Abstract: As the United Kingdom’s House of Lords wraps up its final amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (HL Bill 175), it is arguably no closer to effectively managing its terrorism offenders. Questioning whether it is possible to deradicalize more than a very small number of terrorism offenders, U.K. authorities have prioritized longer prison sentences for terrorism offenders and stronger monitoring upon release as its primary means of risk management. Although not everyone can be successfully ‘deradicalized,’ the vast majority of terrorism offenders do not again carry out terrorist crimes. The low recidivism rate of terror offenders does not necessarily mean that there have been many cases of deradicalization, but it does at the very least suggest that desistence is occurring in the large majority of cases. Yet, individuals can be and have been guided by ‘deradicalization’ mentors away from extremist views. There is too much pessimism over deradicalization efforts. While there are many challenges in changing the mindset of terrorist offenders, some mentors have employed approaches that have proven effective in rehabilitating a not insignificant number of terrorist offenders and helped reduce the overall threat. Lengthening prison sentences just delays the threat posed by terrorist convicts. To address the root causes of the threat, the United Kingdom needs to learn lessons from what has worked for successful ‘deradicalization’ mentors and empower their efforts.

The attack by Usman Khan that killed Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones during a conference at Fishmongers Hall in the vicinity of Westminster Bridge in London on November 29, 2019, restarted an avalanche of debate over whether convicted terrorists could be ‘deradicalized.’ His two victims were involved with the organizers of the conference, Learning Together, “a trailblazing prison education program developed by academics at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology.” Khan had been invited to the event as an alumnus of the program.1 The debate was further fueled when Sudesh Amman carried out an attack in London on February 2, 2020, stabbing two before he was shot and killed by police. Both offenders had previous terrorism convictions: Khan for his role (before his arrest in 2010) in a group that planned to bomb the London Stock Exchange, and Amman for possessing documents containing terrorist information and disseminating terrorist publications.2

Following the attack by Khan, questions began to emerge regarding the early release of terrorism prisoners, and in the aftermath of Amman’s attack, the U.K. government passed emergency legislation ending early releasea and requiring all terror-related prisoners to serve at least two-thirds of their prison sentence.3 Currently, the House of Lords is completing its review of the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (HL Bill 175), which in part increases prison sentences, increases notification requirements, increases the time prisoners spend on license, sets stricter standards for release, requires offenders to submit to regular polygraph tests, removes the two-year restriction on Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures, and increases the oversight and management of terrorism offenders upon release.4

Although the attacks by Khan and Amman prompted rhetoric from the U.K. government to once again ‘get tough on terrorism,’ the response had little to do with ‘deradicalization.’ Rather than seek informed and inventive ways to minimize the threat of ‘extreme reactionary absolutism,’b the response became a blunt tool that mostly focused on increased sentencing to keep extremists off the streets.

Khan asked for deradicalization help as early as October 2012 but was not able to access a mentor.5 The policy at that time was to wait until incarcerated terrorist offenders got closer to their release date before authorities would grant them access to a ‘deradicalization’ mentor. The rationale for managing terrorism offenders that way during that period was that any progress made too early would likely be lost as the individual continued to associate with other radicalized inmates in prison.6 Thus, it was better to wait until the end of their prison sentence before making any attempt to ‘deradicalize’ them. In Khan’s case, he did ultimately participate in two deradicalization programs: the Healthy Identity Intervention Programme while he was in prison and the Desistance and Disengagement Programme (DDP) upon his release.7 However, despite assessments that he was positively reengaging in society, those programs were insufficient in the long term to immunize him from violence.

Amman, on the other hand, rejected the opportunity to participate in a ‘deradicalization’ program of any kind or have any engagement with a mentor.8 As a result, Amman was assessed to have a high likelihood for violence, which is why he was under constant surveillance by the authorities following his release.9

Thus, although both Khan and Amman ultimately went on to commit violent acts, their cases are quite different. Khan’s attack was widely reported initially as an anomaly by the press whereas Amman’s attack was considered predictable by the authorities. In the aftermath, no one explained what triggered Khan’s murderous violence or what interventions could have been implemented to mitigate the threat. However, with two attacks in just over two months, the narrative changed after Amman’s attack to one that supported the idea that Amman and Khan were simply the latest examples that terrorist offenders cannot be ‘deradicalized.’

The first part of this article provides an overview of U.K. deradicalization efforts. To understand ‘deradicalization’ efforts in Britain, appreciation of its fundamental architecture is needed. Through that lens, a better understanding of both the Khan and Amman cases is possible, as well as the highly complex environment that terror offenders and mentors alike must navigate. The next part of the article provides perspective on the recidivism rates of terrorism offenders, and the arguments by some that ‘deradicalization’ does not work, therefore longer prison sentences are warranted. It next provides some understanding about what leads to failure and what leads to success when it comes to the relationship between a ‘deradicalization mentor’ and mentee. It then provides some insight through the lens of one of the United Kingdom’s longest-running and most successful mentoring companies, The Unity Initiative, about Usman Khan, its relationship with the Home Office, and why it chose to sever its ties with the government, before offering some concluding observations.

Commuters cross London Bridge on December 2, 2019, after it was reopened following the terrorist attack at its north end by Usman Khan on November 29, 2019. (Peter Summers/Getty Images)

An Overview of U.K. Deradicalization Efforts
Since 2005, the U.K. government has attempted to identify and intervene with individuals considered at risk of radicalization, those considered radicalized extremists, and those convicted of terrorism-related offenses.10 Although different schemes have been implemented over the past 16 years, currently those considered ‘at risk’ are managed under The Channel Programme while those in prison or on license are managed under the Desistance and Disengagement Programme (DDP), which supplements a deradicalization program called Healthy Identity Intervention (HII).c

In brief, The Channel Programme was first introduced in 2012.11 The program is voluntary, typically operates in the pre-criminal space, and is administered as a safeguarding tool. Those managed under Channel are provided bespoke ‘interventions’ designed to divert ‘vulnerable people’ away from whatever influence might be drawing them toward radicalization or terrorism.12 Examples include education, job training, sports, housing assistance, and drug and alcohol support.13 In short, the program provides personalized enticement designed to encourage those deemed at risk to choose a path away from potential violence to one that is more attractive to the individual based on his/her self-interest.

The Desistance and Disengagement Programme (DDP) was first introduced in 2016. DDP is a mandatory program that bridges the Prevent/Pursued workstreams and is designed to reduce the risk posed by individuals involved in terrorism or suspected terrorism-related activities.14 The idea behind DDP is that it attempts to dissuade individuals from participating in whatever terror-related activity they are involved in (desist) and to abandon (disengage) whatever radical ideological beliefs they might have.15 To accomplish that task, DDP relies on a three-pronged approach that includes psychological, theological, and ideological mentoring.16 In other words, DDP attempts to have individuals develop an identity that is more accepting of others, understand their religion in a more mainstream way, and reject any ideology that is inconsistent with British values.e During the time individuals are receiving psychological, theological, and ideological mentoring, they are also provided with practical mentoring (job hunting, housing assistance, filling out forms, etc.) to support an individual’s reintegration into society. Like The Channel Programme, DDP is conceived as an individual support mechanism for individuals but with added teeth because it is mandatory.

Both Channel and DDP are not without criticism. Although government sources are quick to point out that both programs work, quantifying that assessment has been elusive.17 Government statistics from 2018 to 2019 demonstrate that only a small number (just under 10%) of all referrals to Channel are ultimately provided Channel support. Many (28%) are not deemed to be at risk, most (49%) are referred to other agencies (education, family, friends, police, health, community services, etc.), and roughly half of those who are offered support reject it.18 Despite the low numbers, the U.K. government’s claim of success is not wholly unwarranted. For those that willingly receive support, 85% are reported to exit the program without further concerns.19

In the case of DDP, the program is too newf to make any firm assessment, and the U.K. government has only offered limited evaluation of associated efforts such as a 2018 report by the Prison and Probation Service that the Healthy Identity Intervention (HII) pilot, which ran from 2010-2011, was “viewed positively by facilitators and participants.”20 The report also stated that one-third of those offered the HII program refused to participate.21

The data from Channel and DDP (albeit limited) and the attacks by Khan and Amman reaffirm a couple of truths that well-respected mentors of radicalized extremists have known for years. The first is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ‘deradicalization.’ Individuals embrace or reject interventions based on their own personalized experiences. While some will take a reflective approach to their circumstances, others will not. The second is that not everyone is capable of being ‘deradicalized.’ Not only do some reject the intervention, there are often intellectual and social bonds that carry far more weight and importance to the individual than his/her own personal current circumstance. To underscore that reality, following the attack by Amman, a notebook was found that confirmed his unwavering goal was to “die as a shuhada” (martyr).22

Low Terrorist Recidivism
Despite the varied and highly individualized reasons that people slip into extremism and the spectrum of reasons they accept or reject government-sanctioned ‘deradicalization’ efforts, terrorism offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates compared to other offenders. The reply to a parliamentary request by David Anderson, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, revealed that “Between January 2013 and December 2019, 6 individuals (3.06%) convicted of a terrorist offence (who have been convicted under the Terrorism Act 2000 and 2006) have been released from prison and have been convicted of a further terrorist offence (under the Terrorism Act 2000 and 2006) in England and Wales.”23 Making that figure even more stark is that the recidivism rates for violent sexual offenders in the United Kingdom is 13% after one year24 while “the recidivism rates for ‘ordinary criminals’ in the UK continues to hover around 48%.”25 g

The Pessimism on Deradicalization
The low recidivism rate of terror offenders does not necessarily mean that there have been that many cases of deradicalization, but it does at the very least suggest that desistence is occurring in the large majority of cases. However, rather than offer any viable explanation as to why these offenders are not reoffending, prominent voices in the think-tank community and even the Independent Reviewer of Terror Legislation in the United Kingdom continue to argue that the chances for rehabilitation are slim.

In a December 2020 interview, the United Kingdom’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation Jonathan Hall painted a pessimistic view of deradicalizing those being released from prison, stating:

I can see why people try, because if you didn’t try, it would be throwing away all hope, and these offenders are also subjected to some pretty major restrictions so it’s worth giving them an opportunity to change. And there will be some who will change, but you should be under no illusions. It is not some automatic process. And in many cases it simply won’t work. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.26

Liam Duffy, an advisor to the Counter Extremism Project think-tank, cites three recent terror attacks (Khan, Amman, and Khairi Saadallahh) in the United Kingdom before stating, “Clearly, serving time has had no impact on the worldview of any of the men.”27 Duffy goes on to argue that “Unrealistic expectations of deradicalisation efforts in particular must be reined in” and that “Terrorists involved in serious and deadly plots … should not be a priority for deradicalisation, they should simply never get out and have the chance to harm anyone else.”28

‘Deradicalization’ Mentoring: What Works and What Does Not
To accept the notion that deradicalization is an almost hopeless task is far too pessimistic. It is true that deradicalization mentoring is very difficult, but some mentors have developed effective approaches, which U.K. authorities need to learn from. This author’s own interest in ‘deradicalization’ began in 2013 when he conducted an E.U.-funded, two-year research project on mentoring terrorism offenders in the United Kingdom. The research was part of a broader, multi-country investigation on the motivations of mentors and how individuals responded to that mentoring.29 The research included extensive interviews with 21 active mentors in the United Kingdom and six radicalized extremists.i Although the research focused on the motivation of the mentors and how individuals responded, key findings from that research provided valuable insights as to why mentoring is and is not successful.

By far, the most universal challenge was that before mentors could have any kind of meaningful discussion with those they engaged with, they first had to establish their own credibility and legitimacy. In this case, credibility refers to the motivation behind their engagement and legitimacy refers to the degree of requisite Islamic knowledge the mentors possess. In other words, one of the first things that the recipients of mentoring do is immediately question the motivation of their assigned mentors, to assess whether the mentors are genuine or simply cogs in a government system. Additionally, are they perceived as sufficiently qualified, or are they perceived as there to promote and/or convince individuals that the state’s sanctioned version of Islam is the true Islam?

For the recipients of mandatory, state-sponsored mentoring, credibility is the initial litmus test. The number of individuals providing mentoring services is quite small, and because their reputations precede them, the individuals and community know exactly who they are. Thus, some mentors are rejected long before the first meeting even takes place.

Legitimacy has similar challenges and is not something that is embraced quickly or easily. A mentor cannot begin interacting with someone, tell them about their qualifications, expertise, or experiences, and expect the individual will automatically respect them. It just does not work that way. It takes time to develop that level of respect, and many times, it is never achieved.

As difficult as it is for individuals to establish credibility and legitimacy with those they mentor outside of prison, that challenge is magnified exponentially within the prison environment. The simple fact that the mentors are even there undermines their credibility, legitimacy, and the entire process because the prisoner knows that they are sanctioned by the government.

Whether inside the prison or once the individual has been released, other challenges prevail. The biggest priority within any ‘deradicalization’ effort is for the mentors to help individuals build a strong identity. Identities that are weak or otherwise in search of meaning are unquestionably one of the most important vulnerabilities that facilitate radicalization and extremism. Conversely, strong identities facilitate more critical thinking, allowing the individual to closely assess whatever information is being provided and to make critical assessments about what is in their best interest. However, one aspect that is often overlooked is that once an individual embraces an extreme worldview, he/she develops both a strong personal identity and a strong collective identity.30 Moreover, successful mentors know that they must work first on an individual’s collective identity before they have any chance of transforming his/her personal identity. This is because the individual’s personal identity is constantly in flux as situational factors affect his/her collective identity. Those who adopt radicalized Islamist political thought also adopt what can be termed a transactional mindset that necessitates personal action when events conflict with their collective identity.31 j

In addition to the environmental and structural elements that make successful mentoring difficult to achieve, each kind of mentoring has its own unique challenges. For instance, theological mentoring is exclusively dependent on the mentor’s ability to establish his/her own legitimacy. In the 2013-2015 study, this author found the approach used by the vast majority of mentors was to try to convince the individual that his/her understanding of Islam is incorrect. Referred to as the da’leel’ (evidence) approach, mentors provide evidence from various authoritative sources to correct whatever misinterpretations the individual may have accepted. However, Islam always has been and always will be based on exegesis. Different schools of fiqh (jurisprudence) give different weight and understanding to Islamic belief, and so sources and interpretations vary. Moreover, whatever sheikh an individual might follow, that sheikh will always profess that his interpretation of Islam is the true path of Ahlus Sunnah (the way of the Prophet Mohammad). Thus, most mentors are summarily rejected by those with whom they engage.

Similar to theological mentoring, most mentors who do ideological mentoring attempt to dismantle the individual’s ideological foundation by undermining his/her interpretations and/or the sheikh that made them. Assuming momentarily that the individual is embracing the mentoring process, the danger is that as the ideology the individual follows is undermined, so too is his/her personal identity. In those cases, it is critical that the individual be provided ongoing and long-term support. Usman Khan is perhaps a classic case of an individual who was on the road of rehabilitation but slipped back into his previous extreme absolutist mindset.

But neither the panel of public bodies managing his case (including the probation services) nor the Learning Together group at Cambridge University who had worked with Khan appears to have had any inkling of his reversion to violent extremism.32 Learning Together reportedly viewed him as a success story, and the multi-agency panel would not have given him permission to travel unescorted to the Learning Together conference in London if they had viewed him as a continued threat.33 Learning Together was formed in 2015 as a means of sharing educational opportunities for those within the criminal justice system and others in higher education to “learn with and from each other through dialogue and the sharing of experience.”34

However, despite the misplaced optimism, Khan’s collective identity was not being addressed, and events happening far outside of the United Kingdom, as well as the structural limitations within DDP, likely played a significant role in his attack.35

Lessons Learned from The Unity Initiative
The assessment regarding misplaced optimism comes from one of the most effective mentoring organizations in the United Kingdom, The Unity Initiative (TUI). TUI has a long history of successfully mentoring convicted terrorists on their release from prison in the United Kingdom and has an extensive history of working with both the Home Office and probation services.36 Because of that long-standing relationship and the success that TUI has had, when DDP was started in 2016, TUI was selected to provide ideological mentoring services for individuals being managed by DDP.k TUI was initially contracted to run the pilot program, which lasted for two years and was then contracted for an additional year. When the contract was up for renewal again in August 2019, TUI chose not to renew its contract with the U.K. Home Office. According to TUI, the relationship started off positively but a change in management at the Home Office led to a more “reductive approach.”37 Although TUI was originally contracted to deliver ideological mentoring based on its own methodology,l the change in management limited TUI’s engagement in some cases and required TUI to also provide practical mentoring.m One of the cases where TUI’s engagement was limited was Usman Khan. Khan was released from prison in December 2018. Under TUI’s Home Office contract, Khan was one of the individuals for whom TUI was required to provide practical mentoring but not allowed to engage in ideological mentoring. When TUI left DDP in August 2019, their engagement with Khan stopped. By that time, they had gotten to know Khan well.38

TUI was leaving the DDP program when violence erupted in Kashmir following the lockdown by the Indian government in August 2019, but because of the relationship it had built up with Khan, TUI recognized an immediate threat to Khan’s collective identity39 but was no longer meeting with him and therefore not in a position to intervene. However, even if TUI had continued to engage with him, they would have been barred from engaging on this issue. DDP policy limited mentors to specific assigned roles and prohibited mentors from engaging with mentees they are not specifically assigned to or engage in activities they are not contracted to do.40 n

In the author’s discussions with TUI CEO Usman Raja in late 2018, Raja stated that he did not think that he would renew his contract with the U.K. Home Office. Referencing the contractual limitations that TUI had to abide by, Raja characterized the Home Office’s practical mentoring activities as “highly restrictive and reductionist” and explained “that is not what we do.”41 Referencing his own success in mentoring highly violent offenders, Raja also took the opportunity to vent some of his frustrations regarding the methods used by other DDP mentors. Raja’s criticisms were a frequent topic of conversation with the author, and he was clearly uneasy with the way individuals were being managed by DDP. He often said that something bad is likely to happen, and in early March 2019, Raja offered his most direct criticism of DDP saying, “this is going to get someone killed.”42 Eight months later, Khan initiated his attack.

Concluding Observations
If the United Kingdom and other countries are to be effective at deradicalization, they need to understand the nuances and drivers that lead to violence, and appreciate that radical beliefs in and of themselves are not a precursor to violence. Furthermore, as the psychologist behind the HII program has aptly stated, “We have to be very careful about saying someone has totally changed or has been cured.”43 The notion of cure is reminiscent of the logic associated with the so-called ‘conveyer belt theory’ that attributes radicalization to a set of progressive steps that individuals go through that lead him/her to violence and suggests that individuals can be stopped, or “cured,” by simply interrupting or reversing the conveyer. The idea that all of the beliefs, knowledge, and grievances an individual might have adopted in his/her journey into extremism will somehow miraculously be reversed and the individual will be transformed back to his/her pre-radical/pre-extremist state is an unrealistic fantasy. All of us are products of our own epistemological experiences, individualized worldview, logic, intellect, and maturity. To suggest that portions of one’s experiences or fundamental beliefs can be erased fails to understand what it means to be human.

Similar to the thinking that individuals can be ‘cured,’ determining the success or failure of a ‘deradicalization’ program needs to be approached cautiously. Government concepts of deradicalization often vary significantly from the reality, especially if the expectation is for the individual to recant his/her previous worldview and religious beliefs. In the author’s experiences engaging with those who he could confidently assess as being ‘deradicalized,’ most if not all retain their core beliefs and grievances. They are part and parcel of the individual’s life experiences and cannot be reversed. What makes the difference is how the individual engages with the world around them, whether he/she can move beyond the ‘extreme reactionary absolutism’ they embraced in their journey into extremism, and then exist harmoniously within the legal and accepted boundaries of society. Although that may not fit comfortably within the notion of ‘deradicalization’ as envisioned by some prominent voices in UK counterterrorism, that is how success should rightfully be claimed.

Despite the U.K. government’s exclusive authority to manage the individuals it views as a risk under programs like Channel and DDP and to assess whether they have actually been ‘deradicalized,’ the reality is that there is no adoptable, singular, boilerplate program or approach that will guarantee success. Programs and approaches need to be matched to the individual, and they should be organically driven rather than ideologically or policy driven, holistic in nature, and focus on the person, including his/her individual and collective identity. Last, deradicalization is an individualized journey that both the individual and his/her mentor undertake together. It is not a short-term relationship or fix, and mentors must make a personal commitment to the individual. Anything short of that has little chance of success.

Although there are many barriers to ‘deradicalization,’ it can and does happen when the right people and approach is in place. The argument that deradicalizing terrorist offenders is almost hopeless reflects the lack of understanding by those making such claims and their inability to appreciate the data, the individuals involved, or the thousands of individuals around the world who have ventured into radicalized political thought and then returned to coexist harmoniously within society. Although it may be convenient and even politically advantageous to suggest that terror offenders cannot be deradicalized, numerous examples exist to refute that claim.o

At the same time that the U.K. government is seeking to incarcerate its terror offenders for longer periods,44 there is simultaneous concern that the individuals may radicalize others in prison. To address this concern, the United Kingdom’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall, recently announced that he is beginning his own review of prison radicalization.45 Thus, there are no easy way out for the U.K. government to meet all of the strategic demands. Whatever decisions are made will unquestionably impact the individuals affected and the country for years to come.

The United Kingdom passed emergency legislation on February 26, 2020, to end its policy of early release for prisoners convicted of terrorism-related crime, requiring that they first serve a minimum of two-thirds of their sentence in custody.46 While that will keep some in prison longer in the future, “in the year to September 2019, 42 convicted terrorists were released from custody after serving prison sentences, some of whom would have been released automatically at the halfway point of their sentence with no Parole Board assessment.”47 Consequently, the stakes are high to get it right.

A more informed perspective is that at least some of the individuals are salvageable. Despite a clear desire to protect the public, it is not tenable in a democratic society like the United Kingdom to lock up all terror offenders indefinitely. Longer prison sentences will not address the root of cause of the threat posed by individuals, which is their radical beliefs. A better mechanism of assessment and systematic rehabilitation is needed. The United Kingdom needs to learn lessons from what has worked for successful mentors and empower their efforts. When that happens, we might have an option that manages those individuals more effectively.     CTC

Douglas Weeks, Ph.D., is an academic researcher and consultant who specializes in developing primary source data through ethnographic research involving radicalized individuals in the United States, United Kingdom, and Middle East. He is the author of numerous articles and reports and a recently published book Al Muhajiroun: A Case Study in Contemporary Islamic Activism. Dr. Weeks has an extensive background in interacting with radicalized extremists, law enforcement, and intervention providers. Twitter: @dmw363

Editor’s note: CTC Sentinel Editor in Chief Paul Cruickshank serves in a pro bono capacity as Senior Counter Terrorism Advisor to The Unity Initiative, an organization featured in this article.

© 2021 Douglas Weeks

Substantive Notes
[a] Most prisoners in the United Kingdom spend half their sentence in prison and the other half of their sentence on license (probation). Known as ‘early release,’ there was a public outcry following Khan’s attack as to why terror offenders only spent half of their time in prison. Removed from the discussion was that the vast majority all prisoners in the United Kingdom are managed in that way. See “Why do prisoners serve only half their sentence?” BBC, December 19, 2019.

[b] ‘Extreme reactionary absolutism’ is a term that is used by some mentors to describe the mindset of those they engage with.

[c] “HII seeks to address two areas: the reasons why people are motivated to offend, and the beliefs that enable them to offend. The programme aims to prevent extremist offending by minimising an individual’s engagement within a specific group or ideology. The intervention is delivered on a one-to-one basis. The programme is open to those convicted of Islamist terrorism offences and those jailed for ‘extreme right-wing violence.’” Claire Brader, “Extremism in prisons: Are UK deradicalisation programmes working?” House of Lords Library, June 11, 2020.

[d] Prevent and Pursue are pillars of the United Kingdom’s counterterrorism strategy (CONTEST). Prevent aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. Pursue aims to stop terrorist attacks. The two other pillars of CONTEST are Protect (to strengthen protection against terrorist attack) and Prepare (to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack). “Counter-terrorism strategy (CONTEST) 2018,” U.K. Home Office, August 20, 2018.

[e] CONTEST 2011 defines the core British values as “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.” “U.K. Counter-terrorism strategy (CONTEST),” U.K. Home Office, July 12, 2011, p. 62.

[f] Although the DDP has existed for the past five years, the success or failure of terrorism interventions often relies on longitudinal data generally in the form of recidivism rates. Thus, five years is actually a limited period of time for such an assessment.

[g] Recent studies have found low rates of jihadi terrorist recidivism in Belgium and the United Kingdom. For instance, Thomas Renard in assessing data in Belgium found that “less than five percent reengaged in terrorist activities.” Robin Simcox and Hannah Stuart in assessing data in the United Kingdom found a terrorist recidivism rate of 3.7% where “terrorist recidivism is understood as individuals who are convicted on two separate occasions for at least one terrorist offense each time.” See Thomas Renard, “Overblown: Exploring the Gap between Fear of Terrorist Recidivism and the Evidence,” CTC Sentinel 13:4 (2020) and Robin Simcox and Hannah Stuart, “The Threat from Europe’s Jihadi Prisoners and Prison Leavers,” CTC Sentinel 13:7 (2020).

[h] On June 20, 2020, Khairi Saadallah attacked six people with a knife in Reading, resulting in three people being killed. During the attack, Saadallah yelled “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great). Vikram Dodd, “Reading Attacker Khairi Saadallah Given Whole Life Prison Sentence,” Guardian, January 11, 2021.

[i] Five of the six individuals were either at that time being mentored or had been mentored in the past. The remaining individual went through the mentoring process later but is now in prison.

[j] For salafi-jihadis, what can be termed a transactional mindset often takes two general forms that relate directly to an individual’s personal and collective identity. There is a belief that if they accept a more literal interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah (sayings, deeds, and examples of the Prophet Mohammad), and practice the religion as close as possible as the first three generations of Muslims did, they will be closest to the correct understanding of Islam and be rewarded in the afterlife. Similarly, the collective sense of the ummah (Muslim community) is rooted in a hadith that says the ummah is like one body, so “When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever” (Sahih al-Bukhari 5665, Sahih Muslim 2586). It is through the transactional mindset of seeking to be rewarded in the afterlife that an individual may feel an obligation to ‘fight back’ even when events happen in another part of the world.

[k] The author has previously provided advice to The Unity Initiative on a pro bono basis.

[l] TUI uses an approach it developed called Islamic Behavioural Therapy, which emphasizes humanity, global harmony, and the peaceful coexistence between the individual, society, and his/her creator.

[m] TUI argued against the idea that they should be required to provide practical mentoring as that was outside of their purview. However, when the new contract was offered, it required TUI to also provide practical mentoring. Author interview, Usman Raja, The Unity Initiative, November 2020.

[n] In an interview with the author in March 2021, TUI CEO Usman Raja stated: “Even if Unity had continued its mentoring with the Home Office, it would have been restricted to practical mentoring of Khan and [would] not [have] been allowed to engage in ideological or theological mentoring with him.”

[o] Notable cases the author is personally familiar with involve the leader of the “Muslim Patrols,” one of the individuals convicted in relation to the 7/21 London bomb plot, and one of the individuals convicted for the 2008 “Jewel of Medina” arson attack. Also, the author has engaged extensively with several others associated with the former group al-Muhajiroun who have left their former activism behind and not gotten back into trouble with the U.K. legal system.

[1] Josh Feinzig, “Don’t Let the London Bridge Attacks Destroy the Work of Its Victims,” Slate, December 5, 2019; Tim Adams, “London Bridge attack, one year on: ‘Jack’s story jolted people – we have to keep that going,’” Guardian, November 29, 2020.

[2] See Daniel De Simone, “Sudesh Amman: Who was the Streatham Attacker?” BBC, February 3, 2020.

[3] “Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill,” U.K. Parliament, February 13, 2020.

[4] “Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill, Explanatory Notes,” U.K. Parliament, July 22, 2020.

[5] Angus Walker, “London Bridge killer penned letter in jail asking for deradicalisation course to be a ‘good British citizen,’” ITV News, November 30, 2019. See also Paul Cruickshank, “Usman Khan’s Longtime Lawyer ‘Completely Shocked’ by London Bridge Attack,” CNN, December 3, 2019.

[6] Author interview, Usman Raja, The Unity Initiative, February 2014.

[7] “London Bridge: Usman Khan Completed Untested Rehabilitation Scheme,” BBC, December 4, 2019.

[8] Vikram Dodd and Dan Sabbagh, “Streatham Attacker was Released Amid Fears He Felt Terrorism was Justified,” Guardian, February 3, 2020.

[9] “Streatham Attack: Emergency Terror Law to End Early Prisoner Release,” BBC, February 3, 2020.

[10] Douglas Weeks, “Doing Derad: An Analysis of the UK System,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 41:5 (2017): pp. 523-540.

[11] “Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill Fact Sheet,” U.K. Home Office, 2014, p. 1.

[12] “Case Study: The Channel Programme,” U.K. Home Office, December 13, 2018.

[13] “Channel Duty Guidance: Protecting Vulnerable People from being Drawn Into Terrorism,” HM Government, 2019.

[14] “Fact Sheet: Desistance and Disengagement Programme,” U.K. Home Office, 2019.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ali Soufan et al., Risk Reduction for Countering Violent Extremism (Qatar: Qiass, 2010), p. 8.

[18] “Individuals Referred to and Supported Through the Prevent Programme,” U.K. Home Office, 2019, p. 6.

[19] Ibid., p. 7.

[20] Chris Dean, Monica Lloyd, Carys Keane, Beverly Powis, and Kiran Randhawa, Intervening with Extremist Offenders- A Pilot Study (London: Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, 2018), p. 1.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Duncan Gardham, “Streatham Terrorist: Sudesh Amman had ‘Fierce Interest in Violence and Martyrdom,’” Times, February 3, 2020.

[23] “Terrorism: Prisoners’ Release,” U.K. Parliament, January 27, 2020. See also David Anderson, “Today’s answer to my question on terrorist recidivism confirms …,” Twitter, February 11, 2020.

[24] Andrew Silke and John Morrison, “Re-Offending Released Terrorism Offenders,” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, September 2, 2020, p. 5.

[25] Douglas Weeks, “The Impacts of Ending Early Release,” douglasweeks.com, February 18, 2020.

[26] Fiona Hamilton, “Deradicalisation Doesn’t Work, says Terror Watchdog,” Times, December 14, 2020.

[27] Liam Duffy, “How much do we really have to learn from Europe about counterterrorism?” CapX, February 7, 2020.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Douglas M. Weeks, “The Victimisation Experience and the Radicalisation Process: An Understanding of the Perpetrator Victim Cycle Amongst Individuals Involved in Terrorism – Findings from England,” in Orla Lynch and Javier Argomaniz eds., The Victimisation Experience and the Radicalisation Process: An Understanding of the Perpetrator Victim Complex in the Case of Terrorism and Political Violence (Luxembourg: European Commission, 2016).

[30] Weeks, “The Victimisation Experience and the Radicalisation Process,” 2016.

[31] Author interview, Usman Raja, The Unity Initiative, December 2019.

[32] Haley Dixon, Victoria Ward, and Greg Wilford, “London Bridge Attacker was Poster Boy for Rehab Scheme He Targeted,” Telegraph, December 1, 2019.

[33] Ceylan Yeginsu, “Portrait of London Bridge Killer, in His Own Words,” New York Times, December 5, 2019; Daniel De Simone, “London Bridge: Who was the attacker?” BBC, December 5, 2019.

[34] “What is Learning Together?” University of Cambridge.

[35] Author interview, Usman Raja, The Unity Initiative, December 2019.

[36] For more coverage of The Unity Initiative in this publication, see Paul Cruickshank, “An Interview with: Usman Raja,” CTC Sentinel 8:7 (2015); Paul Cruickshank, “A View from the CT Foxhole: Dr. Angela Misra, Co-Founder, The Unity Initiative,” CTC Sentinel 10:10 (2017); and Paul Cruickshank, “A View from the CT Foxhole: Shaun Greenough, Case Strategy and Mentor Supervisor, The Unity Initiative,” CTC Sentinel 12:2 (2019).

[37] Author interview, Usman Raja, The Unity Initiative, August 2019.

[38] Author interview, Usman Raja, The Unity Initiative, November 2020.

[39] Author interview, Usman Raja, The Unity Initiative, December 2019.

[40] Author interview, Usman Raja, The Unity Initiative, December 2019.

[41] Author interview, Usman Raja, The Unity Initiative, September 2019.

[42] Author interview, Usman Raja, The Unity Initiative, March 2019.

[43] Dominic Casciani, “Top psychologist: No certainty terror offenders can be ‘cured,’” BBC, January 2, 2020.

[44] “Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill,” U.K. Parliament.

[45] “Terrorism Watchdog to Open Inquiry into Radicalisation in Prison,” Guardian, January 24, 2021.

[46] “Automatic Early Release of Terrorists Ends,” U.K. Ministry of Justice and The Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, February 26, 2020.

[47] Jamie Grierson, “UK Freed 42 Terrorists in Year Before Law to Detain Extremists for Longer,” Guardian, March 5, 2020.

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