The RecoRa Perspective

 

The RecoRa Institute was created in response to recommendations made within a European Funded Project which examined the issue of violent extremism from the perspective of front-line workers and community activists (street-level workers).

In the final report, “Recognising and Responding to Radicalisation: Considerations for policy and practice through the eyes of street level workers,”  Meah.Y & Mellis.C [2008] called for a shift in perspectives to enable policy makers, practitioners and communities to not only understand the agenda but also to become more effective in building collaborative partnerships.

In their report Meah & Mellis called for a fundamental shift from 'getting it, to getting it right'.  This movement is summarised below. 

The need to shift from:

Radical spotting

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Signalling concerns

Counter terrorism

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Care-based prevention

Risk factors

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Protective factors

A “desired” Islam

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Understanding Islam

Church & State

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Partnership & Collaboration

The report also highlighted the significance of the individual in respect to partnership development.  Community members do not often relate to 'Institutions', rather to individuals within these 'Institutions'; good relationships between formal organisations and communities are usually built through personal relationships. 

As Colin Mellis and Yousiff Meah worked to develop training materials to build on the findings in their original report,  it became apparent that reducing the potential for global jihadist ideologies to connect with young Muslims would not alone be entirely effective. A radical shift in the level of cooperation and understanding between different agencies  was also required, along with the direct engagement of key individuals within communities that are increasingly beginning to feel under scrutiny themselves for being Muslim.

The growing association of Muslims with terrorism, reflected in mainstream media reporting and some political discourses, has heightened the sense of alienation and disassociation that contributes to young people’s vulnerability. This has also rejuvenated a new and reformed wave of radical, extreme right-wing discourses.

The RecoRa Institute is concerned that the path being taken to avoid the threat of global jihadism, potentially raises within popular discourses a fear of Islam that itself may reinforce the ideology underpinning the terrorist discourse. This in turn is creating a new right-wing narrative that connects with a broader support base generated out of the politics of fear. To address this, governments and organisations need to see beyond the threat of violence from right-wing ideologues as being routed in fascism. The new ideological supply is creating a new racism that is no longer biological but cultural. At the same time, this does not negate the call to violence underpinned by the white supremacist movements across Europe.

The search for the question “what works” with so called “radicalised” young people also heightens the sense of concerned about getting it wrong, of contributing to an anti-Muslim discourse, of criminalising young people, and a feeling that we do not understand enough.

At the same time we also know from violence reduction research and practice that early intervention is required to ensure that individuals do not engage within increasing levels of violence. This itself means engaging within the pre criminal space. The lack of confidence concerning  "what does a radical look like" needs to be tempered with a moral and professional obligation to share concerns about individuals and groups who might - just might - be vulnerable to being recruited into supporting or engaging in violence.

The Youth Violence Continuum

There is however a danger that in discussing risk we end up only seeing risk and all "Muslims" become potential terrorists, A guiding principle of The Institute is our belief that the strength of education is our ability to see the promise in children, rather than the risk. That means viewing children and young people as filled with capacity, realised and unrealised, for healthy transformation and change.

The RecoRa Institute works to build the confidence within policy makers and front-line staff to effectively develop and deliver care-based solutions  and to proactively address vulnerabilities. Our training and development work focuses on supplementing existing experiential knowledge [of how to be a good teacher, youth worker, nurse] with content knowledge designed to enable staff to both recognise and respond effectively to the radicalisation process.

Much of our work focuses on addressing violence at an early stage and seeks to institutionalise the knowledge and skills through linking solution matrixes within existing structures for addressing violence or vulnerabilities within young people and young adults.

Our general focus on young people, is supplemented by a range of specific courses for specific situations. For example, our 'Managing convicted terrorist' course has been designed for the management in prison and on release of convicted terrorists and other extremist offenders. We have specialised materials to embed knowledge within teaching training courses; specific courses for communities on designing and developing interventions; and courses that up-skill street level workers manage and mentor individuals and groups who are supportive of the ideologies or narratives that ultimate seek to justify terrorism or social disorder

Finally,  our strategy for embedding expertise through the the development of graduates and associate members results in formal organisations having free, on-going, access to our materials to address the on-going staff development and policy needs required to address violence and social disorder.  These resources support the development of collaborative  partnerships which work to empower street level workers recognise and respond to ideological violence through supportive polices and relationships. Ultimately, they are designed to ensure that care based solutions are provided to those who are vulnerable to being drawn into violence.