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Radicalising Our Children
27 February @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Separating a child from their family is one of the most drastic actions a court can take. However, family courts in the United Kingdom have had to make difficult decisions on what happens to children at risk of radicalisation. Many of these children are part of families that love and care for them, but still expose them to dangerous beliefs. Therefore, the harm of continuing to expose the child to extremism must be weighed against the harm of separating them from their parents. Are children of a particular age more likely to radicalise themselves? What role does abuse in the family play in pushing a child towards extremism? Does home schooling and isolation make a child more prone to radicalisation? And when it comes to agency: do children who radicalise others pose a greater threat than those who are forced into extremist views by their families? These important trends in facilitating radicalisation are key to understanding the nature of the threat that entire families pose by remaining in the United Kingdom and continuing to promote their views to a young generation of followers.
By kind invitation of Tim Loughton MP, the Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to join Nikita Malik who will present findings from her report.
Nikita Malik is the Director of the Centre on Radicalisation and Terrorism (CRT) at the Henry Jackson Society. She is an internationally recognised expert on countering violent extremism, terrorism, and hate-based violence, with a focus on youth deradicalisation. In her role, she has worked with key policy makers and government departments in the UK and globally. A key component of Nikita’s work focuses on the propagation of extremist material online, including on social media platforms and the Darknet. Her research has put forward a number of solutions to foster engagement between UK government policymakers and technology companies.
Tim Loughton MP – is the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham and currently sits on the influential Home Affairs Select Committee. Previously he was Shadow Minister for Health and Children and also the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Children and Families. He has led on several areas of successful reform in child protection, child sexual exploitation and adoption in particular. Tim chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for Conception to Age 2 (first 1001 days) which is undertaking important work to improve Government’s work in peri-natal mental health and strong attachment for young children. He also Co-Chairs the APPGs for Mindfulness and Children and is Vice Chairman of the All Party Groups on Youth and Care Leavers.
On the 27th February the Henry Jackson Society was delighted to host our latest event, “Radicalizing Our Children.” Director of the Henry Jackson Society’s Centre on Radicalisation and Terrorism (CRT) Director Nikita Malik presented findings from her latest report on this issue. The event was chaired by Tim Loughton MP, Home Affairs Select Committee member and previous Shadow Minister for Health and Children.
Tim Loughton MP began by explaining the timely release of Nikita Malik’s report within the context of the Shamima Begum case which took the U.K. by storm in past weeks. However, when beginning the project, the radicalisation of youth in the U.K. was not an area paid much attention to. While doing research on the IS magazine Dabiq and propaganda aimed at women specifically, Malik became interested in the life of children in the Islamic State. The propaganda aimed at women specified that their main purpose was to produce children for the new generation of the Islamic State.
Malik explained that while most children in the Islamic State were either kidnapped from refugee camps or had willingly joined in exchange for an incentive, there were also foreign children of various nationalities, including British citizens. These children may have been taken there by their parents while they were young, have been born in IS territory to foreign parents, or, perhaps most dangerously, have themselves chosen to join the terrorist organization.
While it would be too difficult to find the last category children in the Islamic State, as they may be in hiding or otherwise unaccountable, Malik identified that looking at the preventative measures could give insight into children radicalized in the U.K. before joining IS. Therefore, Malik began research on this report by looking at court cases from the Family Courts regarding children and radicalization.
In particular, Malik highlighted several findings from the report. It was found that the age of the children involved in court cases ranged from infants to teenagers, without being concentrated solely in one age group. Another interesting finding was that while boys were more likely to join a terrorist group due to familial pressure, girls were more inclined to do independent research and radicalize themselves. Malik argued that this directly conflicts with the ‘vulnerable bride’ narrative that is proposed by the media, especially in regards to the Shamima Begum case. Lastly, it became clear that the lack of guidance and high standard of proof needed in Family Courts inhibited the judiciary’s ability to effectively prevent the radicalization of British youth in certain circumstances.
Malik then explained her policy suggestions. First, the threshold of proof should be lowered on this topic. As it stands, harm must occur first before a court may intervene; in the case of a family attempting to enter IS territory, waiting for harm to occur first is a serious risk for the children. In addition, since many self-radicalizing children are teenagers, the court’s current use of wardenship is insufficient as it expires when the child turns 18.
Second, Counter Terrorism forces should be allowed to share information with the Family Courts. There may be key information about the parents that is being kept from the courts in the current system. Third, social workers and judges should have training and agency in decision-making regarding radicalization and extremism. Finally, a wardenship-like system should be introduced to better address the needs of courts in instances of radicalization.
In concluding, Malik pointed out that while the national focus has been on Shamima Begum, she is not unique. Malik emphasized that prevention is easier than a cure; Shamima Begum and others returning from fighting in the Islamic State will have difficulties deradicalizing due to their experiences. Therefore, focusing on both prevention and funding deradicalization measures is critical.
Tim Loughton MP, in concluding the event, brought attention to the report’s correlation between children being home schooled and being susceptible to radicalization. He also brought up the fact that more and more of the news being consumed by the youth is on social media rather than through traditional news media. Based on the combined factors, MP Loughton stated that it may be time for his committee to look deeper into the regulation of home school standards as well as how social media platforms take responsibility for the news they spread.