I have read a huge amount of nonsense about the threat to the UK from the so called new caliphate Islamic State, and how to combat it.
The article by counter terrorism think tank Quilliam rightly summarises the main proposals so far as a combination of law and war: and notes they haven’t been very successful so far. We may need more tools in place to deal with committed terrorists returning to Britain – but we also need, as they suggest, much more grass roots community cohesion.
This can sound waffly unless we bring it alive with specific initiatives, and that’s our challenge in every constituency. The multi-faith chaplaincy we introduced at the Gloucester Academy (an Anglican and a Muslim working together) is one good example: the education programmes run by the madressa at Widden School, introducing young non-Muslims to the mosques, is another. Mixed club sports like the Gloucester City Winget CC teams are incredibly important too. But there is more at a community leadership level we can do too.
Do read this article as a welcome alternative to increasingly strident voices that get most media attention.
Quilliam Opposes Knee-Jerk Reactions to ISIS by Pushing for More Draconian Laws
Quilliam has long opposed knee-jerk reactions to terrorism, and continues to oppose the temptation to combine law and war as a means to tackling the issue of domestic Islamist and Far-Right extremism.
Law and war each have their respective time and place and we have already seen implementations of arbitrary rendition, detention without trial, profiling, losing the right to silence at ports of entry and exit, and occupation of certain countries. Britain has had no shortage of these measures during war times, yet our terrorism problem globally seems to have gotten worse.
Until now, what has really been missing is the inverse of using law and war: a whole-of-society approach, tying up government, media and civil institutions that work with, between and among communities to strengthen grassroots resilience against extremism and build allegiance to our core democratic values.
Approaching the issue in this manner would be the only long term solution to what is our number one domestic security challenge.
Such a civil-society led approach would require:
1) Standing strong, loud and firm, for our core democratic values and universal human rights, as the best antidote to the terror, rigidity and dogma of Islamist extremism. Watering down our values, employing short term measures, such as the stripping of citizenship or the presumption of guilt before innocence only bolsters Islamist propaganda.
2) We want clarity and cohesion in counter-extremism policy across government departments. To implement this we need a centrally appointed, counter-extremism Czar, accountable to the Prime Minister, to deliver counter-extremism Task Force recommendations and uphold the vision delivered in the Prime Minister’s 2011 Munich Speech.
3) A civil society-led push back against all forms of extremism that unites communities and utilises schools, universities, places of worship, youth clubs, music, arts and culture in order to popularise counter-narratives that discredit extremist ideology.
4) A positive national campaign focusing on what unites us, rather than what divides us, utilising leading role models who promote our democratic values and proudly declare their support for a United Kingdom that is united against extremism and united in support of democratic values. Furthermore, just as government should not disengage from disaffected communities by adopting more draconian laws, communities should not disengage by seeking forms of redress that bypass our political values. We need to encourage more interaction between those vulnerable to extremist narratives and the political mainstream, this should include encouraging a voter registration drive among vulnerable communities.