The UK government’s new one-nation Counter-Extremism Strategy launches today, October 19, to confront and defeat all forms of extremism.
Parents concerned their 16 and 17 year old children are at risk of traveling abroad under the influence of extremists will be able to apply to have their passports removed, Prime Minister David Cameron announced as he launched the government’s new strategy.
He has also announced that anyone with a conviction for terrorist offences or extremist activity will automatically be banned from working with children and vulnerable people.
The new strategy follows the four key pillars set out by Cameron in July:
- It will vigorously counter extremist ideology “making sure every part of government is stepping up to the plate;"
- It will actively support mainstream voices, especially in faith communities and in civil society. This includes supporting all those who want to fight extremism, but are too often disempowered or drowned out in the debate;
- It will disrupt extremists, aggressively pursuing the key radicalizers who do so much damage; and
- Seek to build more cohesive communities, tackling the segregation and feelings of alienation that can help provide fertile ground for extremist messages to take root.
Over the past year, there have been a number of instances in wich British youth traveling to join the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, as well as the prosecution of the UK’s youngest terrorist, a 15 year old boy convicted of inciting another person to commit an act of terrorism overseas.
According to latest police figures, there were 338 counterterrorism related arrests: 157 were linked to Syria and 56 are under 20 years old, which is a growing trend.
The new power announced today extends a measure introduced by the Prime Minister in July — following a successful trial — which enables parents to apply directly to HM Passport Office to have the passports of children under 16 years old cancelled to prevent them traveling to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.
A government statement said several youth under 16 years old have since been protected. The move also comes after a series of successful court order applications by local authorities to protect children at risk of traveling, either by their own choice or as part of a family unit.
Cameron said “defeating Islamist extremism will be the struggle of our generation,” and that “it is one of the biggest social problems we need to overcome."
“We know that extremism is really a symptom; ideology is the root cause – but the stakes are rising and that demands a new approach. So we have a choice – do we choose to turn a blind eye or do we choose to get out there and make the case for our British values,” he continued.
“The government’s new Counter-Extremism Strategy is a clear signal of the choice we have made to take on this poisonous ideology with resolve, determination and the goal of a building a greater Britain," Cameron continued. "And a key part of this new approach is going further to protect children and vulnerable people from the risk of radicalization by empowering parents and public institutions with all the advice, tools and practical support they need.”
The strategy also strengthens the role of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) to ensure anyone with a conviction or civil order for terrorist or extremist activity is automatically banned from working with children and vulnerable people in the same way as individuals convicted of sexual offenses against children.
Around 5,000 children were in institutions affected by the Trojan Horse plot, where extremists gained control of several schools in Birmingham. Separate barred lists are maintained for work with children and work with adults.
The UK government is investing £5 million this year to build a national network of grassroots organizations to challenge all forms of extremist ideology.
At the heart of the new strategy is a partnership approach to strengthen community resilience and promote a coalition to speak out, challenge and ultimately defeat extremism.
The new funding, initially for this fiscal year, will be dedicated to providing direct and in-kind practical support to groups to expand the reach and scale of their work to confront extremism, and develop credible alternative narratives to the dangerous views propagated by extremists. This could include social media training, technical assistance to enable a small charity to set up a website, and targeting funding for specific projects.
“We need to systematically confront and challenge extremism and the ideologies that underpin it, exposing the lies and the destructive consequences it leaves in its wake,” Cameron pledged. “We have to stop it at the start – stop this seed of hatred even being planted in people’s minds and cut off the oxygen it needs to grow.”
The new strategy also further develops the partnership between industry, police and government to remove terrorist and extremist material online, building on the successful joint industry, government and police work to take down child abuse images online.
The past 18 months has seen a big change in the way extremists use the Internet to target their radical ideology directly at youth. According to recent research from the Quilliam Foundation, previously reported by Homeland Security Today, ISIS produces 38 unique pieces of high-quality propaganda every day which is then disseminated widely by a network of thousands of ISIS supporters and sympathizers all over the world. And extremists are increasingly using the Internet to inspire radicalizers to groom new recruits through online peer-to-peer relationships.
Announcing the new strategy, Home Secretary Theresa May said the rise of ISIS is particularly alarming, driven in part by their sophisticated use of the Internet and social media. “But,” she said, “the threat posed by extremists is not limited to violence, nor to Islamist extremism. The rise of neo-Nazi groups, and the increase in antisemitic and anti-Muslim hatred is deeply concerning.”
“Where non-violent extremism goes unchallenged, the values that bind our society together fragment," she stated. "Women’s rights are eroded, intolerance and bigotry become normalized, minorities are targeted and communities become separated from the mainstream.”
“Such behavior cannot go uncontested,” May concluded. “We will systematically confront and challenge extremist ideology, exposing it for the lie it is. And we will thwart its destructive consequences. We will disrupt all those who seek to spread hate and we will prosecute all those who break the law. But most importantly of all, we will stand up for all those who know that in Britain we are stronger together. Because when we join up all the voices of those who want to defeat extremism, they are louder and more powerful than the voices of those who seek to divide us.”
In recent days, videos taken on mobile phones on London public transport have flooded social media. The videos show passengers verbally assaulting and threatening to physically assault co-passengers perceived to be Muslims. At least one arrest was made as a result of the videos. Successfully confronting Islamophopbia could be the UK government’s greatest weapon in fighting Islamic extremism.