Cameron launches new counter-extremism plan

Friday 24/07/2015
Mixed reactions

London - British Prime Minister Da­vid Cameron launched a five-year-plan to tackle Islamic extremism in Brit­ain, decrying the “failure of integration” that has led hun­dreds of Britons to join the Islamic State (ISIS) and firmly linking non-violent extremism and terrorism.

In a July 20th speech in Bir­mingham, Cameron warned that the fight against extremism is the “struggle of our generation”. He set out four major objectives of the government’s plan: counter­ing “warped” extremist ideology; tackling radicalisation; dealing with the “drowning out” of moder­ate Muslim voices; and addressing the “identity crisis” among British Muslim youth.

Cameron introduced a raft of measures to prop up his govern­ment’s more nuanced strategy, in­cluding promising funding, protec­tion and “political representation” to UK Muslim groups that demon­strate an adherence to “British val­ues”.

He also promised sweeping hous­ing reforms to tackle the issue of “segregation” in schools and hous­ing.

The prime minister warned Mus­lims against travelling to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS at a time when his government is contemplating expanding air strikes in Iraq to in­clude ISIS targets in Syria.

“If you are a boy, they will brain­wash you, strap bombs to your body and blow you up. If you are a girl, they will enslave and abuse you. That is the sick and brutal real­ity of ISIS,” Cameron said.

“We must de-glamourise the ex­tremist cause, especially ISIS. This isn’t a pioneering movement. It is vicious, brutal, fundamentally ab­horrent.”

The strategy marks a major de­parture in Britain’s approach to ad­dressing home-grown terrorism by a Conservative government freed from constraints imposed by its former Liberal Democrat coalition partners, linking non-violent ex­tremism and terrorism, acknowl­edging “segregation” among social housing and opening debate about “British values”.

“No more turning a blind eye on the basis of cultural sensitivities,” Cameron said.

The new strategy was met with mixed reactions from Britain’s Muslim community, with some ap­plauding the government’s com­mitment to tackling difficult issues surrounding identity and others warning it could lead to further disenfranchisement among young British Muslims.

UK counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam issued a statement welcoming the government’s fo­cus on counter-extremism. “As we have long advocated, there is a pressing need to challenge all forms of extremism, not simply its violent manifestations… Naming and shaming the Islamist ideology is a key step forward,” the group said.

“This is the clearest commitment to countering non-violent extrem­ism that I have seen in the last five years and we hope it is followed up with a comprehensive strategy that will unify the UK against ex­tremism of all kinds,” said Quilliam Managing Director Haras Rafiq.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella body with more than 500 affiliated national, re­gional and local organisations and mosques, struck a note of warning.

MCB Secretary-General Shuja Shafi said: “We worry that these lat­est suggestions will set new litmus tests which may brand us all as ex­tremists, even though we uphold and celebrate the rule of law, de­mocracy and rights for all. Dissent­ing is a proud tradition of ours that must not be driven underground.”

While CAGE, an advocacy group that came under fire after its re­search director, Asim Qureshi, de­scribed ISIS executioner Moham­med Emwazi, better known as “Jihadi John”, as a “beautiful young man”, warned that Cameron’s tac­tics would “backfire”.

“David Cameron’s counterter­rorism agenda will create more distrust and alienation among Brit­ish Muslims and an atmosphere in which political dissent is criminal­ised. He seeks to tear down a frame­work of laws built over centuries,” a statement from the group said.

CAGE spokesman Cerie Bullivant told The Arab Weekly that Camer­on is wrong to equate non-violent extremism and political violence, claiming that the government’s foreign policy plays a major part in pushing young Muslims towards radicalisation.

“CIA Director John Brennan said [in June] that foreign policy does play a part in stimulating and stir­ring threats to national security but the government would have us all believe that foreign policy has nothing to do with terrorism.

The Cameron government wants to ignore that because it asks too many questions close to home for them, and when we ask those ques­tions we get branded as extrem­ists,” Bullivant said.