The following is the full text of a letter by Quilliam’s Political Liaison Officer Jonathan Russell published by the London Evening Standard on 27th February 2013.
Charles Farr is correct that the phenomenon of Britons waging jihad in Syria poses a huge threat to the UK but I worry about the potential governmental response. The UK cannot simply react with ‘law’ and ‘war’ as happened after 9/11 as this tackles the symptoms of the problem rather than the cause, and risks doing more harm than good.
A civil society response is what is required here. We must work with Muslim communities to change the narrative surrounding the conflict that might compel an ever-growing minority to fight, and we must engage with the ideology that is used to legitimise this narrative. We must also encourage peaceful, democratic and constructive responses to the worst humanitarian crisis of our generation. We must restore public faith in the authorities so that communities do not feel targeted when British jihadists are arrested or investigated.
That is not to say that the government do not have a role. They can support such efforts politically and financially, and they can commit to upholding our well-established human rights norms in the face of a national security threat. After all, terrorists seek not just to physically attack us, but also to undermine the values on which our society is built. The least we can do is not compromise those values ourselves.
Quilliam Political Liaison Officer