Students Staff

06 April 2009

Research calls for radical re-think on counter-terrorism

Colchester Campus

Current efforts by the police to thwart violent Islamist terrorism may be encouraging a drift towards, rather than away from, support for violent Islamism.

That’s according to a new study by Dr Darren Thiel from the Department of Sociology, who has spent two years examining the role of the police in tackling the terrorist threat in the UK. Policing Terrorism, A Review of the Evidence, warns that police enactment of recent legislation (including intensified stop and search and surveillance, and the holding of suspects for longer periods of time before charging them) may inadvertently undermine relations between British Muslim communities and the police and state.

The research, commissioned by the Police Foundation, shows that a conflicting logic exists between ‘iron fist’ measures like these and the new ‘silk glove’ approaches that were intensified in 2008 in order to bring the police closer to the British Muslim communities, primarily thorough specialised neighbourhood policing approaches. The report warns that increased links between specialist counter-terrorist units, and neighbourhood police, if not carefully and legitimately managed, have the potential to breed suspicion and distrust, and further provoke claims for some sections of the UK community that British Muslims are living in a ‘police state’

Dr Thiel acknowledges that both types of policing are necessary to combat terrorism effectively but believes the overall counter-terrorist effort could be improved if ‘iron fist’ approaches were carried out more sparingly, were better communicated and administered with increased professionalism. The report also concludes that the Government needs to make further efforts to win the trust of the British Muslim community, particularly young British Muslims who he believes are being ignored in the current fight against terrorism.

Dr Thiel said: ‘If the present generation of young British Muslims grow up in a society in which they feel equal, respected and valued, the UK would become an increasingly hostile place for violent Islamist groups.’

...more news releases