The recent murder in Woolwich has once again brought the issues of extremism and terrorism to the foreground. However, the public debate has so far failed to adequately acknowledge an appropriate relationship between the two phenomena, or recognise the different forms of extremism and the factors that influence its development. Amid this lack of clarity, extreme and unrepresentative views are frequently given prominence in the media, which has a distorting effect on public opinion itself.
Not all extremism leads to terrorism, but we must be absolutely clear that many forms of extremism are dangerous or unhealthy for our society, and therefore civil society has a duty to work towards appropriate strategies to counter them. While there is no question of compromising our national values of tolerance, respect and democracy, it should be remembered that society carries a responsibility to protect those at risk of becoming victims to groups or individuals who do not share these fundamental values.
Quilliam’s latest policy document seeks to reinforce the urgent need for the government, working with other civil society organisations, to revisit and reclaim responsibility for developing a long-term clear and consistent counter-extremism strategy. With hundreds of British and European citizens now known to be fighting in an environment of extreme political violence in Syria and elsewhere, we no longer have the option to delay the development and implementation of a strategy to counter the rising threat of extremism in the UK.
Noman Benotman, President of Quilliam said:
‘In the wake of a number of concerning incidents, it is critical that we now develop a concerted strategy which addresses the growth of extremism in our communities. A sensitive balance needs to be achieved in this strategy, ensuring the Government makes use of the expertise of a number of actors in society to act softly in tackling extremist narratives, while continuing to uphold our British values.’
Maajid Nawaz, Chairman of Quilliam said:
‘The challenge necessitates direct coordination from Downing Street itself, led by an appointed expert on a non-partisan basis accountable directly to the Prime Minister, and responsible for steering the Prime Minister’s Task Force. The UK possesses a number of such experts who have previously served in official senior government capacities who would be well suited to filling this role.’
To download the full Policy Document click here.