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More White Ethnic Individuals Arrested for Terrorism Offenses Than Their Asian Ethnic Counterparts

More White Ethnic Individuals Arrested for Terrorism Offenses Than Their Asian Ethnic Counterparts

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday April 13 2021

Recent figures show that more white people have been arrested for terrorism offenses than any other ethnic group for the third year in a row. The figures also reveal that Far-Right extremists accounted for one in five of those behind bars for terror offenses in Britain as of 31st December 2020, with the head of the UK counter-terror policing describing the Far-Right as the fastest growing terror threat in the UK.

Despite these figures showing a departure from the norm of those of ethnic minority backgrounds being arrested under counter-terror measures – and could be interpreted as showing PREVENT as being equally focused on the Far-Right as so-called ‘Islamist’ extremism – a closer examination suggests this is not the case.

These recent statistics measure PREVENT and other counter-terror measures along race lines. The figures show that those of white ethnic appearance accounted for 48% of arrests (with 81% of these individuals identifying as British or British dual nationals) while those of Asian ethnic appearance accounted for 34% of arrests of terrorism related offenses. The assumption that can be taken from these statistics is that PREVENT and other counter-terror measures are also geared towards preventing terrorism carried out by white ethnic individuals or those that subscribe to Far-Right ideologies. This has been used to absolve PREVENT and other counter-terror measures of accusations of disproportionately targeting ethnic minorities.

However, a more in-depth look reveals problems with this analysis. The data also states that 75% of those who were behind bars subscribed to ‘Islamist’ views – a hugely disproportionate number in comparison to the population of Muslims in the UK, who make up less than 5%. By comparison, only 20% of those arrested held ‘extreme right-wing’ views. This over-representation of Muslims and the stark difference in numbers highlights the vulnerability that Muslims face with PREVENT and other counter-terror measures. It further entrenches the fact that, despite a fall in arrests or referrals to PREVENT of individuals of Asian ethnic appearance, the remit of PREVENT still stands as being implicitly targeted towards Muslims and those of ethnic minority backgrounds.

In addition to the disproportionality, the language used in explaining the statistics further highlights the inherent bias. Words such as ‘Islamist’ and ‘jihad’ are still used widely to describe the work that PREVENT has been carrying out. While the statistics measure the outcome of PREVENT and other counter-terror systems along race line, there is no real departure from the attribution of religion to these acts. This lack of separation of religion from the perpetrator and the usage of religious terminologies such as ‘jihadis’ suggests that PREVENT and other counter-terror measures hold implicit Islamophobic and racist underpinnings. This argument is made stronger by the fact that Far-Right terrorism is not equally aligned with a religion.

In previous years, expert analysis of these statistics have stated that those terror suspects who fall into the ‘white ethnic appearance’ category would also include those that have converted to Islam. This is another example of placing religion in rank with terrorism and citing the possibility of this conversion being behind radicalisation.

The new statistics maintain a reality of a continued over-representation of Muslims and ethnic minorities in arrests or referrals to PREVENT. While at face value it may give the impression that PREVENT and other counter-terror measures are moving away from being racist or Islamophobic, a deeper analysis reveals more permanent problems with the programmes.

It highlights the need for alternative systems of countering terrorism; systems that are not built on foundations of inequality, racism and Islamophobia. Governments need to engage minority and religious communities and grassroots organisations, to understand these problems, not least to change the language used when discussing terrorism, to prevent disquiet and anger with current approaches from continuing.


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