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Extremism, hate crimes, religiously motivated attacks and terrorism are issues that affect people around the world. The advent of the internet and other technologies has resulted in a world where acts such as these are no longer concentrated in a few specific geographical areas but reach into communities in almost every country of the world. Geopolitics does affect the dynamics of some of the larger terrorist groups, such as ISIS and Boko Haram, yet individuals are flocking to join these groups from all corners of the globe, leaving families devastated. SAFE is a UK enterprise founded by Fiyaz Mughal to provide a safe, secure and confidential space for families affected by terrorism to share their stories and access support.

Devastating Families

Michael Evans, one of the founding members of SAFE and the project leader, identified a need for the enterprise after suffering the effects of terrorism within his family. Evans’ brother Thomas left the UK to join the Somalian terrorist group Al-Shabaab and was later killed. Thomas’s mother Sally and brother Michael were left devastated and with no-one to turn to, both during Thomas’s time with Al-Shabaab and following his untimely death. The family had to deal with their own grief and mixed emotions as well as grappling with the media and the resulting legal issues. They found there was little to no support available to them once the police investigation ended and they were left alone.

Early Detection of Radicalisation

SAFE provides support for families like the Evans who are directly affected by terrorism, offering support and helping them access other organisations that may also be able to help. SAFE also offers assistance to families that are concerned about the actions of a family member who may not yet have crossed the line into terrorism but are proving susceptible to terrorist propaganda and messages. Detecting radicalisation in the early stages is key to its prevention, believes the team at SAFE. Families that have concerns can come to the organisation and receive advice, information packs and strategies to help them and their loved ones build a resistance to the power of this type of messaging.

There are many challenges to this family-centred approach, yet families can play a vital role in combatting terrorism and extremism at the earliest stages. Families are often ideally placed to identify early signs of radicalisation and, with the proper support, may have the opportunity to turn individuals back from a course of terror before it is too late.