SAFE is a UK enterprise established by Fiyaz Mughal and Micheal Evans as a safe space for families directly affected by terrorism and extremism to share concerns and access support. The need for such a service in the UK was identified due to personal stories and testimonies, including those of project leader Evans.
The Evans’ Story
Micheal and his family were left devastated after his brother Thomas left the UK as one of only a handful of white jihadists, joining the Al-Shabaab terrorist organisation in Somalia and later being killed in Kenya by security forces. Thomas Evans was known as the ‘White Beast’ within Al-Shabaab. The story of the Evans’ family was documented in the BAFTA award-winning film ‘My Son the Jihadi’. Micheal and his mother had tried desperately to access support before the death of Thomas and found that there was little to no support available. Following the death of Thomas, the family found once again that there was little support once the official legal investigation was completed, leaving the family to deal with the devastation alone. The complicated, mixed emotions they were left with had no outlet outside the family, leading to the identification of the need for a project such as SAFE.
Research into Families
There has been limited research to date into the families of extremists. The conclusions reached based on the available data draw no direct comparisons between certain family backgrounds and the likelihood of susceptibility to terrorist ideology. Even families displaying ‘outstanding’ parental qualities could end up with one member being radicalised. Lack of qualitative data makes it difficult to identify a causal link. However, the founders of SAFE believe that early detection of radicalisation is vital for families to be able to provide support to individual members who may be susceptible to the rhetoric of extremism.
The Process of Radicalisation
Based on the limited amount of data available, it seems that there is no one single cause that stands out in creating a violent extremist. A combination of factors ranging from psychological to environmental, personal to external are involved in the process. SAFE was established to meet the needs of families with concerns over a family member or who were already affected by radicalisation, providing information and strategic guidance to try to help prevent the problem in the earliest stages as well as offer support.