Quilliam Chairman and Co-Founder Maajid Nawaz explores the international community’s lack of preparedness in the face of the jihadist group, Islamic State (IS).

The Isis man who apparently beheaded James Foley had a British accent. He is likely to be among the one out of every 800 British Sunni Muslim men of fighting age — around 500 of them — to have joined these jihadists in Iraq and Syria. This does not emerge from a vacuum. We in Britain have a deeply entrenched problem. Islamist extremism is poisoning our community relations, hijacking our youth, and we are doing very little to address it.

Throughout the Nineties our communities grew together, apart. This was applauded instead of being seen for what it was: fetishisation of minorities for those bent on romanticising “authentic” Eastern culture.

Foreign policy emerged as the popular cause for extremism, a half-truth at best, and Muslim “community leaders” churned out televised obfuscations in order to avoid addressing the obvious: what responsibility do Iraq’s slaughtered Yazidis bear for any foreign policy grievance? After much lobbying, David Cameron’s 2011 Munich speech finally recognised “Islamist extremism” head-on. But three years later and the Department for Communities and Local Government, which was tasked with challenging non-violent extremism, has yet to publish a counter-extremism strategy. British Muslims going abroad to fight is not new: it happened in Afghanistan. The only difference is that the ideology has been allowed to take root in the UK since then, and we are not doing anything about it.

Now, without a hint of irony, even al-Qaeda uses religious anti-extremism rhetoric to condemn Isis. But it is not good enough for Islamists merely to condemn.

Our collective efforts must focus on encouraging all people towards democratic values, minority and gender rights, equality and reason. This requires a strategy. But engaging on values is exactly what we have not been doing. More British jihadists will feature in Isis decapitation videos. And as our government hears no evil and sees no evil, we are woefully unprepared for when these jihadist fighters return home.

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