British Prime Minister David Cameron laid out a comprehensive five-year plan to combat Islamist extremism in the United Kingdom (UK) on Monday, in a riveting speech tackling the issue of "Islamic poison" head-on.
He stressed, first and foremost, that he seeks to "tackl[e] Islamist extremism – not Islam the religion."
In a radical move, he added that "extremists," in this case, not only apply to Islamism targeting British targets – but also that "groups and organizations which do not advocate violence, but do promote parts of the extremist narrative " are included.
He said that groups that say that "violence in London isn't justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter – then, you too are part of the problem."
With that, on a practical level, the UK will take a number of steps to combat Islamism, including:
- launching studies into extremism and the UK as a recruiting ground;
- providing incentives for schools to integrate the UK's Muslim population more;
- urging universities to do more to combat extremism, especially if touted by speakers invited by the staff;
- creating a new research group to find ways to provide more opportunities for the UK's minorities;
- consult on introducing a lifelong anonymity program for victims of forced marriage;
- allowing parents to cancel their children's passports if they flee to join terror groups;
- overhauling how the UK addresses extremism in prisons; and
- clamping down on extremism in the media, including
- enabling Ofcom, a communications watchdog, the ability to censor Islamism on foreign TV channels broadcasted in the UK; and
- demanding that internet providers do more to remove extremism and identify the perpetrators.
Cameron methodically – but evocatively – moved through each issue in turn.
Islamism and the internet
Regarding the issue of Islamism spreading online, he stated he "just doesn't buy" the claim that internet providers have difficulty tracking down perpetrators.
"Many of their commercial models are built around monitoring platforms for personal data, packaging it up and selling it on to third parties," he said. "When it comes to doing what’s right for their business, they are happy to engineer technologies to track our likes and dislikes."
"But when it comes to doing what’s right in the fight against terrorism, we too often hear that it’s all too difficult," he added. "I’m sorry: I just don’t buy it."
Cameron cited the fact that web providers have clamped down before on child abuse images, showing they can track criminals "when there is a moral imperative to act."
"Now it's time for them to do the same to protect their users from the scourge of radicalization," he said.
Integration is key
Britain's young Muslims are fleeing for the Middle East due to a "sense of belonging that they can lack here at home," Cameron stated.
"The local environment, their families, their peers, their communities, are among the key influencers in any young person’s life," he said.
"So if they hear parts of the extremist worldview in their home, or their wider community, it will help legitimize it in their minds. Government will help where it can."
One way it will help is giving more power to the parents, he noted.
"I know how worried some people are that their children might turn to this ideology – and even seek to travel to Syria or Iraq," he said.
"So I can announce today we are going to introduce a new scheme to enable parents to apply directly to get their child's passport cancelled to prevent travel."
However, the broader problem is a lack of integration in general.
"Open, diverse, welcoming – these characteristics are as British as queuing and talking about the weather," Cameron began.
"I know what a profound contribution Muslims from all backgrounds and denominations are making in every sphere of our society, proud to be both British and Muslim, without conflict or contradiction," he said. "And I know too how much you hate the extremists who are seeking to divide our communities and how you loath the damage they do."
He warned, though, that the fact that the UK has been in denial of the fact that extremism has been linked with the Muslim community shows a lack of understanding – since the terrorists "self-identify" as Muslim – and that a lack of integration has made it so that more and more young people "don't really identify with Britain and feel little or no attachment to other people here."
"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," he said. "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 radicalization and even violence against other British people to whom they feel no real allegiance."
Cameron then made a direct appeal to the younger generation across the UK.
"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 this country," he pleaded. "I know that at times you are grappling with huge issues over your identity, neither feeling a part of the British mainstream nor a part of the culture from your parents’ background."
"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," he continued. "But I want you to know: there is a place for you and I will do everything I can to support you."
The full speech is available below, and begins at approximately 38 minutes into the video.