British Muslims whose families have lived in the country for several generations are more susceptible to radicalisation than recent immigrants, according to new research.
A study by the University of London also found that radicalised British Muslims tend to be from relatively comfortable, wealthy backgrounds, may have a history of depression and are likely to feel socially isolated.
The study asked 600 Muslim men and women in Britain aged 18 to 45 about their lives and views. Their replies were then scored according to the level of sympathy or condemnation they showed towards 16 actions, including the use of suicide bombings.
The Independent says that those who felt the strongest level of hostility towards terrorist actions tended to be frequently in touch with more friends and family members. Recent migrants to Britain were also very hostile.
Professor Kamaldeep Bhui, the study’s lead author, said: “Migrant groups are much stronger in condemning terrorism. I think the most compelling argument for this is that recent migrants are dealing with a hard struggle and they’ve invested in coming here.
“They’ve got adversity to deal with and are not in a position where they can indulge some of the ideas of grievance. Whereas people born and brought up here probably take for granted the security and safety where they live and the education and support.”
Interestingly, people from poorer backgrounds and who fear their neighbourhoods the most are more resistant to radicalisation. Those who feel depressed, however, are much more susceptible.
Professor Bhui added: “The relationship between radicalisation and mental health is complex but we now know depression, alongside poor social networks and isolation, does play a role in vulnerability to radicalisation.”
“We spend a great deal of time, effort and money on counter-terrorism – but virtually no attention is given to preventing radicalisation before it has a chance to take hold. We must change this approach and stop waiting for terrorism to happen before acting. The violence we’re witnessing in Syria and Iraq are devastating examples of this – whereby seemingly ordinary British citizens have become radicalised enough to leave their lives in the UK and commit themselves to a hopeless future, and in some cases, commit atrocities against innocent people.”
However, Dr Erin Marie Saltman of the counter-extremism Quilliam Foundation urged caution. She said: “What you don’t want to see is policy that specifically targets a minority age-specific group. That becomes very dangerous.”
“You don’t want to go up to a 19-year-old second or third-generation British Muslim and say ‘you’re prone to radicalisation’.
“We see females go out and become wives of jihadists and we see white people with no Muslim background who’ve gone to help jihadists. What you need to work on are the roots… we need to be teaching young people to have critical digital consumption habits and debunk myths about ideology.”