The former head of “Prevent” on how radicalisation can be counteredby Arthur Snell / February 23, 2017 / Leave a comment
At the beginning of 2008 I started a new job with a refreshingly clear objective: “to reduce the risk to the UK from radicalisation overseas.” As the head of Foreign Office “Prevent” counter-radicalisation programme I knew what I had to do. The hard bit was figuring out how. Radicalisation is something that happens in private places, in closed online forums and inside people’s minds. If we succeeded in preventing a future terrorist action, we would never know. When we failed to prevent an attack, it would be painfully obvious, as has become clear in recent days.
It is easy to get angry about Ronald Fiddler, aka Abu Zakariya al-Britani, a British terrorist and member of Islamic State who carried out a suicide bombing killing Iraqi soldiers near Mosul on Sunday, according to an Islamic State media release. In the ghoulish IS propaganda, Fiddler is seen grinning maniacally as he appears to be wired up to a car bomb. One’s sense of disgust only increases on learning that Fiddler had received £1m from the British government. You don’t have to be a Daily Mail reader to feel suckered.
But Fiddler’s story is complex: he was a British-born man of Jamaican heritage who had converted to Islam as a teenager. Shortly after 9/11 he went on what he described as a “religious holiday” to Pakistan and captured by the Taliban on suspicion of being a British spy. On his release by US forces in 2002, he was detained and sent to Guantanamo. On his release in 2004, after extensive lobbying by the British government, supported across the media and the political spectrum, he was lionised as a victim of a failed policy of extra-legal internment, and even briefed the Council of Europe on his experiences of mistreatment in Guantanamo. In 2010, Fiddler received his £1m payment as part of a confidential settlement, paid to prevent the British government having to reveal in a court secret intelligence relating to his imprisonment. It was not compensation; it was a confidentiality payment.
In 2014, Fiddler, who admitted he knew little about Islam, travelled to IS in Syria and became a fighter. In a poignant illustration of how radicalisation destroys families,Fiddler’s wife…