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Welcome to the radicalisation section

Here, you can find information about how to spot the signs of somebody being radicalised or is at risk of radicalisation and what to do if you suspect that somebody has been radicalised.

What is radicalisation?

Radicalisation is a process where a person, often from a vulnerable background begins to adopt extreme political, religious, or social view(s) and through these - engage in extremist activity. Their views will often be formed through misguidance, misunderstanding, jealousy, anger, a ‘sense of injustice’, resentment or fear.

Common threats:

Islamist extremism:

Groups like Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab and Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) spread messages of hate towards the West and attempt to recruit young people worldwide to join their cause.

They use propaganda and misguided religious scripts to justify what they do. However, these groups are not representative of the Muslim population and do not follow the true teachings of Islam.

Methods of recruitment:

These groups will often use the internet as a tool to spread propaganda through literature, image and video. They cite ‘Islamic values’ as a reason to reject Western society and will often use photos of dead or injured children and blame Western governments to gain sympathy.

These groups are known to target and groom young people throughout Europe using social networks like Twitter or instant messaging services like Snapchat and WhatsApp. ISIS has been known to encourage young women in London to travel to Syria and marry male Islamic state fighters with a promise of living in a society with ‘religious values’ at the heart of it.

Young people are brainwashed to believe that they can be part of a worldwide Islamic movement – a caliphate and that a place in paradise is guaranteed for them, as ‘soldiers of a religious war’.

Far-right extremism:

Groups like the English Defence League (EDL), Britain First and Combat 18 spread messages of hate and encourage violence against groups of people such as migrant or religious communities.

These groups use false or manipulated statistics and propaganda to justify their beliefs and actions.

Methods of recruitment:

These groups target young people who come from an economically and socially deprived background. Similar to Islamist extremist groups, they also use social networks to spread propaganda and hate. Commonly these groups hold meetings amongst their members and encourage further recruits to join them. Football hooliganism is closely linked to far-right extremism.

Once radicalised, the person could:

  • Encourage or take part in rioting or other public order offences such as football hooliganism and violence  
  • Engage in criminal activity - either individually or in a group/gang 
  • Take part in or abet hate crime by targeting somebody or a group of people because they are ‘different’
  • Spread messages of hate and radicalise or attempt to radicalise others  
  • Create fear amongst communities and discourage peace and harmony
  • Plan, aid or abet a terrorist attack - either nationally or internationally

People can be radicalised by:

  • Engaging with propaganda material on certain websites, forums, blogs and content that they find on or offline which spreads messages of hate or discourages peace
  • Misunderstanding or holding a misguided view on other people and communities, religious scriptures and texts or political manifestos and policies
  • Feeling resentment, jealousy, anger or a sense of injustice towards another individual, a group of people, or against a political or religious group

Radicalisation through grooming, and who is most likely to be radicalised:

Very commonly with young people who are radicalised, they come across extreme individuals who groom them into adopting radical views. These people manipulate the young person by using emotional triggers to engage with them, often during a time of hardship for that person; targeting somebody who for example:

  • Is grieving the loss of a loved one
  • Has failed school, college or university
  • Suffers from emotional difficulties or other mental health issue
  • Struggles to make ends meet, financially
  • Feels that they have no prospects or purpose in life
  • Is neglected, disowned or feels unloved by his or her family
  • Struggles to make friends or fit in with the community
  • Has tried and is failing to find a job
  • Has been involved in some kind of criminal behaviour
  • Has or is serving time in prison

People who belong to any of the above categories are at a higher risk of radicalisation, but this doesn’t mean that what seems to be a perfectly sane person who is doing well in their career and is loved by their family can’t be radicalised or begin to hold extreme views.

Anybody, from any background could become radicalised. 

How to spot the signs of somebody being radicalised

Different people display various signs of radicalisation. Some people are able to hide it so well that they are indistinguishable from anybody else, making it hard to identify them as radicalised and understand what their intentions are or could be.

The following are some signs that could mean somebody could be at risk of radicalisation or is going through a radicalisation process: 

Physical changes:

  • Sudden or gradual change in physical appearance
  • Sudden or unexpectedly wearing religious attire
  • Getting tattoos displaying various messages
  • Unexpectedly growing a beard
  • Unexpectedly shaving their head (skinhead)
  • Possesses unexplained gifts and clothing (groomers will sometimes use gifts such as mobile phones and clothing to bribe a young person)

Social changes:

  • Cuts ties with their friends, family or community
  • Starts to become socially withdrawn  
  • Becoming dependent on social media and the internet
  • Begins to associate with others who hold radical views
  • Bullies or demonises other people freely
  • Begins to attend rallies and demonstrations for extremist causes
  • Associates with known radicals
  • Visits extremist websites, networks and blogs

Emotional and verbal changes:

  • Begins to complain, often with anger, about governmental policies, especially foreign policy  
  • Advocates violence or criminal behaviour  
  • Begins to believe in government conspiracies
  • Exhibits erratic behaviour such as paranoia and delusion
  • Speaks about seeking revenge
  • Starts to exhibit extreme religious intolerance
  • Demonstrates sympathy to radical groups
  • Displays hatred or intolerance of other people or communities because they are different

Things to consider before assuming that somebody has been radicalised:

Not everybody will share the same view or opinion. Holding a different view – religious, social or political, does not mean that somebody is radical. The concern is when somebody with an extreme view acts or intends to act upon their view(s) in a way that is harmful to themselves or others. Even if they do not intend to act upon their view, extreme views that are based on lies and misguidance can be extremely damaging to somebody’s mental health.

You should always use your professional judgment about somebody and if in any doubt seek advice.

Why it’s important to seek help at an early stage:

If somebody is going through a radicalisation process, they are most likely victim to a form of grooming. They are extremely vulnerable to being encouraged or forced to do something that they wouldn’t otherwise do, often some form of criminal activity, by those who are influencing them. 

Those that have been radicalised pose a risk to both themselves and to society. In extreme cases they are a national and international security threat with the potential to cause serious damage and harm.

Radicalisation is fuelled by misguidance, misunderstanding and hate. It’s extremely important that anybody who is at risk of radicalisation or is beginning to become radicalised is offered help before they commit a crime.

Reluctance to report a young person

Sometimes it can be hard to make a decision about whether to report a young person who you suspect may be at risk of radicalisation as there is a worry that the person will be criminalised.

While the possibility of arrest and prosecution if a crime is committed cannot be ruled out, the purpose of referring a young person to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) is so that a safeguarding plan can be tailored around the individual who you are concerned about. 

These plans can help to identify safeguarding issues like mental health problems or trouble at home, which can be the reason behind that person’s vulnerability to radicalisation. Where issues are identified, the correct help can be found for them – before they put themselves or somebody else in danger.

What to do

Is somebody at immediate risk of harm?

Call 999

Do you suspect that somebody in Wandsworth is at risk of radicalisation?  

Radicalisation is a safeguarding matter. Call the Police on 101 and the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 020 8871 6622. If you are a professional, speak to your safeguarding lead or refer the case to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) Team

Is a UK national or permanent resident in a ‘war zone’ country - and in need of help?

Call the Foreign & Commonwealth Office: 020 7008 1500

Do you suspect that somebody may pose a risk to national or international security?

Call 999 if the threat is immediate
Otherwise, call the confidential anti terrorist hotline: 0800 789 321

Has somebody returned from a war zone and is suffering from stress or anxiety?

Encourage the person to see their GP

Would you like to find out more about ‘travel to Syria’, or about radicalisation?