The brutal beheading of David Haines, just like the previous beheadings of US journalist James Foley and Steven Sotloff, once again highlights the inhumane nature of the Islamic State (IS) and the importance of tackling this group. The terrorist killing of one British citizen by another in Syria is also a watershed in this conflict, and points to our responsibility to counter the extremist ideology that underpins these actions.This medieval act will understandably prompt an emotional response among British policy-makers and the general public alike. Alongside the pastoral support that we must give to David Haines’ family, it is essential that we continue to approach foreign policy, as well as domestic counter-terrorism and counter-extremism policy, pragmatically and with continued awareness of the generational struggle against extremism.
Quilliam therefore urges the following:
• No knee-jerk changes to counter-terrorism legislation or policy; rather a renewed commitment to the values of equality before the law, the presumption of innocence and universal freedoms that are intrinsic to the United Kingdom.
• Appreciation of the need to engage with British jihadists currently aligned with the terrorist organisation IS and a commitment to extracting repentant foreign fighters and making every effort to de-radicalise, rehabilitate and reintegrate them into British society alongside the necessary punitive measures for their terrorism-related offences.
• A multi-agency and cross-departmental approach to countering all forms of extremism and preventing radicalisation, whether violent or not, stemming from the acceptance that jihadist organisations recruit from a much larger pool of non-violent extremists; it is this pool that we can tackle by promoting a society-wide civic intolerance of extremism of all kinds.
• A mature, resilient and responsible British society response to this barbaric act, recognising that a minority of jihadists do not represent the whole of Islam as a faith; anti-Muslim attacks are therefore unjustifiable and reprehensible and only serve to entrench the extremist narrative that the West is at war with Islam. Likewise, media organisations must strive to avoid apologist or alarmist responses to extremism and must accept their responsible role in countering extremism by not promoting hate.
Quilliam Managing Director, Ghaffar Hussain, said “Since we are involved in a generational struggle against Islamist ideology we must maintain a long-term vision and embrace a patient and balanced approach that is not knocked off course by specific terrorist acts. We must keep faith in the notion that their dystopian worldview will eventually lose appeal and wither away providing we stay true to our values and principles.”