Ask yourself, how is it possible that when young teenagers leave their London homes to fight for ISIL , the debate all too often focuses on whether the security services are to blame?
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And how can it be that after the tragic events at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, weeks were spent discussing the limits of free speech and satire, rather than whether terrorists should be executing people full stop? When we allow the extremists to set the terms of the debate in this way, is it any wonder that people are attracted to this ideology? Indeed, there is a danger in some of our communities that you can go your whole life and have little to do with people from other faiths and backgrounds.
So when groups like ISIL seek to rally our young people to their poisonous cause, it can offer them a sense of belonging that they can lack here at home, leaving them more susceptible to radicalisation and even violence against other British people to whom they feel no real allegiance. So this is what we face — a radical ideology — that is not just subversive, but can seem exciting; one that has often sucked people in from non-violence to violence; one that is overpowering moderate voices within the debate and one which can gain traction because of issues of identity and failures of integration.
So we have to answer each 1 of these 4 points.
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If we do that, the right approach for defeating this extremism will follow. In the autumn, we will publish our Counter-Extremism Strategy, setting out in detail what we will do to counter this threat. But today I want to set out the principles that we will adopt. First, any strategy to defeat extremism must confront, head on, the extreme ideology that underpins it.
We must take its component parts to pieces - the cultish worldview, the conspiracy theories, and yes, the so-called glamorous parts of it as well.
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We should expose their extremism for what it is — a belief system that glorifies violence and subjugates its people — not least Muslim people. We should contrast their bigotry, aggression and theocracy with our values. We have, in our country, a very clear creed and we need to promote it much more confidently. Wherever we are from, whatever our background, whatever our religion, there are things we share together. We are all British.
We respect democracy and the rule of law. We believe in freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of worship, equal rights regardless of race, sex, sexuality or faith. We believe in respecting different faiths but also expecting those faiths to support the British way of life. These are British values. And are underpinned by distinct British institutions. Our freedom comes from our Parliamentary democracy.
The rule of law exists because of our independent judiciary. This is the home that we are building together. Whether you are Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian or Sikh, whether you were born here or born abroad, we can all feel part of this country — and we must now all come together and stand up for our values with confidence and pride. And as we do so, we should together challenge the ludicrous conspiracy theories of the extremists.
This is paranoia in the extreme. In fact that duty will empower parents and teachers to protect children from all forms of extremism — whether Islamist or neo-Nazi. We should challenge together the conspiracy theories about our Muslim communities too and I know how much pain these can cause. We must stand up to those who try to suggest that there is some kind of secret Muslim conspiracy to take over our government, or that Islam and Britain are somehow incompatible.
We must also de-glamourise the extremist cause, especially ISIL.
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You are cannon fodder for them. They will use you. That is the sick and brutal reality of ISIL.
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So when we bring forward our Counter- Extremism Strategy in the autumn, here are the things we will be looking at:. I also want to go much further in dealing with this ideology in prison and online. We need to have a total rethink of what we do in our prisons to tackle extremism. And we need our internet companies to go further in helping us identify potential terrorists online.
Many of their commercial models are built around monitoring platforms for personal data, packaging it up and selling it on to third parties. They — the internet companies - have shown with the vital work they are doing in clamping down on child abuse images that they can step up when there is a moral imperative to act. Too often we have lacked the confidence to enforce our values, for fear of causing offence.
The failure in the past to confront the horrors of forced marriage I view as a case in point. It sickens me to think that there were nearly 4, cases of FGM reported in our country last year alone. Four thousand cases; think about that. We need more co-ordinated efforts to drive this out of our society. More prosecutions. No more turning a blind eye on the false basis of cultural sensitivities.
Why does this matter so much? So I am glad we have gone further than any government in tackling these appalling crimes. And we are keeping up the pressure on cultural practices that can run directly counter to these vital values. There are other examples of this passive tolerance of practices running totally contrary to our values. The failure of social services, the police and local authorities, to deal with child sex abuse in places like Rotherham was frankly unforgiveable.
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And look what happened in Tower Hamlets, in the heart of our capital city. We need everyone — government, local authorities, police, schools, all of us — to enforce our values right across the spectrum. Second, as we counter this ideology, a key part of our strategy must be to tackle both parts of the creed — the non-violent and violent. This means confronting groups and organisations that may not advocate violence — but which do promote other parts of the extremist narrative. We must demand that people also condemn the wild conspiracy theories, the anti-Semitism, and the sectarianism too.
Being tough on this is entirely keeping with our values. Government has a key role to play in this.
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We also need to do more in education. We undertook an immediate review when it became apparent that extremists had taken over some of our schools in the so-called Trojan Horse scandal here in Birmingham. But I have to be honest here — one year on, although we are making progress, it is not quick enough. It has taken too long to take action against the governors and teachers involved in the scandal and to support the schools affected to turn themselves around. So as we develop our Counter-Extremism Strategy, I want us to deal with these issues properly, and we will also bring forward further measures to guard against the radicalisation of children in some so-called supplementary schools or tuition centres.
We need to put out of action the key extremist influencers who are careful to operate just inside the law, but who clearly detest British society and everything we stand for. There are despicable far right groups too. And what links them all is their aim to groom young people and brainwash their minds. So as part of our Extremism Bill, we are going to introduce new narrowly targeted powers to enable us to deal with these facilitators and cult leaders, and stop them peddling their hatred.
Take, for example, some of our universities. Now, of course universities are bastions of free speech and incubators of new and challenging ideas. But sometimes they fail to see the creeping extremism on their campuses. When David Irving goes to a university to deny the Holocaust — university leaders rightly come out and condemn him. But when an Islamist extremist goes there to promote their poisonous ideology, too often university leaders look the other way through a mixture of misguided liberalism and cultural sensitivity.
As I said, this is not about clamping down on free speech. We also need the support of families and communities too. So if they hear parts of the extremist worldview in their home, or their wider community, it will help legitimise it in their minds. And government will help where it can.
I know how worried some people are that their children might turn to this ideology — and even seek to travel to Syria or Iraq. Now the third plank of our strategy is to embolden different voices within the Muslim community. This is a significant shift in government approach — and an important one. In the past, governments have been too quick to dismiss the religious aspect of Islamist extremism. That is totally understandable.
It cannot be said clearly enough: this extremist ideology is not true Islam. The fact is from Woolwich to Tunisia, from Ottawa to Bali, these murderers all spout the same twisted narrative, one that claims to be based on a particular faith. Now it is an exercise in futility to deny that. And more than that, it can be dangerous. These reforming voices, they have a tough enough time as it is: the extremists are the ones who have the money, the leaders, the iconography and the propaganda machines.
We need to turn the tables. We have to back those who share our values.
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Our new approach is about isolating the extremists from everyone else, so that all our Muslim communities can be free from the poison of Islamist extremism. Now for my part, I am going to set up a new community engagement forum so I can hear directly from those out there who are challenging extremism. And I also want to issue a challenge to the broadcasters in our country. You are, of course, free to put whoever you want on the airwaves.
But there are a huge number of Muslims in our country who have a proper claim to represent liberal values in local communities — people who run credible charities, community organisations, councillors and MPs — including Labour MPs here in Birmingham — so do consider giving them the platform they deserve. I know other voices may make for more explosive television — but please exercise your judgement, and do recognise the huge power you have in shaping these debates in a positive way.
The fourth and final part of our strategy must be to build a more cohesive society, so more people feel a part of it and are therefore less vulnerable to extremism. I understand that it can be hard being young, and that it can be even harder being young and Muslim, or young and Sikh, or young and black in our country. And I know that for as long as injustice remains — be it with racism, discrimination or sickening Islamophobia - you may feel there is no place for you in Britain. But I want you to know: there is a place for you and I will do everything I can to support you.
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