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We've published eight academic papers on extremism

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Lead Commissioner Sara Khan speaking
Lead Commissioner Sara Khan

We've published eight peer-reviewed academic papers.

The papers look into the causes of extremism, the complex relationship between social media and extremism and how to best counter extremism.

This is the second set of academic articles we've published. The first batch, looking at the Far Right and Far Left, was released earlier this month.

The academics were commissioned as part of our work to engage widely and gather evidence for a landmark report on extremism in England and Wales for the Home Secretary.

As we build up to the launch of the report in September, we want to prompt more debate on extremism.

We're also releasing some of our other findings, such as statistics from our call for evidence.

Our Lead Commissioner Sara Khan looked ahead to our report in a recent speech.

At the same event the previous Home Secretary announced plans for a new counter extremism strategy.

Speaking as the second set of papers were published, Lead Commissioner Sara Khan said:

“I’ve held the most extensive national conversation on extremism. It has lifted the lid on a range of urgent concerns we must address if we are to unite our country.

“I’m releasing some of the findings as we build up to our landmark report on extremism. I want to thank the authors of these academic papers for their work, and for their contribution to the debate on extremism.”

Read the academic papers

Academic papers on what causes extremism

The Moral Ecology of Extremism: A Systemic Perspective by Dr Noémie Bouhana, University College London

Author’s summary: “Polarisation, social media, multiculturalism, economic strain, loss of political trust... The list of suspected drivers of extremism grows every day. How do we tell which of them really contribute to the risk of extremism? Why do some individuals seem more vulnerable to this risk than others? This paper answers these fundamental questions.”

Drivers of Extremism: Global Political Antagonisms reproduced in Cypriot and Italian Insurgencies by
Dr. Charlotte Heath-Kelly, Reader in International Security, Political and International Studies, University of Warwick

Author’s summary: “In this paper, Dr Heath-Kelly uses her interviews with militants from Italian and Greek-Cypriot struggles to show how international politics shapes local conflicts. Social movements respond to shifting norms on the global stage, using them to shape local struggles - claiming legitimacy for protest, resistance and even violence.”

Academic papers on extremism online

Extremism Online - Analysis of extremist material on social media by Professor Imran Awan, Birmingham City University; Hollie Sutch, Birmingham City University and Dr Pelham Carter, Birmingham City University

Authors’ summary: “This paper examines the role of extremism online and uses two primary studies to generate empirical evidence that examines the differences between general online discussion of extremism and discussion inspired by offline events through the analysis of tweets and YouTube comments. We focus on two offline events (the Shamima Begum case and the New Zealand Christchurch terrorist attacks). Our findings suggest that increased anonymity is associated with an increase in extremist language, that conspiracy theory and media bias-based language is more common in response to offline events than general online discussion.”

Exploring Radicalisation and Extremism Online – an Experimental Study by Dr Mark Littler, University of Huddersfield

Author’s summary: “This paper explores the relationship between online political content and the public's social and political attitudes. Utilising a quantitative design the paper investigates the role of network proximity and content theme, presenting its results alongside a discussion of the implications for existing and future scholarship.”

Academic papers on responses to extremism

Belief, Attitude, and Behavior Change: Leveraging Current Perspectives for Counter-Radicalization by Dr Kurt Braddock, Penn State University

Author’s summary: “To effectively prevent vulnerable audiences from being persuaded by extremist ideologies, it is important to first understand the processes by which persuasion occurs independent of context. This paper describes multiple persuasion frameworks that have been utilized and studied in several other domains that can applied to counter-radicalization efforts.

Embedding Human Rights in Countering Extremism: Reflections from the field and proposals for change by Dr Katherine E. Brown, Corresponding Author, Senior Lecturer in Islamic Studies, Department of Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham; Professor Fiona De Londras, Chair of Global Legal Studies, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham and Jessica White, PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science and International Studies, and Theology and Religion

Authors’ summary: Countering Extremism (CE) programmes and policies have been criticised for infringing on human rights. The expanding remit of CE means that state and security agendas now infuse many more areas of ‘ordinary living’ than would previously been countenanced, with a disproportionate impact on socio-economically disadvantaged parts of society. Under such conditions extremist beliefs can inadvertently be affirmed, extremist behaviours strengthened and extremist modes of belonging and identity normalised. To help address this, this paper proposes the instigation of a rights-based approach to CE and of independent review of CE activities.”

Critiquing approaches to countering extremism via certain preventive measures by Professor Helen Fenwick, School of Law, Durham University

Author’s summary: “This paper concerns the impact of the Prevent duty and accompanying Guidance in the education sector. It considers the argument that the duty leads to stigmatisation of Muslims, and could thereby have the counter-productive effect of deterring some Muslims from co-operating in counter-terror efforts, concluding that any such effect can be combatted.”

Critiquing Approaches to Countering Extremism: The Fundamental British Values Problem in English Formal Schooling by Dr Diane Webber, Visiting Fellow, Georgetown University Center on National Security and the Law, Washington D.C and Dr Alison Struthers, Assistant Professor, University of Warwick School of Law

Authors’ summary: “Teaching fundamental British values in schools to deter and counter extremism is seen as a central part of counter-terrorism policy. We critique the current approach, highlighting the more controversial aspects of the FBV agenda and point to other values frameworks more suited to the role of combatting extremism within schooling.”

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