In Their Own Words:
Islam is coming, so be with us and we will secure the victory together, and will realize the caliphate of God on earth. Da’wa and jihad together – this is our strategy.Nov. 19, 2010
In July 2016, British authorities sentenced radical Islamic cleric and propagandist Anjem Choudary to more than five years in prison for a series of pro-ISIS speeches he posted to YouTube. Now halfway through his sentence, Choudary is one of more than 80 extremist prisoners expected to go free in the coming months.
Under British parole rules, prisoners serving fixed prison sentences are “normally released automatically halfway through their sentence” and placed on probation. According to the Guardian, more than 40 percent of the 193 prisoners sentenced for terrorism offenses between 2007 and 2016 will go free by the end of 2018.
U.K. Security Minister Ben Wallace has called on police to increase supervision of freed radicals and actively work toward getting them to “disengage” from extremism. The government has also made changes to the prison system to prevent the radicalization of non-extremist prisoners, including moving extremists into their own wing. Nonetheless, British authorities have warned that freed terrorist prisoners present an additional worry for an already overstretched probation system.
To ease this added stress, the U.K. should increase resources dedicated for deradicalization programs during the incarceration period and beyond. In June, the U.K. government unveiled its revised counter-terrorism strategy (CONTEST). Within CONTEST is the United Kingdom’s Prevent strategy, a program designed to respond to extremist ideology, build relations with civil society groups, and provide support to prevent radicalization. Through Prevent, the government has funded sports activities, leadership development forums, discussions on current affairs, and other programs to boost communal engagement in combating extremism. The U.K. has also incorporated a mentoring program for those reported as at-risk of radicalization. But the strategy is largely focused on preventing radicalization. The issue of rehabilitation receives some attention but deserves much more.
Other countries have found mixed results in deradicalization programs, giving the U.K. an opportunity to review what has and hasn’t worked.
The pending release of some 80 radicals is not the U.K.’s only cause for concern. The country has reportedly thwarted one terror plot per month since March 2017. In April 2018, the number of people imprisoned on terrorist offenses in the United Kingdom rose to an all-time high of 441, representing a 17 percent rise over the same period a year earlier. The British government has also noted a 75 percent increase in the number of terrorism-related convictions over the past three years. With an increasing number of extremists entering the British penal system, active deradicalization must be part of the government’s strategy from the beginning, not just when a prisoner is approaching probation.
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