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Making the nation 'safer' and the monolingual mindset: 'suspect communities' and multilingualism in intelligence and armed conflict

4th floor, Muirhead Tower, Room 429
Lectures Talks and Workshops
Thursday 25th February 2016 (14:00-16:00)
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Ann Bolstridge,

Dr Kamran Khan, University of Leicester

Terrorism and the measures to counter home-grown Islamic terrorists have contributed to the discursive construction of British Muslims as a ‘suspect community.’ This paper examines how English language proficiency has entered discourses of radicalization. The paper will then investigate the implications of the devaluing of heritage languages of Muslims for intelligence and conflict.

Following riots in 2001 involving British Asians, far-right extremists and the police, British citizenship was viewed as a way of fusing communities splintered by a lack of English in migrant communities. The logic that isolation and separateness due to a lack of English can lead to violence has hence been viewed by politicians as a potential vulnerability to accepting radical and extremist ideas. 

The ‘Prevent’ strategy has meant that educators are duty bound to report children displaying signs of radicalization.  Children and education have also played a part in recruitment for future language analysts in intelligence.  Outreach programs in schools by GCHQ (Government  Communications Head Quarters) foreign languages and have been required in order to cope with new threats. 

In the context of conflict and armed forces, heritage language speakers have also been sought.  Given that British armed forces have operated in Islamic countries, those who share the same cultural and linguistic background has been essential to creating positive relations.  However, recruiting from ‘suspect communities’ has been extremely difficult.

In conclusion, a number of paradoxes emerge.  A ‘suspect community’ is positioned as both part of the problem and the solution.  Children can be potential extremists and future intelligence language analysts.  The heritage languages that contribute towards self-segregation are also invaluable assets in intelligence and military efforts abroad.

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