Contesting Power: A Comparison of Muslim Civil Society Responses to Counter-Radicalization Policies in Canada and the U.K.

Public Deposited
Resource Type
  • In the context of the 'war on terror,' counter-radicalization (CR) policies are a form of security governance that uses social, cultural, and educational programs to preempt the future possibility of political violence. Based on a problematic understanding of 'radicalization' as the transition toward 'extreme' Islamic ideology, CR policies have principally targeted Muslim communities. As Muslim civil society organizations (CSOs) are enlisted to support counter-radicalization objectives, they have to balance advocating for Muslim communities - including raising concerns about anti-Muslim discrimination in CR policies - on the one hand, and on the other, acceding to participate in counter-radicalization initiatives. Employing a qualitative comparative approach, my dissertation shows how Muslim CSOs in Canada and the U.K. develop strategic responses to CR policy pressures. Data for this research are based on interviews with decision-makers at Muslim CSOs, policymakers, and informed individuals as well as analysis of policy documents and security practices related to counter-radicalization. I propose a conceptual framework that integrates theorization of power (Haugaard, 2012, 2021) with an organizational institutionalist model (Oliver, 1991), arguing that CR polices create relations of power between state institutions and Muslim CSOs, and responses of Muslim CSOs are best understood as contestations within these relations of power. My analysis reveals that, despite following different patterns of development, CR policies in Canada and the U.K. govern Muslims through racialized practices and notions of the "suspect community," risk, and preemption. Through CR policies, state institutions seek to produce compliant CSOs that unreflexively reproduce relations of domination. With the awareness of these dynamics, Muslim CSOs engage in sophisticated power contestations: 1) they make strategic choices about availing CR-related funding, cooperating with state security institutions, and responding to state institutions' withholding legitimacy for CSO activities, 2) they criticize state institutions for insufficiently including Muslim CSOs in the CR policymaking process and for ignoring the concerns of Muslim communities, and 3) they challenge dominant discourses in CR policies and demand more transparency about the knowledge basis for CR policies. This dissertation shows how, despite institutional constraints, CSOs can use their agentic power to engage in meaningful contestations toward emancipatory goals.

Thesis Degree Level
Thesis Degree Name
Thesis Degree Discipline
Rights Notes
  • Copyright © 2021 the author(s). Theses may be used for non-commercial research, educational, or related academic purposes only. Such uses include personal study, research, scholarship, and teaching. Theses may only be shared by linking to Carleton University Institutional Repository and no part may be used without proper attribution to the author. No part may be used for commercial purposes directly or indirectly via a for-profit platform; no adaptation or derivative works are permitted without consent from the copyright owner.
Date Created
  • 2021


In Collection: