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Youth Mobilisations of ‘Suspect Communities’

Social Policy
Necla Acik
University of Manchester
Necla Acik
University of Manchester

In this paper, I present data from a European collaborative study (Horizon 2020 PROMISE), on the social and political participation of young people positioned as ‘suspect’ under the UK government’s anti-terrorism measures (‘Prevent’). It aims to explore how the stigmatisation generated by the ‘suspect’ label affects young people’s choices about types and sites of participation and engagement.

Since the 2005 July bombing in London counter-terrorism strategies in the UK have been expanded with an increasing focus on prevention. The most controversial counter-terrorism measure is the Prevent strategy which has been widely criticized for disproportionately subjecting Muslim communities to surveillance and invoking narratives of ‘suspect communities’. Young Muslims are particularly affected by these policies. On the one hand youth civic engagement is encouraged and celebrated as a crucial part of a functioning democracy. On the other hand, young Muslims are perceived as a ‘vulnerable’ group at risk of radicalisation. While the former celebrates young people’s agency, the latter treats them as a security concern.

This paper considers how young Muslims (accessed through schools, colleges, community centres and national and local youth organisations) negotiate their place in society and if, and how, they are able to deploy their agency and become active citizens in such a climate of suspicion.
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