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Publish convicted terrorists’ biographies

After terrorists, or intended terrorists, have been tried and convicted, the government should publish details of their planned crimes and how they were radicalised. This would reduce the widespread downplaying of the extent of intended terrorism and the common denial of the reality of radicalisation.


26 July 2016

Terrorism occurs in many countries, and has many different inspirations.

However the terrorism that vexes me the most is terrorism committed by Muslims who seek to justify their actions by reference to Islam. I am particularly concerned about such terrorism because it tarnishes the reputation of my religion.

Combating such terrorism requires many kinds of actions, both short term and long term, as set out in the UK Government's counter-terrorism strategy. A key need is to reduce, preferably to zero, the number of young British Muslims who seek to become terrorists. That is what the Prevent component of the strategy is about.

One impediment for Prevent is the number of British Muslims who downplay the extent of such terrorism (including attempted terrorism) and/or downplay the religious motivations of the would-be terrorists. The best counter to such mistaken downplaying is the provision of evidence.

Accordingly in a recent piece on the Conservative Home website I set out a simple proposal which I believe would be easy to implement and very worthwhile. You can read it below.

Mohammed Amin: Publish convicted terrorists’ biographies

Mohammed Amin is Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum. He is writing in a personal capacity.

It is hard to deal with a problem such as radicalisation if you don’t really believe that it exists.

I spend a material proportion of my time addressing Muslim audiences and interacting with other Muslims on social media. I also read many blogs written by other Muslims.

In doing so, I regularly encounter widespread denial about the reality of radicalisation, as I wrote about in terrorism and denialism. I also encounter people downplaying the seriousness of attempts by British Muslims to commit acts of terrorism in the UK.

I have even had people tell me that the threat is overblown on the grounds that there have only been two acts of terrorism in the UK by Muslims causing fatalities. Such people are ignoring or minimising the many unsuccessful attempts at such terrorism.

If these attempts had succeeded there would have been carnage; they would have also led to a significant increase in hostility towards Muslims generally.

For illustrations, I suggest watching this video of my recent debate about Prevent in Bradford and this video of a panel event about extremism in London, in particular focusing on the mind-set shown by some of the questions from the floor. Another illustration of the denial of the problem is the group letter against the Prevent programme.

My own perspective is very different. Perhaps because I do not wish to delete them from my memory, as some other Muslims obviously do, I am acutely conscious of the many Muslims since 7 July 2005 who have featured in the newspapers as a result of being tried and convicted for attempted acts of terrorism.

I have also had the benefit of reading a number of expert witness reports which have been presented in terrorism trials, opining on Islamic theology and on the literature the accused have been reading.

The newspaper reports and other materials demonstrate consistency in the pathways which lead people to become radicalised. They leave no doubt that radicalisation is a real process. It is remarkable the extent to which people who are radicalised hold the same beliefs and read the same materials.

A modest proposal

I have a recommendation which would be cheap to implement and easy to do. Although I am not a lawyer, my expectation is that it would not need any legislation, either primary or secondary.

I would like the government to create a small section somewhere on its official website. Every terrorism trial that results in a conviction obviously involves a significant amount of evidence being presented in open court and an identifiable individual who is convicted and sentenced. For each such case, I would like the government to publish on its website section:

  1. Who has been convicted.
  2. What they were convicted of.
  3. The factual evidence presented in open court that led to their conviction.
  4. Any evidence from the trial material regarding how this individual was radicalised, what literature they were reading, what views they expressed etc.

I would “backfill” this website section with all terrorism convictions of Muslims as far back as the 7 July 2005 London bombings. Obviously in that sad case there were no convictions but the date provides a useful cut-off point.

The benefits from this proposal

The website section will demonstrate just how many such convictions there have been since mid-2005. That is important, because far too many people have a selective memory which forgets many of the instances of radicalised Muslims who have sought to do us harm.

It would also demonstrate the consistency of the pathways to radicalisation in a form that was easy to access. I do not expect many people to access this website section directly, but it would be an invaluable resource to people who are involved in the debates within British Muslim communities and also in wider society regarding the reality of radicalisation and the vital need for the Prevent programme.

Resource requirements

The cost of space on the government website should be immaterial.

From my own experience of professional services, I believe that one individual within the Ministry of Justice should be sufficient to gradually populate this website since most of the materials needing uploading should already exist in electronic form.


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