Understanding radicalisation


Prevent works by developing a more in-depth understanding of how an individual can become radicalised to the point where they can either become directly involved in terrorist activity or support terrorism.

Involvement in terrorist activity is not limited to committing acts of violence; it can also be fund raising activity or actively promoting an extreme message to recruit others, to name just two examples.

By developing a deeper comprehension of the radicalisation process it is possible to identify ways of preventing people from being drawn towards terrorism or supporting what is known as violent extremism.

Radicalisation is a process and can vary greatly between individuals, as the progression is highly dependent on a wide range of personal characteristics. However, it typically involves the exposure of an individual to extremist viewpoints and interpretations that could in due course influence someone to perpetrate an act of terrorism or pledge their support. This process can take as little as a few hours or as much as several years. Every individual is unique and there is no specific timeframe within which the radicalisation process progresses.

Exposure to a radical ideology can occur through any delivery method but may commonly involve viewing of extreme content on the internet, the reading of associated written publications and attendance of events  orated by an extremist speaker.

The use of the internet is perhaps the most likely and most prominent delivery method exploited by extreme ideologues seeking to radicalise vulnerable individuals into pledging support.

For advice on how you can improve your safety online visit Get Safe Online. You can report any suspected online extremist content via the GOV.UK site.

The radicalisation process may lead to a number of observable behaviours being displayed by a vulnerable individual:

  • Depressed
  • Withdrawn
  • Change of routine
  • Social isolation
  • Inappropriate questions
  • Absenteeism
  • New found arrogance
  • Change in language
  • Short tempered
  • Angry
  • Tattoos
  • New circle of friends
  • Intolerance
  • Closed to new ideas
  • Fixation on a subject 

As with the vulnerability factors, this is not an exhaustive list and any number of these behaviours being observed may be indicative of another safeguarding concern, not only terrorism.

If the behaviours and vulnerabilities detailed above are observed then serious consideration should be given to seeking further advice and making a referral to Prevent. Referrals can be made anonymously and any information provided will remain confidential.

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