Journalist, Producer & Researcher

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Radicalisation and Foreign Policy

The recent Stockholm suicide bombing incident and the many thwarted Islamist terror attacks across the UK post 7/7 has left many to ask why and how individuals are becoming radicalised and where does it stem from?

David Cameron in his New Year’s speech questioned how Britain could allow ‘the radicalisation and poisoning of the minds of some young British Muslims who then contemplate and sometimes carry out acts of sickening barbarity.’

Here’s one suggestion; British foreign policy.

If you take a look at the investigations and analysis into those individuals who go on to commit terror offenses, the major factors which always spring up as to the sole reason why individuals are drawn into such behaviour are Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.

So why does the government constantly deny that foreign policy has little impact on the radicalisation of an individual? Yes, many studies have shown that radicalisation can stem from a range of factors, whether it being extremist influence, racism or societal exclusion and this is point I too agree with. No individual can be radicalised by one single method like watching YouTube videos or being exposed to extremist views. I too believe radicalisation is a result of a range of influences. However, if you look into the reasons that motivate individuals to be drawn into violent ideology, the issues of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine always emerge as one of the causes.

Roshonara Choudhry’s motivation to stab MP Stephen Timms was purely out of revenge for his vote in the war in Iraq; yet reports published in the aftermath indicated the major factor for radicalisation was the influence of Al-Awaki’s YouTube seminars. The 7/7 bombers motivation was also due to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, three Britons attempted to blow up planes using liquid explosives because of the injustice in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

While each individual presented different circumstances, foreign policy always emerges as the main motivation. Yet, government’s counter-terrorism policies, specifically that of the Preventing Violent Extremism agenda have failed to address these grievances in detail, purely focusing on ideology, Islam, community cohesion and societal exclusion.

While these may also be a major factor in preventing an individual from taking that violent extremism path, there exists today a strong wave of young British Muslims who are angry with the invasion of Iraq, the biased media coverage of the ‘war on terror’, the government’s refusal to take action against Israeli war crimes and let’s not forget the rising popularity of the English Defence League (EDL) and increasing Islamophobia tensions.

While mainstream media outlets such as the BBC and SKY news promote biased coverage and continuous updates on soldiers being killed, other networks such as Al-Jazeerah are showing the mass casualties of civilians. More and more Muslims across Britain are now tuning into these media outlets as their prime source of information.

I’m not suggesting that foreign policy has to have the Muslims communities’ approval, but extremist groups use these events as a major tool in their recruitment campaigns. Thus, measures to involve and listen to Muslim individuals’ views on foreign policy can play a vital role in combating Islamist extremism.
However, this cannot occur if the government constantly blames radicalisation on the lack of integration into ‘British’ society by Muslim individuals.

While stressing the need for a counter-terrorism agenda in the UK, Cameron also saw no problem in defending this so called ‘war on terror’ and let’s not forget keeping silent on Israel’s barbaric actions in Gaza. These decisions I believe will further the radicalisation movement and worsen relationships between Muslim communities.

With the review of the Prevent Violent Extremism Agenda underway, will there be a slight alteration to take a closer look at the relationship between foreign policy and radicalisation or will there be more constant statements of British Muslims needing to become more ‘British.’ 9/10 the latter will prevail.


  1. Reyhana, this is really good and very informative. keep it up

  2. thanks! I'll be posting more articles..keep following!