Deradicalisation by Default: The ‘Dialogue’ Approach to Rooting out Violent Extremism

Published in January 2009, the Dialogue Society policy reflection paper entitled Deradicalisation by Default: The 'Dialogue' Approach to Rooting out Violent Extremism was received with great interest by policy-makers, parliamentarians and senior academics.

ISBN: 095573492-4

The UK government has had a strategy in place for countering international terrorism since early 2003. This strategy is known as CONTEST and it consists of four strands: Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare. The first strand, Prevent, aims to stop people becoming or supporting violent extremists. The first objective of Prevent is to “[c]hallenge the violent extremist ideology and support mainstream voices.” While relevant to the wider issue of tackling violent extremism generally, this paper is most closely concerned with this first objective of Prevent.

The government faces two challenges in achieving this objective. Firstly, it is not clear how best to support mainstream Muslim voices so that extremist ideology can be stifled. Secondly, any government attempt at supporting mainstream Muslims and challenging extremist interpretations faces the risk of being perceived as reactive, thereby undermining its effectiveness.

This paper suggests how best to achieve this first objective of Prevent while avoiding the risk of being perceived as reactive, through the ‘dialogue’ approach. While setting out the definition and general characteristics of this approach, the paper also offers eight specific recommendations towards its implementation.

The Dialogue Society is committed not only to researching, developing and offering new ideas and recommendations but also to delivering and implementing those ideas and recommendations. In fact, grass roots practice precedes and guides the ideas developed by the Dialogue Society. Accordingly, this paper concludes by summarising ongoing and future projects to be delivered by the Dialogue Society in this vein.

Aims and Objectives:

  1. Stimulate thinking on alternative approaches to rooting out violent extremism
  2. Highlight two key problems with the 2009 Prevent strand of Contest
  3. Suggest an alternative approach (‘deradicalisation by default’) and explain how this alternative avoids the pitfalls associated with Prevent
  4. Explain the main characteristics of this approach
  5. Provide eight specific ideas towards its implementation