The UK’s ‘Prevent’ strategy aims to dissuade vulnerable groups from supporting terrorism, and women have been involved since its inception in 2006. Sam Andrews argues that women are still viewed within a traditional gendered framework as primarily peaceful and are mostly engaged as mothers, enlisted by Prevent to watch over and guide their families and communities.
Drawing on interviews and case studies, this book reveals how Prevent goes beyond simple counter-terrorism messaging to fund a diverse array of projects, from support for victims of domestic violence to parenting courses, shaping wider engagement with women in society.
This chapter provides a brief overview of the development of counterterrorism in the United Kingdom post-7/7. Alongside this, it give an overview of the methodology of the book, providing thoughts on grounded theory methodology and doing research as an outsider.
Women are not well represented in research on terrorism and extremism. They are also not well integrated into counterterrorism frameworks. This chapter provides an overview of the relevant theories of women’s involvement in terrorism and violent extremism, and outlines the consequences of poor integration into counterterrorism frameworks. It argues that we need to take into account the feminist literature on political violence to properly understand how to integrate women into counterterrorism frameworks.
Women are key to the running of Prevent, part of the United Kingdom’s counterterrorism framework. However, there is little information on how women are included at the policy level. This chapter systematically analyses the national policy documents that outline Prevent. It highlights how women are considered to be a key target for Prevent, primarily because women are thought to be peaceful, better at consensus building than men, and have a key role in the family which can be leveraged for counterterrorism purposes. It also highlights how Prevent considers women’s oppression, and patriarchal attitudes in minority communities, to be policy problems for counterterrorism, as this might stop women from engaging in the policy. Finally, it outlines that violence against women is now swiftly becoming a policy problem for counterterrorism, and how Prevent is beginning to integrate this into policy.
National counterterrorism campaigns have been used by the UK government to try and drum up support for counterterrorism efforts. This chapter analyses two of those campaigns which targeted women – Prevent Tragedies and Shanaz. These campaigns tried to get women to support and engage with counterterrorism efforts by appealing to their supposed maternal instincts. While Prevent Tragedies tried to utilize mothers as an early warning about youth engaging in terrorism, Shanaz tried to get them involved in improving police engagement with women. The policy documents for each campaign are analysed in this chapter. The chapter argues that such campaigns can be detrimental to women, as by leveraging their role within the home, they also reinforce the damaging ideas about how women should maintain households and be the primary source of childcare.
Many studies look at how Prevent operates in different areas of public life, including schooling, hospitals and local policing. However, Prevent is highly localized and there are few case studies that outline how local authorities develop their strategies and decide on what type of projects to pursue. This chapter provides a case study of one local area, known pseudonymously as ‘Townsville’. Using local strategy documents from 2006 to 2020, it outlines how the local strategy is similar to the national strategy in thinking of women as primarily peaceful. However, it also outlines how the flexibility offered to local authorities allowed Townsville to adjust to developments both locally and nationally, eventually including women as a risk due to an increase in young women migrating to Islamic State-held territory. However, this adjustment maintained the idea that women are naturally peaceful, in that it considered these girls to be manipulated. It also further reinforced national ideas about how mothers are best placed to tackle radicalization in the family.
As Prevent is a localized strategy, there is a broad scope for Prevent professionals to adjust the national strategy according to their perceived local needs. This chapter draws on 18 interviews with people who work on Prevent to understand how they perceive women’s role within the strategy. This chapter shows that Prevent workers are much more alive to the possibility of women’s radicalization than local and national strategy indicates. It outlines how they consider women to be radicalized by their search for romance, by patriarchal structures and domestic abuse, and due to their more idealistic nature. It also details the various problems that Prevent workers have faced in trying to get women involved in Prevent locally, and how they sought to overcome them. The chapter demonstrates that Prevent workers also see women mostly in relation to the family, seeking to draw mothers into Prevent. The chapter argues that while Prevent workers are much more nuanced than the strategy indicates, they still rely on gendered stereotypes in forming policy decisions.
The ubiquity of Prevent, and its deep penetration into the UK’s social fabric, means that many will have been affected by the policy. Understanding how people perceive and engage with the policy is important to understanding both the policy’s effectiveness, and its impact on people’s lives. This chapter draws on 20 interviews with Muslim and Black and minority ethnic (BME) women, and right-wing women, across the UK. The chapter indicates that many women consider the concentration on mothers in Prevent to be a burden, especially when it falls upon migrant and BME women, who are some of the most deprived in society. It also indicates that while Prevent looks to improve women’s rights, a substantial portion of women will be left out of Prevent’s ‘empowerment’ work as they consider Prevent to be a discriminatory policy. Importantly, the integration of Prevent into safeguarding also means that women who suffer violence or abuse might be made more vulnerable, as they seek to avoid projects which collaborate with Prevent. Additionally, some women highlighted how Prevent’s framing of extremism and terrorism being detrimental to women’s rights can feed into right-wing narratives about cultural difference. The chapter argues that we need a broad and political understanding of Prevent in order to properly analyse its effect on women.
This chapter sums up the research of the book, outlining how Prevent considers women to be crucial to counterterrorism work primarily because it thinks of them as peaceful. It also considers their role as mothers to be inherently useful to counterterrorism, as mothers are supposedly best able to care for, and understand, their children’s needs. Because of this, this chapter argues that we can apply Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatus framework, which sees our actions as upholding ideologies. The ideology upheld by women engaging in Prevent is that of intensive motherhood, which sees women as being most fulfilled when consumed by caring for their children. Prevent’s insistence that mothers are best able to protect their children from terrorism upholds this ideology, and those mothers that engage it in begin to reproduce it. This framework is used to argue that we need to move beyond simply analysing Prevent as a counterterrorism policy, and instead see it as something inherently political.
Prevent, a key part of the United Kingdom’s counterterrorism framework, is concerned with stopping people from supporting or getting involved in terrorism. Conceived in 2006, it has had a number of updates since that time. This chapter outlines the basis for Prevent, including how it arose post-9/11 as part of a new ‘risk-based’ counterterrorism concept. It chronicles the development of Prevent since inception, and argues that Prevent can be understood as having two distinct ‘eras’ – the 2006–2009 era and 2011–2018 era. In the 2006–2009 era, Prevent concentrated on Muslims and community cohesion. The 2011–2018 era eschews community cohesion in favour of focusing on the risk presented by individuals exposed to extreme ideology. The chapter argues that understanding Prevent in this way allows us to make sense of how Prevent is run at a local level. The chapter also outlines how Prevent understands ideology, radicalization and safeguarding, which are key concepts in the running of the policy.