David Cameron: Non-violent extremism needs to be confronted

Prime Minister David Cameron has said that “non-violent extremism” needs to be confronted as well as “violent extremism” in the fight against ISIS.

In a speech at a security conference in Croatia today, Cameron also said:

– The ISIS threat stems from Islamist extremist ideology.

– Parts of the Muslim community may condone ISIS ideology.

– Radicalisation is not the fault of the authorities.

– Police and security services will be given more resources to disrupt terrorist plots.

Here is a transcript of the parts of the speech which touched on radicalisation:

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“In ISIL we have one of the biggest threats our world has faced. We need to be clear about the nature of that threat. The scale is formidable and growing. It stretches right across this continent with young people leaving Belgium, Sweden, Austria, France and Britain for the Middle East.

“The nature of the threat is grave. These are young people, boys and girls – leaving often loving, well-to-do homes, good schools, bright prospects – travelling thousands of miles from home to strap explosives to their chest and blow themselves up and kill innocent people; to live in a place where marriage is legal at the age of 9 and where women’s role is to serve the jihadists; to be part of a so-called state whose fanatics are plotting and encouraging acts of despicable terrorism in the countries from which they have come.

“It’s what we’ve seen this week with the youngest suicide bomber in our history in Iraq. It’s what we may have seen with 3 women and their young children who went to Saudi Arabia to perform their pilgrimage and who are thought to have gone to ISIL territory.

“Only if we are clear about this threat and its causes can we tackle it. The cause is ideological. It is an Islamist extremist ideology one that says the West is bad and democracy is wrong that women are inferior, that homosexuality is evil. It says religious doctrine trumps the rule of law and Caliphate trumps nation state and it justifies violence in asserting itself and achieving its aims.

ISIS bomber Talha Asmal
ISIS bomber Talha Asmal

“The question is: how do people arrive at this worldview?

“How does someone who has had all the advantages of a British or a European schooling, a loving family, the freedom and equality that allow them to be who they want to be turn to a tyrannical, murderous, evil regime?

“There are, of course, many reasons – and to tackle them we have to be clear about them. I am clear that one of the reasons is that there are people who hold some of these views who don’t go as far as advocating violence, but who do buy into some of these prejudices giving the extreme Islamist narrative weight and telling fellow Muslims, ‘you are part of this.’

“This paves the way for young people to turn simmering prejudice into murderous intent. To go from listening to firebrand preachers online to boarding a plane to Istanbul and travelling onward to join the jihadis. We’ve always had angry young men and women buying into supposedly revolutionary causes. This one is evil; it is contradictory; it is futile – but it is particularly potent today.

“I think part of the reason it’s so potent is that it has been given this credence.

“So if you’re a troubled boy who is angry at the world, or a girl looking for an identity, for something to believe in and there’s something that is quietly condoned online, or perhaps even in parts of your local community, then it’s less of a leap to go from a British teenager to an ISIL fighter or an ISIL wife, than it would be for someone who hasn’t been exposed to these things.

“That is one of the factors.

“There are others – not least questions of national identity and making sure young people in our country feel truly part of it – and we need to deal with all of these things. But if we are to really tackle this threat, we need to confront extremism in all its forms, violent and non-violent, to stop our young people sliding from one to the other.

British Muslims are targeted under the government's anti-terror PREVENT strategy.
British Muslims are targeted under the government’s anti-terror PREVENT strategy.

“We also need to be clear about the ideology’s methods. It may be medieval in its outlook, but it is modern in its tactics with the internet as the main tool to spread its warped worldview. Being clear about these things will allow us to develop the powers we need to root out this poison.

“And being clear where responsibility does and doesn’t lie is also key. Too often we hear the argument that radicalisation is the fault of someone else. That blame game is wrong – and it is dangerous. By accepting the finger pointing – whether it’s at agencies or authorities – we are ignoring the fact that the radicalisation starts with the individual and we would be in danger of overlooking many of the ways we must try to stop it at the source.

“We need to treat the causes, not just the symptoms. Of course, we will do everything we can to help the police and intelligence agencies to stop people travelling to Syria. But we mustn’t miss the point: they are not responsible for the fact that people have decided they want to go.

“In Britain we are strengthening the ability of the police and security services to disrupt terrorist plots, giving them all the tools they need. And we are working with the internet industry to tackle terrorist propaganda – removing over 90,000 pieces of material since 2010. We are also working with other EU member states to set up an EU-Internet Referral Unit, based on the British model – and that will be up and running from next month.

“And we’re doing these things because we acknowledge just how widespread, how complex and how dangerous this threat is.

Reacting to Cameron’s comments the Islamic Human Rights Commission said the Prime Minister should look closer to home when trying to identify causes for the rise of ISIS and its attraction to some British Muslims.

They said that the PM “would be better served by looking at Britain’s own and wider western policy in the region which gave birth to ISIS. ISIS was not created by a few thousand misguided western youths looking to establish a utopia but by the cumulative impact of years of neo-colonial meddling.”

IHRC Massoud Shadjareh added: “The PM should start thinking about those who are quietly supporting and financing ISIS instead of employing a rhetoric of collective blame. The recent collapse of the prosecution of Bherlin Gildo shows just how deeply British intelligence services have been involved in helping Muslims go to fight in Syria.”

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