Richard McNeil-Willson

Inter|national Section Writer

Richard McNeil-Willson is a UK Research Council PhD researcher at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, and visiting researcher at Scuola Normale Superiore, Firenze and the University of Aarhus. He specialises in social movements, counter-terror legislation and Middle Eastern politics. Richard spent much of his youth in the deep rural heart of Norfolk.


(21/11/17) – Understanding Prevent Referrals: Young People, Islamism, and Education.

Recent Home Office figures on Prevent risk misrepresenting the politicised nature of referrals and making existing problems worse.

At the start of November 2017, the UK Home Office released its official figures for referrals to the Prevent Counter-terror Programme for the 2015-2016 period. It showed that, of the 7,631 of all referrals, ‘Islamist extremism’ represented the greatest threat, young people were the most vulnerable to radicalisation, and authorities only needed to respond to a minority of cases. But there are problems with this reading, which are shown by exploring the nature of referrals and the political context in which they sit.

The figures reveal a number of things: 1. There is a demographic ‘youth bulge’; 2. There is an ideological over-representation of ‘Islamist extremism’ compared to other kinds; and 3. There was an authority response for only 5% of cases. How do we interpret these findings?



(07/11/17) – As Islamic State Recedes, The War on Terror Continues to Grow.

As Islamic State strongholds tumble, the language of counter-terrorism in Europe and beyond expands exponentially.

Binaries lie at the heart of understanding terrorism and modern state security: ‘you’re either with us or against us’; a citizen of here or ‘a citizen of nowhere’; a supporter of the democratic, liberal state or ‘an enemy of freedom’. By targeting ‘us’ – both the individual and the state concurrently – terrorists force citizens into a position in which we all need to look beyond legal convention, to dispense with some rights to preserve others. So has trod the orthodox argument, refracted outwards from media, government and research.