How do we stop young Muslims becoming radicalized? That has been the question posed by many politicians, policy makers, analysts and journalists in the aftermath of the killing of Lee Rigby in Woolwich last week. Indeed, it has been the question posed ever since the 7/7 bombings first raised the issue of ‘homegrown’ terrorism.

The idea of ‘radicalization’ as the process by which young Muslims get drawn into jihadist circles has become received wisdom within security forces and among politicians, and not just in Britain. There is a widespread belief that extremist groups or ‘hate preachers’ groom vulnerable Muslims for jihadism, in the way that a trafficking gang might groom young girls for prostitution, by indoctrinating them with extremist ideas. The way to prevent Muslims becoming terrorists, many conclude, is to silence the preachers, proscribe extremist groups and close down Islamist websites. It was not surprising to find that…

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