Christmann, Kris (2012) Preventing Religious Radicalisation and Violent Extremism: A Systematic Review of the Research Evidence. Research Report. Youth Justice Board.

The purpose of this systematic review is to examine the scholarly literature on the process(es) of radicalisation, particularly among young people, and the availability of interventions to prevent extremism. The review was undertaken to inform the national evaluation of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales’ (YJB) preventing violent extremism programmes within the youth justice system, and as such, represents one of the research outputs from that study. The full evaluation report, Process Evaluation of Preventing Violent Extremism Programmes for Young People, is to be published by the YJB alongside this review.
The review found that the evidence base for effective preventing violent extremism interventions is very limited. Despite a prolific output of research, few studies contained empirical data or systematic data analysis. Furthermore, although a growing body of literature investigating the radicalisation process is emerging, the weight of that literature is focused upon terrorism rather than radicalisation. As such, the evidence is concerned with that smaller cohort of individuals who, once radicalised, go on to commit acts of violence in the pursuit of political or religious aims and objectives. This introduces a systematic bias in the literature, away from the radicalisation process that preceeds terrorism, including radicalisation that does not lead to violence.
Despite these limitations, the systematic review found that Islamic radicalisation and terrorism emanate from a very heterogeneous population that varies markedly in terms of education, family background, socio-economic status and income. Several studies have identified potential risk factors for radicalisation, and, among these, political grievances (notably reaction to Western foreign policy) have a prominent role.
The review found only two evaluated UK programmes that explicitly aimed to address Islamic radicalisation in the UK. These were outreach and engagement projects running in London: the Muslim Contact Unit (MCU) and the ‘Street’ Project. In addition, the review drew heavily upon the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) rapid evidence assessment, Preventing Support for Violent Extremism through Community Interventions: A Review of the Evidence (Pratchett et al, 2010). This advocated the adoption of capacity building and empowering young people, and interventions that “challenge ideology that focus on theology and use education/training”. The Netherlands-based Slotervaart Project was identified as an exemplar of the outreach/community-based approach recommended by the DCLG review. The review also considered a number of de-radicalisation programmes operating in several Islamic countries and programmes tackling right-wing radicalisation. These programmes provide some potential learning points for future UK programmes, chiefly around the need for those engaging with radicalised individuals to carry authority and legitimacy, and to be equipped with profound ideological knowledge.

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