7-8). Certain Muslim groups are particularly demonized, including those labeled as „Salafi‟ and „Islamist‟, and used to illustrate the inherent threat from „fundamentalist‟ Muslims. Islam is viewed in a number of normative discourses, including academic discussions, to be the source of „the threat‟, a sentiment that further increases Muslim alienation (Jackson 2008:10). Muslims are viewed in normative discourses as being not only the root, but the cure, to violet extremism, responsible as perpetrators and „active citizens‟ (Demos/Wilton 2006:7; Innes & Roberts (WEB):4; Innes 2006:234). Despite this construction, Muslim communities are, by the same discourses marginalised and excluded from debates about counter-terrorism (Spalek & Imtoual 2007:1; Spalek & Lambert 2007:1). A heightened security response to terrorist threats, including the creation of new anti-terror laws, has contributed to a climate of fear and suspicion, which constructs state and suspect communities as oscillating between a state of opposition and coerced collaboration. Emotional responses by politicians, the media and communities are heightened and exacerbated within the New Terror context (Body-Gendrot 2007:7-8). Suspicion and lack of debate increases the sense of a climate of fear for Muslim communities, heightening the sense of alienation and
marginalisation. Police-minority community relations are damaged further, against a history of negative association in Britain that includes the Irish experience of counterterrorism in the 1970s and 1980s (Jackson 08:2), and Black community experiences since the 1950s (Sivanandan, 1981; Smith & Gray, 1985; Jefferson et al. 1992; Sharp & Atherton, 2007).
For the MCU, this context provides a challenge to its work: effective engagement and partnership with communities is built on trust and dialogue, elements that can be very difficult to achieve in such circumstances. However, it is this aspect of MCU work the ability to build partnerships and overcome barriers to engagement - that pushes it to the forefront of counter-terrorism efforts for the following reasons:
The negative counter-terrorism context is a primary reason for promoting positive community engagement and partnership as part of an effective response to terrorism and violent radicalisation (Spalek & Lambert 2007:2; Jackson 2008:3). The MCU‟s success in working with Muslim communities acts to include voices who are able to contribute in many ways to counter-terrorism debates, but as previously mentioned, are normally marginalized. The MCU fulfils the duties of „community operation orders‟ (see Briggs, Fieschi & Lownsbrough. (DEMOS) 2006:33-34), including impact
assessments, by opening real communication between communities and the police regarding counter-terrorism, when much dialogue is being silenced. The in-depth knowledge and experience that the MCU has gained relating to faith and faith communities fills a void of information now acknowledged as vital to effective counter-terrorism and improved community relations ( see for example Briggs, Fieschi & Lownsbrough. (DEMOS) 2006:15-16;59) The MCU‟s ability to engage with „radical‟ and marginalized groups such as Salafis and Islamists allows for counter-terrorism work that many other policing and security units are unable to achieve. This approach has also facilitated counter-terrorism work by communities themselves, opening another important avenue in the prevention of violence that has otherwise been closed down.
As such the MCU manages to create opportunities and successful interaction with Muslim communities at a time when debates around and within counter-terrorism are in danger of sclerosis, particularly with regard to the scope of engagement with Muslim communities. Central to this context is the theoretical and practical division between „hard‟ and „soft‟ counter-terrorism, a distinction that we will argue the MCU complicates and in some ways bridges. 3.5.2 „Hard‟ and „Soft‟ Approaches to Counter-Terrorism As previously mentioned in Section 3.2 of this report, there is, according to academics and practitioners, a fundamental difference, if not tension, between the concepts of „hard‟ and „soft‟ forms of policing, par ticularly in the context of counterterrorism and the traditionally perceived necessity of national security. Defined as the terms themselves suggest, scholars such as Innes have categorised „hard‟ policing
styles as „based upon hierarchical forms of organization, the use of paramilitary tactics, and subscribing to crime control and law enforcement agendas‟; and „soft‟ policing as „derived from the community policing movement‟ (Innes. 2005:157 citing Hopkins-Burke 2004) – a more open, persuasive approach which makes space for and utilizes the role of the public. Defined in this binary, the use of both approaches tends to be combined within the national picture to create a model of „total policing‟ (Innes 2005:167-168). 3.5.3 The MCU – an alternative way? As explored earlier, the MCU is a unit with a specialised remit to work with Muslim communities for the purposes of counter-terrorism. This includes the handling of intelligence from various sources, with the explicit and fundamental aim of preventing acts of terrorist violence. In this sense, the MCU shares the aims of other, more traditionally „hard‟ policing units. However, the MCU departs radically from traditional counter-terrorism methodologies by centering its work on the concepts of community engagement and partnership. The inclusion of this „soft‟ approach at the foundation of the MCU ethos raises two potential criticisms:
The MCU depletes its effectiveness by foregoing a level of power gained through more traditional „hard‟ approaches. The MCU uses the concept of „partnership‟ as a form of „soft power‟ (Nye 2004; Innes 2005:164) – a form of Neighbourhood Policing acting as the sugar coating designed to maximize trust and the gathering of community intelligence for strategic gain. From these perspectives, the MCU is compromised – reduced in operational efficiency for the sake of an ethical or trend based model, or guilty of hiding a coercive agenda behind a friendly façade.
Despite these criticisms, which may emanate from within policing circles holding negative perceptions of „soft‟ approaches as an inappropriate and politicised trend (Chan, 1997; Innes 2005:157, 165; Reiner 1992), and from Muslim communities viewing the MCU as a mechanism for aggressive state control, the evidence gathered during this research study suggests a third understanding. Building on the discussion in Section 3.1, we would argue that the MCU bridges the „hard‟/‟soft‟
dichotomy to produce an effective counter-terrorism approach through inclusivity and openness with community members. It does so based on the following points:
Partnership as practiced by the MCU is not tokenistic, but relies on an actual sharing of power, in which parties enter a working relationship rooted in trust, that cannot function without equal co-operation.
The relationship between parties is one of dialogue and a sharing of information that contributes to achieving and maintaining the common values and goals to which the MCU and partners subscribe – the security of the British people. The rejection of „handler/informer‟ interaction for partnership avoids the undermining of police-community relations through coercion and mistrust, which has seriously hindered counter-terrorism in the past, including in Northern Ireland (Lambert 2007:5). This may also be viewed as contributing to part of a wider „reassurance policing‟ agenda which seeks to reduce community fears (Herrington 2005). A track record in which community engagement has proven effective – including in the case of Northern Ireland (Briggs, Fieschi & Lownsbrough. (DEMOS) 2006:17-18) – and in which success – in different forms – has been achieved in the seven years since the MCU‟s inception. The MCU as an alternative model is therefore compelling – fulfilling the effectivity expected by „hard‟ approaches, including the „intelligence-led‟ model (Briggs, Fieschi & Lownsbrough. (DEMOS) 2006:24-25; Clarke & Newman 2007:11 citing Gill, 2000, Maguire, 2000), through the establishment of trust, communication and close working partnerships with Muslim communities best placed to aid counter-terrorism policing.
If this model presents an alternative counter-terrorism methodology, it is important to discuss it in relation to the notion of success in counter-terrorism work.
3.5.4 Measurements of success in counter-terrorism If academic analysis of MCU engagement and partnerships is to contribute seriously to the debates on counter-terrorism and „New Terror‟, the underlying purpose of counter-terrorism – to prevent acts of terrorist violence – must be addressed in relation to the MCU‟s work. In its most explicit form, success may be located in the classic counter-terrorism scenario, in which officers and agents are able to successfully pursue and prevent individuals and groups engaged in identified terrorist plots. Where a plot is thwarted, a tangible success is achieved. What becomes more complex is measuring the less tangible, more diffuse, and ultimately long-term successes of counter-terrorism work as embodied by the MCU partnership model. This study has documented direct examples of „success‟ in terms of partnership work helping to counter terrorism – reclaiming a mosque from an infamous cleric‟s hardcore extremist supporters, launching community based counter-violent extremism initiatives in London, supporting Muslim minorities - especially Salafis and Islamists against widespread stigmatisation as terrorist 'fellow travellers' or 'suspect
communities', enhancing trust in police in sections of the community where it did not previously exist, supporting victims of Islamophobic attacks. The following points are intrinsic to this discussion2:
Any preventative form of policing, including preventing acts of extremist violence, is difficult to measure in conventional terms – it is impossible to quantify „what might have been‟. The example of drugs rehabilitation programmes is useful – a multi agency effort aimed at helping youth move away from drugs related crime may not yield results either in terms of drugs intelligence or criminal prosecution yet contribute to a significant decrease in long-term crime patterns. Preventing youth from becoming terrorists may not yield tangible results in terms of intelligence or criminal prosecution.
While it is difficult to quantify preventative measures, this does not detract from the benefits of „prevention over cure‟ – cutting terrorist activities at the root is a more effective and desirable approach than aiming solely to thwart attacks.
An early exploration of these points was made in an email exchange between team members and other academics: Lambert, Ramirez & Githens-Mazer 2008 47
MCU partnership work does not focus on „symptoms‟, but has devoted time and resources to building relationships and projects with Muslim communities that seek to address multiple factors that may contribute to terrorist violence in the first place. This includes tackling the radicalization of individuals and marginalizing the effect of extremist propaganda through partnering for the empowerment of communities. The effort to avoid community alienation as a result of this work is in itself beneficial to the Prevent agenda.
Contrary to more standard measurements, in which the quantity of intelligence gathered is used in the assessment of success, the partnership model allows community members to withhold intelligence in order to gain results in the long-term.
Concomitantly, through creating dialogue and trust, community intelligence gathered through open interaction and provided as a civic duty, is likely to be of far better quality than intelligence gathered coercively, or through a relationship of mistrust and fear.
In the case of working to prevent terrorism, the limits of any work are set by wider factors, for example, the impact of international foreign policy, or the spread of religious misinterpretation in theological circles. The aim in these cases can only to be to reduce impact, as preventing it is beyond the scope of counter-terrorism work.
Prevention work carries with it the risk that not all acts of terrorism are prevented, that not all individuals deemed at risk are prevented from engaging in terrorism. Similarly, measuring „success‟ from a community perspective is inherently problematic and not necessarily open to empirical measurement, but rather is more subtle involving the following elements:
Communication & dialogue Creation of safe spaces for dissent and alternative views Improved police-community relations (in some cases)
Changes in policy and practice In conclusion, the analysis of success regarding counter-terrorism work such as that of the MCU cannot be reduced to metrics. Rather, long-term, multifaceted and nuanced results made possible by an approach centred around excellent policecommunity relations and co-operation are, we would argue, more meaningful in the prevention on extremist violence. If preventing extremist violence is the remit of counter-terrorism work, rather than looking to fulfil political agendas questioning the citizenship and values of Muslim communities, MCU achievements in helping communities resist and remove extremist preachers from mosques, in working with marginalized and „radical‟ Muslim communities to understand and prevent the recruitment of young people by extremist organisations, in supporting youth groups in de-radicalization work and in working to build bridges between police and communities, are all important examples of MCU success. In providing wider lessons for counter-terrorism, the MCU‟s „alternative approach‟ can be viewed as a highly effective example of a counter-terrorism unit that has managed to develop forms of community policing, as used by other policing bodies such as the NCTT, within a security context. More traditional approaches tied to national security policing understand community engagement as preparing and softening the ground for counter-terrorism operations within communities and as such are criticised for generating mistrust and disempowerment. In contrast, the MCU uses the concept of equality driven community policing to open up space for engagement and partnership within and as part of counter-terrorism work itself. It has developed this methodology by drawing upon experience and expertise gained from counter-terrorism and community engagement issues in the past – including Northern Ireland and Irish community experiences during The Troubles, the negative impact of policing on Black communities, and by listening to those who are most often affected by „New Terror‟ at present: members of Muslim communities. In doing so it has achieved a high level of success within the Pursue and Prevent agendas, and has established potential for the continued, long-term countering of violence.
3.5.5 Partnership Work: Key Elements
Partnership is about empowering the community, not necessarily about the police saying “we want to do this, this and this, can you help us with that that?”. That may come as a by-product...but it‟s where you place the onus, and who does the work, what work is being done, and who takes the lead. We very much take a secondary role very often. And you can‟t empower if you are going to take the lead on an issue. How can you empower? Counter-terrorism Police Officer
This study highlights the importance of individual empowerment, active engagement, and partnership in community-police initiatives aimed at countering terrorism. Establishing partnerships between police and communities within a counter-terrorism context is vital to working with communities to prevent violent extremism, as it is only through effective partnerships that such very sensitive and risk-laden work can take place. However, establishing partnerships between police and communities within a counter-terrorism context can be particularly problematic. As illustrated in Section 2, communities labelled as „suspect‟ often experience hard policing/counter-terror tactics such as stop and search, raids and pressure to act as informers. With this kind of contact as normative, and the mistrust that it generates, initial police encounters with communities for the purposes of partnership are made extremely tenuous. In addition, the difficulties of initiating and building partnerships are further complicated by the potential tensions and competition within and between the values and goals of police and communities. Against this challenging background, the study highlights that the following components are important in building community-police partnerships:
Dialogue and trust-building It is important to stress that trust building is required on both sides – involving both police and communities. However, as police officers are in positions of relative
authority over community members, they have an instrumental role to play in levelling out power imbalances through dialogue and trust-building exercises. Dialogue
involves, for example, police officers showing genuine interest in learning, understanding and entering into an ongoing exchange about community perspectives and experiences of relevant issues including racism, Islamophobia, and violent extremism. Meaningful dialogue also involves police officers endeavouring to answer queries that communities have in relation to issues such as the scope of counter50
terror powers and investigations and possible impacts on communities, and reassuring community members that police officers are keen to support communities if experiencing Islamophobic attacks and/or racism.
Partnerships are further enhanced where police officers are able to build trust and rapport with community members through long-term interaction – contact that may go beyond a police officer‟s typical job description. A case gleaned from the research included the example of a police officer who, outside working hours, visited a community member who had been hospitalised by a violent hate crime, an act of goodwill that served to show community members that „somebody cares‟. In a counter-terror context, where community members are key in terms of working with police and other agencies to prevent violent extremism this kind of interaction, based very much on community policing principles, is, it might be argued, crucial in helping to build trust with communities. Reciprocity is also vital – for communities to work with police, it is important for officers to reciprocate efforts by helping communities tackle issues of concern to them. Likewise, meaningful dialogue also involves communities wanting to understand more about policing perspectives. Some good examples of empathy-building were recorded during this research. These included initiatives that allow community members to learn about police perspectives, discuss and even engage in role play as police officers in hypothetical counter-terrorism case scenarios (e.g. Operation Nicole). It is also important to stress that partnership work is characterised by the absence of coercion – all parties are free to stop interacting as and when they choose.
Acknowledging grievances Since 7/7, and particularly since Gordon Brown has become Prime Minister, the government‟s Prevent agenda has arguably given more space to acknowledging community grievances such as the Iraq war and social injustice. As such, the
present context is perhaps more open to police officers developing and working with projects that create opportunities for Muslim community members to express such grievances, particularly involving young people who are likely to be bearing the brunt of counter-terror operations and tactics. It is important to highlight and acknowledge that there is anger, particularly amongst young people, but that enabling young people to safely express this anger can be very difficult under the present climate of fear generated by the growth in counter-terror powers. This brief discussion hints at another important dimension to partnership work that is often overlooked and yet a key issue to take into consideration – the role of emotions.
Understanding and making space for emotions The intangibility and central importance of emotion in understanding socialities renders it complex and challenging for study. Nonetheless, there is growing research attention upon emotions, which might be viewed as being active stances towards the world, as well as being responses to situations (Riis & Woodhead 2009:1).
Emotions were spoken about by the research participants in relation to policing, preventing violent extremism and regarding the wider counter-terrorism context. For example, with respect to their experiences in dealing with police, or as officers themselves, some participants felt that policing culture and practice is hindered by bureaucracy and emotional distance. As such, participants argued that emotions should be taken on board by police in general, offering examples of innovative officers who have shown what might usefully be referred to as „emotional intelligence‟. In these cases, an acknowledgement and awareness of emotions has been used by officers as a way of helping to build effective partnerships grounded in empathy, reciprocity, and in emotional connections between partners. Such
examples reflect academic work that has focused upon emotions in a criminal justice and policing context including the work of Karstedt (2002), who has discussed the ways in which emotions pervade the criminal justice system. With respect to policing, according to Drodge and Murphy (2002:421), „police organizations and police work are affect laden because of cultural and social rules and because of the nature of the work itself, particularly as it occurs at the interface with public law and order‟. However, it seems that within policing, detached rationality is generally valued, whereby „neutrality, objectivity and impartiality are viewed as necessary antecedents in policing‟ (Drodge & Murphy: 2002: 425). This creates a tension within the counter-terrorism context, as in terms of intelligence work, research participants argued that for those working to counter terrorism it is important to emotionally connect with those individuals deemed at risk from violent extremism. This is
important as individuals linked to, or inspired by, Al-Qaeda networks draw upon their emotional intelligence to influence individuals emotionally and thus encourage engagement in extremist activities. Within such a context, reasoning alone will not be a sufficient enough response to preventing terrorism: rather, practitioners working in this area need to be emotionally intelligent and be able to empathise and make those deemed at risk feel comfortable with them in order to allow for effective prevention work to take place. This reflects current thinking within cognitive psychology,
whereby emotions are viewed as being intertwined with human thinking and
behaviour (Ben-Ze‟ev, 2000; Gigerenzer & Selten, 2001; Maturana, 1988). Therefore, it might be suggested that a way of altering cognitions and transforming how individuals relate to, and interact with, the world is through an awareness of, and working with, emotions.
The emotions of fear and anxiety were also referred to by research participants with respect to the current political climate whereby Muslim communities are viewed as „suspect‟ and in which individuals are fearful of voicing their concerns in legitimate ways, of showing their anger and frustration at being viewed with suspicion, or towards British foreign policy. Participants also spoke about how some individuals are also fearful of sending their children to mosques, and are watching over their own children out of a dread that they may be being influenced by extremists.
Individual and community empowerment Individual and community empowerment is a theme that featured significantly in our interviews. This might be thought of as police officers helping to implement
grassroots projects and supporting the initiatives that directly come from individuals, community groups and organizations. Ideas for projects are firstly assessed according to whether they will help prevent violent extremism – for instance running a boxing club or establishing mentoring schemes – with officers then suggesting ways in which people can access funding, helping people to fill in application forms, and providing police support to give greater legitimacy to projects. This kind of activity is most viewed as a form of capacity building within communities, facilitated by police and other partners. Importantly, the research results suggest that this form of
community empowerment can directly lead to information and intelligence for the police – although it is important to stress that the aim here is community empowerment, with information and intelligence a secondary benefit. The primacy of community empowerment over community intelligence is essential in order to build effective partnerships between police and communities based on trust. Any mistrust that is generated from a desire to focus on gathering information will directly impact on police officers‟ abilities to pick up on voluntary, and thus more reliable, community intelligence in the long term.
Identifying those members of communities who can partner with police In order to implement effective police community partnerships it is important for police officers to be able to identify those individuals and organisations who have
influence within a community. This point highlights the importance of police officers having a detailed understanding of communities, knowledge not only serving to help instigate empathy for communities but also helping in the identification of potential effective partners in countering terrorism. These partners may well be members of communities with whom the government have so far been reluctant to engage, but who are positioned to most effectively prevent violence. This aspect of partnership is discussed at further length in Sections 3.5 & 3.6 of this report.
Building on the mutual goal of the prevention of terrorism and drawing upon and utilizing community experiences, ideas and knowledge
Counter-terrorism is a highly politicised arena in which debates around broader, normative issues of citizenship and multiculturalism - including what sorts of behaviour, values and attitudes should be encouraged, profoundly influence engagement work. The research results reported here suggest that wider questions about community and social cohesion should not define the terms of engagement with Muslim communities for the purposes of counter-terrorism. Rather, a rational assessment should be made according to which groups can best help combat extremism, and police community partnerships should be based upon the mutual goal of preventing terrorism. It may be that for some community partners their
religion is an important part of their everyday lives, therefore, partnerships between police and individuals must allow room for religious sensibilities. This theme will be returned to in more detail.
Within the context of counter-terrorism, it is important to point out that risk is an element to police community partners. Both police officers and community members are taking risks in working together towards countering terror. It may be, for example, that community members view the police as a „last resort‟ in preventing violence, preferring to first appropriately challenge and prevent violence themselves before seeking help from the police, although making police officers aware of the dynamics that are taking place. Community leaders cannot be seen to be overtly and
repeatedly seeking help from the police as this can undermine their credibility with community members who may be suspicious of police. This kind of scenario of course involves risks because police officers are placing a certain amount of trust in community members to be able to sort out the issue themselves, only seeking direct police action as a last resort.
Key points Partnership work for the purposes of counter-terrorism relies upon: Dialogue and trust-building Acknowledging grievances Understanding and making space for emotions Individual and community empowerment Identifying those members of communities who can partner with police Building on the mutual goal of the prevention of terrorism and drawing upon and utilizing community experiences, ideas and knowledge
3.6 Engaging Radicals
We engage with difficult people. We have detractors in our work... we‟re not immune to the wider politics around counter-terrorism nor are we immune to the wider debates around who you should...engage and not engage with. We engage with people who others consider we shouldn‟t be engaging with. Who are considered a threat. I think we will prove to be right ... MCU Officer
A central conceptual and empirical focus of the research has been the engagement of „radicals‟ for the purposes of counter-terrorism. Despite the history of successful outcomes through engagement with terrorist groups and their political supporters including the case of Irish Republican violence, the most controversial aspect of the MCU‟s work remains its contact and partnership with those deemed „radical‟, and as such, this highly contested approach demands careful analysis. This section of the report will seek to unpack the theoretical debates and practice-based arguments for
and against working with individuals and groups normatively categorized as „radical‟, including „Salafis‟ and „Islamists‟.
3.6.1 The importance of definition and purpose Underpinning a constructive analysis is the need for a careful unpacking of terms. This is particularly challenging as the most prevalent words - „radical‟, „extremist‟, „fundamentalist‟ and „Islamist‟ – are used with an inconsistency that renders them of limited use (Briggs, Fieschi & Lownsbrough (DEMOS) 2006:41; Denoeux 2002:57; Malik 2007:30). Definitions rely on subjective perspectives, and are intrinsically linked to the highly politicised and problematic dichotomy that has been created by New Terror discourse – the binary of „Moderate‟ and „Radical‟ Muslim. From a state, outsider viewpoint, which in the case of Britain holds a form of predominantly secularised Christian heritage, Muslim practices and beliefs, including the most normative, can be constructed as „extreme‟ - from women‟s dress codes to eating habits. In addition, alternative forms of political engagement, particularly dissent, such as protest, rallies and internet forums are seemingly viewed as suspect. The pernicious effect of suspicion and othering has even extended to Muslims engaging from within the establishment, including Muslim MPs and councillors whose trustworthiness or dedication to preventing violence have been questioned. Definitions of terms such as „radical‟ and „fundamentalist‟ are also problematic from an internal Muslim perspective, with intra-community discussion and to varying degrees, tension around theological interpretations, politics and cultural differences rendering the categorisation of people in these ways as inadequate at best, and dangerously alienating. For the purposes of this report, the interest lies not in what may be considered „radical‟, but those who are acting to support or commit violence. As such, critical academic discussions pose a number of questions that lead to three pertinent points to clarify our line of argument:
What is the purpose of counter-terrorism ? Is a group or individual‟s religious, political and / or ideological belief and affiliation of relevance to a counter-terror operation? If affirmative, will this belief or affiliation help or hinder the prevention of terrorist violence and / or related issues?
In a context in which political agendas and media support is most often concerned with the promotion of „moderate‟ Islam, or engaging with „non-radical‟ Muslims –
despite the UK government‟s more recent use of the term „violent extremism‟ rather than „extremism‟ per se (DCLG 2007), and debates rage around Muslim positions regarding „British values‟, multiculturalism and citizenship, it is vital that the singular objective of counter-terrorism, to counter terrorism, does not become clouded. Rather, a rational assessment as to which groups can best help combat violence must be made, with questions of cohesion and national identity left to other debates and fields of policy-making. If experienced counter-terrorism practitioners see a benefit in engaging with Muslim minorities at the margins of communities, reasoning that the foundational goal of preventing violence is shared, and such groups and individuals are in a position to assist and contribute to the prevention of violence and related activities, other agendas become entirely peripheral. In particular, the concern that a group may follow a theological methodology, or share a political sympathy or aim related in some way to those perpetrating and supporting violence does not negate the necessity of engagement. Even in light of confident democratic principles which allow for marginal voices within the boundaries of law and order, the fundamental point is whether or not terrorist violence is condoned or condemned (Malik 2008).
The MCU is therefore concerned with the prevention of violence, including prevention facilitated and even led by marginal and „radical‟ Muslim communities, because of, rather than despite, their theological and political perspectives. This point is further expanded below.
3.6.2 Engagement for Counter-Terrorism The previously discussed shift from a focus on „racial‟ and „ethnic‟ identities to faith, accelerated by the post 9/11 context, has witnessed a concurrent recognition that such faith identities and values must be engaged with, including those of Muslims (Silvestri 2008:125). This is hugely significant to the MCU because of its engagement with individuals and groups who identify as Muslims, and focus on terrorist activities that may be perpetrated by Muslims, and labelled – correctly or not - as relating in some way to the Islamic faith. It is against this background that „engaging radicals‟ has become normative MCU practice, for a variety of reasons: Engaging marginal and marginalized Muslim groups such as „Salafis‟ and „Islamists‟ is a logical continuum of the post 7/7 drive to support community led, faith-based approaches to youth-work, education & de-radicalization central to the Prevent agenda.
MCU partnership and positive relations that are inclusive of all Muslim groups ensures that trust and bridge-building is viewed as genuine and not subject to political trends and agendas which may alienate communities and shut down dialogue, necessary to the twin government aims of cohesion and deradicalization. Disengagement has in itself been understood as increasing the likelihood of violent action (Demos/Wilton 2006:11) The MCU‟s risk in engaging „radicals‟ against the grain of current trends, has paid off with tangible successes including the physical and ideological removal of an infamous cleric from a large London mosque, and the deradicalization of young people by several „Salafi‟ groups. The success of „radical engagement‟ is rooted in the ability of „Salafi‟ and „Islamist‟ groups to level with and engage effectively and persuasively with individuals who are susceptible or who already hold violent extremist perspectives. That is, a number – but by no means all – of groups selfidentifying as „Salafi‟ or „Islamist‟ have the knowledge about, and shared experience, backgrounds and credibility of young people vulnerable to or already engaged in violent discourse and action. Such a „street‟ approach is invaluable to this form of countering terrorism.
Muslim groups able to fully understand and communicate on a theological and political level with „extremists‟ are better placed to assist and advise counter-terrorism practitioners than Muslims who have no experience in this area. Partnership with „radical‟ communities opens up the potential for gaining insider knowledge and community intelligence from those with experience in dealing with violent extremists. For example, leaders at a large London mosque, who self-identify as „Salafi‟, have a long history of resisting and tackling violent extremist activities and have been willing to advise the MCU through the establishment of a trust-based, equal relationship that constitutes partnership.
The MCU‟s inclusive approach to engagement is therefore based on practical, pragmatic grounds rooted in a commitment to carrying out effective counter-terrorism work, as well as a concern with the ethics and commitment to bridge building on which trust-based partnership is built. In contrast to the empirically challenged accusation that MCU officers are „appeasers of extremists' (Lambert 2007:6) this research therefore supports the notion that MCU work directly contributes to the tackling of violent extremism.
Key points Building on the analysis of MCU partnership and trust-building explored in Section 3.1, there are several other points needed to understand the MCU‟s success in „radical engagement‟. The MCU‟s commitment and risk -taking in addressing wider issues such as Islamophobic crime and the political demonization of „radical‟ groups demonstrates the mutual benefits of partnership work and thus helps create the sustainable, strong partnership with „radical‟ as well as mainstream Muslim groups. The facilitation of empowerment for marginalized groups in terms of helping dispel unwarranted negative images, promoting their projects and in the very act of engaging in partnerships – as explored in Section 3.6 is a further incentive to enter into partnership. A commitment and track record of raising „taboo‟ issues within counter-terrorism debates that reflect the concerns of many communities as well as academics and media commentators, such as the radicalizing factor of foreign policy (for example: Judd 2008: Column 729; Scheuer: 2008; Naqshbandi 2006:11; Jackson 2008:15; Diarra 2007:79). As discussed in Section 3.6, the element of risk taken by the MCU in „radical engagement‟ is a major factor in the MCU‟s success, for example the space given to Muslim groups to deal with extremist activities in their own way. This demonstrates a „leap of faith‟ nee ded to develop trust with groups who are usually marginalized, an action supported by peace-building theory (Booth & Wheeler 2007). A negotiation of common goals – the preventing of violence - over differences, using personal positionality and shared experience to facilitate the process (see Section 3.5)
4 Inclusivity: Youth & Gender
Recognizing and connecting with the most effective partners from Muslim communities is essential to long term counter-terrorism success. The research found compelling evidence for developing an awareness and inclusive approach to women and young people within counter-terrorism. In contrast, a review of literature relating to terrorism and counter-terrorism studies reveals a distinct marginalisation and stigmatisation of women‟s roles in both countering and perpetrating violence, and a highly disconnected, othering stance to young people. While these issues will be expanded in the wider outputs of the research project, it is important to note the following key theoretical points and research findings.
4.1 Gender issues and CONTEST
An area of great interest to the Prevent agenda, but much overlooked in counterterrorism, is the importance of addressing gender, again on both theoretical and practical levels. A gender conscious analysis contributes to understanding and improving community engagement and empowerment, and, from data gathered during the course of the research, points to an unrecognized area in directly tackling extremist violence.
Gender imbalances in the form of a massive under-representation of women have been normative in the interaction of government and other state bodies including the police with Muslims, and equally within the makeup of many Muslim community organisations purporting to speak on behalf of the Muslim population. However, through lobbying by activists, increased community consultation, the pressures of state commitments to equality, and an interest in practical gains, policy makers have started to recognize the importance of women in successful grassroots engagement and empowerment.
Yet despite the improvements, the research findings suggest that the CONTEST programme has much more to gain from the participation of women per se, and particularly in relation to partnership work with police. Two important areas that support the inclusion of Muslim women are:
As community workers, family members and educationalists, many Muslim women involved in community work are engaged with young people and other
women. These experts understand social, cultural and religious issues and are able to communicate effectively with „hard to reach‟ groups. Such women are therefore under-acknowledged as key contacts for practitioners interested in the Prevent agenda.
Evidence gathered through the research also suggests that there is an urgent need for Muslim women sensitive to the variety of cultural and religious practices, and well versed in theological debates and knowledges, to work in partnership with grassroots organisations and the police to tackle violent extremism directly. Women in danger of becoming involved in supporting or perpetrating violence which they understand as being justified by their interpretations of Islam, can, almost without exception, be engaged only through other women.
Despite these major areas of potential contribution, Muslim women face a number of barriers to their participation: A lack of conceptual policy-based and academic support for women‟s involvement In some cases the exclusion of women has continued under a banner of „gender blindness‟ that in reality underpins a lack of practical gender mainstreaming in counter-terrorism and related work. Where Muslim women are included in discussions, it is often in the tradition of Orientalist, sexist and non-critical scholarship in which they feature as victims of violence or psychologically damaged assistants to male-led terrorism. Equally problematic is the development of a new discourse, in which Muslim women are constructed as „moderates‟, who – under state guidance – constitute a key element to both „winning hearts and minds‟ and promoting „moderate interpretations‟ of Islam. This approach is illustrated by the following government statement: „Our strategy rests on an assessment of firstly whether an organisation is actively condemning, and working to tackle, violent extremism; and secondly whether they defend and uphold the shared values of pluralist democracy, both in their words and their deeds. By being clear what is acceptable and what isn‟t, we aim to support the moderates and isolate the extremists.‟ (Blears 17/7/08), Within this context, and the Prevent programme in particular, the idea that engaging women to „build community resilience‟ or „strengthen moderate voices‟, has created a number of issues relating to community-police engagement. Not only does this form
of gendered stereotype essentialise and reduce Muslim women to one religious, political and ideological stance: many of the highly skilled research participants had ceased to engage with the counter-terrorism agenda because they felt it insulting, limited and limiting.
The impact of normative political and media debate surrounding the position of Muslim communities in Britain Activists involved in grassroots Muslim organisations also reported high levels of disengagement by women concerned over the negative impact of „New Terror‟ discourses on their communities and wider society, a fear of and experience of Islamophobia through engagement, and the taboo of interacting with state officials within communities with a history of poor police relations.
The experience of prejudice in engagement work Women already actively involved in partnership work as community members are hindered in a variety of ways, including experiencing sexist and stereotyping attitudes from police officers and members of community organisations, both purposeful and unintentional, and isolation by family members and communities opposed to this work. While a number of actively engaged women felt able and willing to negotiate their way over these barriers, a number felt they were not.
The lack of representation of women and minority Muslim groups in state-community engagement Participants raised concerns over the lack of representation of women, young people and Muslim minority groups in engagement initiatives. The impact of a perceived predominance of „old-boy networks‟ running on ethnic, theological and political lines within Muslim communities was viewed as particularly problematic, contributing to a high level of cynicism relating to the engagement process and subsequently causing reduced participation even amongst those able to take – literally – a place at the table. This aspect of disengagement is also exacerbated by the perceived and statistical lack of representation within policing: the number of Muslim police engaged in community counter-terrorism work is extremely low – 27 individuals nationally at the time of writing, of whom two are women (NAMP & Demos 2008:8).
The impact of „hard‟ counter-terrorism approaches The research also found evidence of activist women who have previously engaged with the counter-terrorism agenda ceasing participation after becoming fearful and/or disillusioned by interactions with counter-terrorism practitioners. In particular, the experience of being approached in covert and aggressive ways by members of the security services interested in recruiting women activists or the clients of their organisations as informers, had created a sense of fear and indignation of „hard‟ counter-terrorism methods. While it is highly unlikely that such security practitioners are involved with police-community engagement strategies, the result is a disengagement from the police-community relations and partnerships that – as illustrated throughout this report – can be so effective in countering terrorism and generating mutual benefit.
4.2 Young people and countering terrorism
A similarly complex picture was found in relation to Muslim youth and police relations. The research found evidence of best practice and a willingness by some units and individual police officers to work in innovative and inclusive ways with youth workers and young people. Muslim youth workers, specifically those able and willing to deal with the most challenging issues of direct relevance to security, have been found to be ideal partners in counter-terrorism work. In particular, partnership building with youth-focussed grassroots organisations – especially those potentially or normatively categorised as „radical‟ – are successfully intervening on several levels to prevent violence.
The research therefore suggests that more support is needed to foster such engagement, from a governmental, policy level. Currently, the taboo around working with those deemed „radical‟, based on the contentious notion that engaging with those who hold religious and/or political beliefs or „values‟ divergent to those of the British government may damage cohesion or result in a normalisation of those standpoints - is limiting such work. Concurrently, the ideological limits being placed on engagement are further cemented by the promotion of organisations deemed „moderate‟ by the state – including those with little relevant experience to counterterrorism, and highly controversial reputations within Muslim communities.
In addition, the way in which Prevent policy has been presented, with young Muslims in general targeted by the strategy, including controversies around the identification
of children „at risk‟ from violent extremism, compound the idea that all young Muslims are potential violent extremists. This a stigmatizing discourse, and the young people participating in the research felt a high level of frustration towards the underlying assumptions with which they are labelled.
As previously indicated in the report, particularly Section 3.2, the research also found that the pathologising of Muslim youth through „hard‟ counter-terrorism practices and New Terror discourses is increasing the high sense of alienation experienced by many young people, and therefore decreasing the likelihood of positive engagement. It has been suggested by some research participants – police officers and community members – that this polarizing atmosphere may also contribute to the complex process of violent radicalisation.
Therefore, like Muslim women, young people and youth workers who wish to engage with the police and state - and vice-versa - must negotiate a number of barriers in order to contribute to community and national security on terms with which they feel comfortable.
Key points Although the notion of including young people and women in community partnership is positive from an equalities perspective, the practical implications are of paramount importance to counter-terrorism. In relation to this, the research suggests that: Current academic and policy constructions of women and young people are generating a level of disengagement from the counter-terrorism agenda, and acting as a barrier to partnership work. Policy may be more thoroughly informed and therefore effective, if it connects with grassroots practitioners rather than „representatives‟, including youth workers and grassroots based women activists.
5 Religion and religious knowledge in counter-terrorism work
5.1 Religion and countering terrorism: an introduction
Historically - in a pre 9/11 world - communities were primarily viewed by the police as ethnic groups. As such, social tensions giving rise to crime and thus meriting police surveillance were not understood as arising from specifically religious questions as is the case with the issue of religiously endorsed violence today. But the events of 9/11 and 7/7 brought religion, and Islam in particular, abruptly and forcefully to the forefront of policing issues. In doing so, the focus turned from policing an ethnically diverse community in general, to specifically policing a religiously identified and identifying community - a community of one religion - Islam - that is often described by its adherents as 'a complete way of life' and by many outsiders as 'the most political religion in the world' that is 'determined to take over the world'3. However, it was a religion about which the British police knew only very little.
After the events of 7/7, terrorism began to be viewed as an internal affair rather than a „foreign problem‟. The view developed form this point has been that „home-grown terror‟ was an issue which the police and Muslim communities had to deal with, each from a very different positionality. Underpinning this is a fundamental and problematic question: whether the Muslim community is a suspect community or a community that can help solve the problem of terrorism. On this controversial issue, both the police and the community were - and remain - internally divided.
Therefore, when Commissioner Sir Ian Blair made his famous statement, that "communities defeat terrorism" in the 2005 Dimbleby Lecture4, he also made a conclusive position on the issue, committing the government and Muslim communities to engaging with each other in the fight against violent extremism. It appeared to be an announcement of trust in and expectation of Muslim communities,
Examples of similar views are rife in printed and electronic sources – a Google search produces over four million references to „Islam taking over‟. 4 A police officer participating in this research recounted how the phrase 'communities defeat terrorism' was a familiar police maxim often used during the IRA bombing campaign on the 'mainland' by heads of the Anti Terrorist Branch such as George Churchill Coleman. In this context, it signified the need for public vigilance rather than a notion of required community intelligence as signified Sir Ian Blair. 66
but at the same time it placed a level of responsibility in both the hands of the community and the government. For the community it meant an expectation to cooperate with the government and support it in fighting violent extremism; but for that to happen the government also had to put systems and mechanisms in place through which such co-operation could be achieved. Both had to be seen to actively do their part.
Against this background, one important focus of this empirical study was to ask questions pertaining to the role of religion and religious knowledge in counterterrorism work between the police and communities.
The main areas of exploration around this topic were:
Does religion come into counter-terrorism work? Do religion and religious belief help or hinder counter-terrorism? Has partnership with individuals and groups who have particular religious affiliations been useful to the police in counter-terrorism work, or has religion been a cause of tension in these cases?
Additionally, during interviews with the individual members of organisations studied, personal motives, emotions and experiences were discussed in order to explore the nature and the role of their religiosity, which appeared to the researchers to be one of the strongest factors motivating Muslim workers in this field. The research process revealed that, contrary to the common assumption that commitment to Islamic values and religious doctrines is the root cause of terrorism, religion in the cases we studied provided a stronger commitment and a feeling of moral responsibility - a duty or a religious obligation - as put by many of the research participants, to help solve the problem of violence committed in the name of Islam, build bridges and form positive relations with other UK communities.
As will be explored in this section of the report, overall, the research found the role of religion to differ according to context. In some cases religion was experienced as a positive factor in the partnership with police and in fighting terrorism on ideological grounds. In other cases, religious and religio-political perceptions hindered cooperation with the police.
5.1.1 Islam under threat
...why would I want to help anything or anybody or do something that‟s going to help somebody who's got a particular agenda against Islam or against Muslim community? Research participant
An important aspect of the research findings was the impact of perceptions relating counter-terrorism with a threat to Islam as a religion, and Muslims as believers. Participants talked about how, from its conception, the „War on Terror‟ has been perceived by many as a war on Islam, causing reluctance within Muslim communities to help the police. Some participants related this to what they saw as a mistake on the part of the British government in following American rhetoric within counterterrorism discourse when the remit of police work is based on public safety rather than political standpoints.
The research therefore suggests that one of the main reasons for some Muslims not to have taken a proactive role in supporting counter-terrorism was the British role in the highly contested „War on Terror‟ – a synonym for a war on Islam in many minds. Nonetheless, it may also be argued that this position primarily relates to a political matter and that if sensitively handled, there remains room for understanding the issue as a matter of public safety beyond politics. This highlights the importance of dialogue and partnership between communities and the police in fighting religiously endorsed violence.
This type of dialogue remains challenging and complex, as the discourses that require such careful deconstruction are both emotive and ingrained. In particular, perceptions of the USA's war campaign launched in the aftermath of 9/11 were very much shaped by Bush's political discourse against "those who envy the Western values and the Western freedom"5. By taking this stand, not only did Bush offend the
Bush's public speeches immediately following the 9/11 attacks e.g. Bush, George W. “Remarks upon arrival at the White House,” September 16, 2001, White House News Releases, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010916-2.html# [19/12/08] “President Bush, Colombia President Uribe Discuss Terrorism,” September 25, 2002, White House News Releases , http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/09/20020925-1.html [19/1208] 68
feelings of the general Muslim populations around the world, he also recalled the history of some of the worst conflicts between the Christian and the Muslim worlds through reference to the Crusades6. This notion was thus seen as a hostile attack on Muslims whose faith is often viewed as defining freedom differently to the western world, yet who do not necessarily 'envy' the West for its 'values'. Many Muslims across the globe have not yet forgotten the history of centuries of western colonialism and exploitation, and, as a consequence think of the Crusades as a series of wars proving the Western/Christian ambition to control Muslim lands. By framing the response to 9/11 as a „crusade‟ and a „war on terror‟, along side the launch of attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush elicited strong popular and intellectual reactions across the Muslim world7. Specifically, Bush's remarks provoked animosity towards what has been perceived as a new colonialist era echoing the historic exploitation of resources of developing countries by Western/Christian civilisations. Despite the subsequent attempts to tone down the rhetoric and explain away Bush‟s reference to the crusades, the US‟s political discourse, which was to some extent reiterated in Blair's subsequent speeches8, alarmed Muslim communities and created a deep feeling in many that their religion and their communities were coming under attack.
5.1.2 Terrorism as crime This charged and politicised climate has resulted in the overshadowing, to a large extent, of dialogue and discussion as to what terrorism and counter-terrorism truly are. Muslim populations largely adhere to the strict Qur'anic prohibition of killing civilians, and killing all together, outside a battlefield9 or within the criminal justice system10. As such, terrorist acts are seen as terrible crimes despite their perpetrators' political and religious justifications. Our research has shown that the religious
Bush, George W. “Remarks upon arrival at the White House,” September 16, 2001, White House News Releases, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010916-2.html# [19/12/08] 7 E.g. „More than 1/3 of US Muslims see War on Islam‟ Washington Times, October 19 2004 http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/oct/19/20041019-115241-3792r/ [19/1208] Evans, „War on Terrorism Looks Too Much Like a War on Islam, Arab Scholar Warns‟ 1/27/2003 UCLA International Institute http://www.international.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=3010 8 E.g. Tony Blair's Speech To The Labour Party Annual Conference October 2, 2001 9 "Fight in the way of God those who fight you and do not transgress for God do dislikes those who transgress" (Q. 2:190). For a detailed argument on the interpretation of this verse contrary to Al-Qaida's approach see: Ibrahim and others, Istratigiyyat al-Qa'ida: al-Akhta' wa al al-Akhtaar - (Al-Qa'da's Strategy: risks and mistakes ) 10 (Q. 2:179) 69
justification of terrorism caused initial conflict in some parts of communities between religious doctrines of the sanctity of the human soul and the political argument used by Al-Qaida to gain support for what Muslims would normally see as a crime.
From a community security point of view, this confusion could be eliminated if terrorist acts are re-explained to the Muslim population as a pure crime - stripped of its political and religious propaganda. Many of our interviewees described how through clarifying the distinction between crime and ill-formed religious justification eventually led to their decision to take an active role in supporting counter-terrorism.
Based on an analysis of these experiences, we may conclude that for counterterrorism police to gain greater support from the Muslim population of Britain, British foreign policy and the fight against religiously endorsed violence need to be explained and understood in public discourse as two separate matters. In particular is the importance of emphasising the criminal/non- religious aspect of terrorism rather than the political, economical and strategic motivations behind joining the US in its „war on terror‟. A focus on the latter in the wider historical context can therefore increase cynicism of, and animosity towards, state intentions, whereas a framework in which the civil duty to prevent crime of any kind is highlighted is far more conducive to a sympathetic and proactive response.
5.1.3 Theological foundations As explored in the following Section 5.3 debate within the Muslim community around the legitimacy or illegitimacy of using intelligence to uncover political crime, or confirm or remove suspicion11, reveals important gaps in contemporary Islamic jurisprudence that can only be filled by scholars of Islam whose work addresses the concerns of contemporary Muslims.
The study has shown that positive examples of work carried out in partnership between the police and the community has been, to a great extent, reliant on credible community leaders who enjoy popularity as well as in-depth knowledge of Islamic text and jurisprudence, being able to argue the ideological case against violent
For a brief summary of this debate see for example: https://www.saaid.net/Doat/Zugail/193.htm. http://www.islamicthinkers.com/index/images/spying_haraam.pdf http://www.al-khaadem.com.my/v2/index.php?mod=8&show=1&art2_id=5&cat=4 70
extremism based on Islamic sources. The MCU's efforts in supporting and empowering those leaders to access their communities and debate with those supporting and perpetrating violent extremism, refuting their interpretation of the Qur'an and Sunnah and exposing its weaknesses, provide rich examples of deradicalisation, of both mosques and individuals, from which many lessons can be learned.
The following sections are a summary of these key findings on religion in this study.
Key points The historical context of Western imperialism impacts heavily on the way in which the „War on Terror‟ is perceived as a war on Islam and Muslims. The notion of counter-terrorism as linked to an attack on Islam has therefore created, for some, a lack of interest in engaging with the counter-terrorism agenda. A non-ideological stance towards terrorism, in which violence is framed as a crime rather than an act of war or defence may be far more helpful in encouraging partnerships between police and communities. The impact of theology on conceptions of violent extremism is paramount.
5.2 Policing and religion
5.2.1 Faith awareness in policing An interesting aspect of the research has been the ways in which policing – a traditionally secular arena – has dealt with the shift towards recognising and understanding religion, both within its ranks and the communities with which it interacts.
Along with the wider body of literature on the subject, the empirical data gathered in this study has shown that counter-terrorism policing has changed rapidly since 2002 (Innes 2006:226; illustrated by MPA 2007). Understanding community values and religious commitments have helped non-Muslim police officers to interpret community members' behaviour that could not be otherwise comprehended, or would be
mistakenly understood as suspicious. An example of this was illustrated by the following research participant:
It‟s the simple things, like they would go up to a house, knock on the door, and the woman of the house is alone and she wouldn‟t open the door and he can see that she is there, and she would probably peer through the curtain to see who is at the door, see a male police officer and not open the door – not because he‟s a policeman, or because she has something to hide, but because she is a Muslim woman alone in the house and she won‟t let a stranger in. The police of course cannot understand and immediately think something is going on, that they are hiding... Things that are very basic to a Muslim household, but that are completely alien to the police officer. Over the years there has been a lot more cultural awareness training. So people are more aware of this. And that is why people who make an effort to understand can. Because it makes sense of people‟s actions… it‟s a learning process for both sides . Imam of mosque and community worker
The police authorities now issue guidance booklets that pay particular attention to religious customs similar to the above example in order to make members of the police service better equipped to deal with similar situations. (See for example, NCTT, A guide to policing religious establishments).
Working with Muslim groups therefore brings religious values and spirituality into the normally secular police work environment with non-Muslim police accommodating the religious needs of Muslim partners, for example making time for prayers during/between meetings, providing clean and quiet spaces for prayers and including halal food in canteens.
5.2.2 The experiences of Muslim police officers Interviews with Muslim police officers who work within counter-terrorism reveal that sometimes Muslims can find joining the police service problematic a) because of tensions with their communities as a result of their particular line of work and b) because they have had to resolve emotional and intellectual issues about the nature of their work, how it affects their close communities and the legitimacy of certain
aspects of police work, i.e. the use of intelligence/spying as a method of gathering information in general, from an Islamic viewpoint.
Such problems betray a relative lack of understanding of the nature of counterterrorism work on the part of communities. They also reinforce the call for a renewed understanding of Islamic jurisprudence with regard, in this context, to the question of the legitimacy of using 'spying' as a method of information gathering by the police. Muslims follow the broad Qur'anic directive that prohibits spying (wa la tajassassu) translated:
"Believers, avoid making too many assumptions - some assumptions are sinful - and do not spy on one another or speak ill of people behind their backs: would any of you like to eat the flesh of your dead brother?" (Q. 49:12)12
This directive is also strongly supported through a number of prophetic hadiths, such as, Bukahri 6064 and Muslim 2563.
The question of legitimacy goes beyond a problematic aspect of jurisprudence to the more confusing political sphere. Even if police work did not directly involve the use of intelligence, Muslim police officers participating in the research still felt the need to clarify the issue for themselves, as well as their communities. It was felt important to understand that although the work is performed in the context of the „War on Terror‟, counter-terrorism policing is not against Islam but against crime committed in the name of Islam, carried out for the sake of public safety and therefore under one of the main priorities in the ethos of Islamic law13.
A number of Muslim police officers had to endure difficulties relating to their work, ranging from personal tensions, to fractions in the community, to death threats
The use of these texts for the purpose of verifying the legitimacy of using intelligence needs to be contextualised by qualified scholars who can explain the verse's and the hadiths' specific contexts and compare them to the contexts of modern state systems, the particular nature of the crime in question (e.g. political crime affecting societies and states and causing collective damage as opposed to crimes that affect individuals) and the level of necessity and public interest involved. To my knowledge (El Awa), such ijtihad is yet to be conducted and thus rulings on this matter issued. 13 Five ultimate aims stand behind the rulings of Islamic law. For any given ruling/law to be tenable it has to be designed so as to achieve one or more of these aims, these areprotection of the faith, protection of the human life, protection of the intellect, protection of property and protection of the human kind. 73
against them and their families for being 'spies on their own'. This reflects the experiences of some community members whose work and preaching of nonviolence in mosques has resulted in them coming under similar pressures (see Section 5.5 below).
Key points For us [Muslims], we‟re here to serve, for, I believe that I've been sent to this world to within serve policing God ... and to bring, bring goodness and positive, to Space made for recognising and understanding religion is an bring some positivity to people‟s lives. So that‟s been the case post, pre important step for community policing approaches within counter-terrorism, th September 11of, the butMuslims more so now. and has facilitated the recruitment into policing and the first Muslim police officers into counter-terrorism work. Member of Muslim community organisation The compatibility of Islamic principles within counter-terrorism is a challenging subject, influencing perceptions of counter-terrorism policing, and the boundaries of legitimate action for Muslim police officers and Members of Muslim communities
5.3 The role of religion in counter-terrorism work 5.3.1 Religious motivations for countering terrorism A key finding is the way in which religious convictions can provide strong motivations amongst community members to co-operate with the police's efforts to fight religious violence:
Many of the research participants stated in powerful words that their commitment to Islam provided a feeling of moral responsibility or a duty to help the authorities in counter-terrorism work, to form good relations with others and help people around them. They, as well as people in the community, 'want to do good, but want to contextualise this ''Islamically''' within the framework of their own religious values‟, to solve social justice problems and the issue of religious violence through an Islamic framework. While engaging proactively, such community members also scrutinise the messages of violent extremists, exposing the non-Islamic elements and rejecting the violent approach to political change altogether14. In doing so, they draw their answers from within, not without Islam.
With the exception of defensive jihad which is obligatory on the Muslim people if they come under attack, according to the consensus of Muslim jurists. 74
In the same way, many of the British participants in the research make sense of their British-Muslim identity through their understanding of the religious duty towards their homeland and the obligation to defend it and serve the interests of its people. Once more, religion is viewed as central to the work supporting police counter-terrorism. However, the approach remains engaged and critical, and all participants taking this approach, including Muslim police officers, stated that they would not co-operate with or support policies that they see as unjust or unacceptable from an Islamic point of view.
5.3.2 Religious knowledge as essential in fighting violent ideology Knowledge of, and experience in, the various ideologies of political Islam, particularly an in-depth understanding of the „takfiri ideology‟ (central to political violence in the name of Islam) was an essential factor in winning the ideological battle and driving preachers who promoted this ideology out of influential mosques. The success of the earlier efforts by groups has now resulted in a number of more sophisticated and less conventional projects all based on preventing violent extremism by exposing the illegitimacy of its ideological bases.
This particular research study included an in-depth analysis of some of those new projects, including work done by predominantly Salafi participants, as well as other grassroots initiatives to tackle violent extremist ideologies by working with a wide range of community members from diverse backgrounds who might be vulnerable or have contact with vulnerable groups. This subject will be returned to in more detail in below.
5.3.3 Perceptions of religion hindering co-operation between community members and the police in counter-terrorism work Although the research revealed a high level of motivation for engagement stemming from Islamic belief and practice, it must be noted that there were also strong indications that the lack of knowledge about the exact nature of the police's counterterrorism work, a general feeling that Muslim communities are under suspicion and that their religion is blamed, and a fear of individual and collective punishment for implication in terrorist plots, has caused, and continues to cause, reluctance to take a proactive role. In some cases research participants recounted that within some Muslim communities fatwas - juristic opinions - have been issued against any such co-operation, or „collaboration‟ as it is framed.
In addition, community members who recalled being happy to co-operate with the police prior to 9/11 described their growing scepticism of the security services‟ methods, particularly with regard to repeated interrogations and the tactical passing of information to other detainees, a method which in certain contexts has led to individuals and their families receiving death threats. This matter is not unrelated to the problems experienced by Muslim police officers before and during their engagement with counter-terrorism work.
As such, our research concludes that perceptions of both religion and the work of the police can sometimes hinder co-operation between the police and Muslim communities in a counter-terrorism context. These barriers are rooted in notions of legitimacy within a context in which many perceive, in a very broad but highly emotional sense, a war against their religion.
Key points Religious belief and practice may help or hinder counter-terrorism work according to context: Religious motivations are common amongst police and community members engaging in countering terrorism, with a sense of duty and protection of life stemming from their understanding of Islam. Religious knowledge and ability to engage in theological debate are essential in fighting violent ideology. The expertise of community partners is paramount for police work in this context. Perceptions of religion may hinder co-operation between community members and the police where police work is poorly understood and/or the work is viewed as harmful from an Islamic perspective.
5.4 Communication, openness & acceptance within successful partnership
Muslim research participants often stressed that it was important to them to clarify that their religious views and beliefs were not to be compromised as a result of their relations with the police and counter-terrorism work. In some cases this was stated during their very initial meetings with non-Muslim counter-terrorism police officers, and in others it was communicated in various ways during the course of years of cooperation.
It was important that all parties, Muslim and non-Muslim, were aware of this aspect of their relationship. For Muslims, both police and community members, such a declaration acts as a process of self-reassurance - that by working with counterterrorism police they are not intending to work against their religion, which participants highlighted was of utmost importance to them, but that they understood their work in this arena as something that fits comfortably within their religious convictions and sometimes constitutes a religious duty or obligation.
Equally important was the way in which openly stating a religious standpoint acted as a way to clarify what is often felt to be an essential ground rule for community members in developing relations with the police: that any relationship should not be built on misunderstandings or false pretences. In the case of MCU police officers participating in the research, the fact that their Muslim partners, and indeed, colleagues, are happy to talk openly about how their faith will feature in their work is also a source of reassurance that they are realising one of the MCU's principles: to develop open, respectful and equal relationships with their community partners without requiring them to make unwilling compromises. In fact, one police participant stated that he saw this as an essential element of a good working relation with Muslim community leaders because compromises on religion undermine the credibility of such leaders, the trust their communities place on them and therefore their ability to successfully facilitate partnerships and positive engagement for countering violence. As such, the MCU's particular method and approach encouraged community members and leaders to co-operate with the police on what is viewed as a common aim, the protection of society at large from crime committed in the name of Islam.
It was because of this approach that, despite their somewhat controversial views, Salafis and Islamists were able to play a significant role in promoting a non-violent approach to political Islam from a theological position, whilst maintaining powerful religious identities and leadership.
Key points There is a great need within partnership work for the purposes of countering terrorism to communicate religious standpoints openly in order to: Build mutual trust through honest and candid interactions. Ensure that relationships are built on the mutual understanding vital within this sensitive work. Create space for strong faith identities and beliefs often found within this type of counter-terrorism work.
5.5 Case studies illustrating the role of religion in countering terrorism
The MCU has sought individuals and groups with the ability, experience and qualifications to partner in work against Al-Qaida's, and Al-Qaida related and inspired political and religious propaganda. As part of this work, it is vital that partners are able to debate and put forward ideas that are stronger than those of Al-Qaida‟s on both religious and ideological grounds.
Although as discussed in Section 3.5.4 it is difficult to measure success, there are strong indications that the work of these partners is shaking the ideology of violent extremists, as illustrated by the ideological changes within entire mosque communities through teaching, discussion and intensive debate. As a result, a number of groups associated with extremism have gradually lost their former popularity and deserted the mosques in which they based themselves. An example includes a mosque studied during the course of the research which had been frequented by extremists until 1994, but following determined efforts by the current trustees, now plays an important role in exposing violent extremist ideology. Similarly, an important British mosque has been transformed through police partnership with community members, including those often condemned in normative
discourse as „Islamist‟. From its closure in 2003 due to its use as a base by Abu Hamza and his followers, who preached the Al-Qaida ideology and attacked Muslims who opposed them, it reopened in 2005 through successful partnership work and continues today as a safe place of worship and education through mainstream schools of Islam.
From the perspective of the Preventing Violent Extremism strategy, this has an immediate, positive effect on the communities surrounding a mosque as they are no longer exposed to violent messages every time they visit their local place of worship, which could be as many as five times a day for relatively long periods of time.
In sum, our research concludes that the street credibility of a community member or group, and their in-depth knowledge of Islamic texts and jurisprudence are crucial in fighting violent extremism on ideological grounds. Groups who have less credentials, less knowledge or who are not trusted by others of the same faith will be easily defeated in the ideological debate and will be unable to sustain the position of a convincing alternative to extremism.
Key points Religious knowledge and ability to engage in ideological debate is an important aspect of community work for the purposes of countering terrorism and violent radicalisation. In addition to high levels of knowledge, community members leading in this work must also be able to maintain credibility and trust within Muslim communities, especially in their relations with individuals most vulnerable to violent extremist ideology. Case studies reflecting these points highlight the success in preventing and disrupting violent extremist individuals, groups and their ideological and theological ideas.
The case studies of the Muslim Contact Unit and the Muslim Safety Forum as featured in this report, together with interviews with police officers and Muslim community members outside of these groups, reveal the importance of engagement and partnership work between police and communities for the prevention of violent extremism.
However, it is important to understand the wider contexts and remain rigorous in our analyses. The terrain is difficult and complex and includes challenges from: „hard‟ policing strategies and their impacts upon Muslim communities; Islamophobia and religious racism; the political, bureaucratic and militaristic machinery of the „War on Terror‟ and its association with imperialism and a „war on Islam‟; and the political and socio-cultural structures that view Muslims in general and Muslim minorities, notably Salafis and Islamists in particular, through the all-encompassing lens of „suspect‟. As such, creating space for effective ongoing dialogue, engagement and partnership can be problematic.
The study reported here features some key issues that require consideration when seeking to develop police-community engagement and partnership for the purposes of counter-terrorism. At the heart of the findings is a recognition of partnership as a vital process and mechanism for overcoming the complex challenges that are faced and in the development of ways to create security in its most broad and humane sense.
As illustrated by the analysis of empirical research within this report, it is possible to identify key elements of this successful alternative form of security, both as discourse and practice, including the need to:
Focus on expertise and credibility within policing and communities to develop effective, grassroots-driven strategies to prevent violence.
Develop forms of engagement centred around partnership, including a focus on trust-building, equality and mutual benefit over the short-term focus on quick community intelligence through informants.
Create space, recognition and acceptance for diverse political and religious beliefs and identities.
Include those who are normatively marginalised, stigmatised or excluded by security discourses, such as young people, women, religious, ethnic and political minorities and those normatively deemed radical.
Make room for the airing and acknowledgement of human behaviours that saturate the sensitive arena of security, yet are rarely voiced, for example, emotion, political and social grievance, religion and spirituality and personal perspectives.
Open channels of honest, long-term communication between partners within and between communities, the police and other state and civil institutions. Negotiate conflict and differing goals or values – without compromising the fundamental standpoints of partners – through a focus on commonalities, and underpinned by a commitment to preventing violence and promoting security.
Further research is needed to build on the material presented here - this report does not and cannot claim to have identified a „model‟ of partnership work within counterterrorism. Yet, the empirical research and analyses of academic and practitioner literature relating to the subject suggest that these points have been developed as successful counter-terrorism methodologies, and at the same time raise a new and interesting academic paradigm for understanding aspects of state and human security. As such it is hoped that the findings may be useful to the development of future community, academic, policy and practitioner approaches to countering violence, while raising awareness for the need to approach the topic in critical and sensitive ways.
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