June 16: Why Muslims must lead by example

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AS DEWSBURY, and the wider Muslim community, come to terms with the ramifications of the suicide bomb perpetuated by 17-year-old jihadist Talha Asmal, it is increasingly clear that the internet is being exploited by communications-savvy Islamic State militants, and their acolytes, to groom impressionable young people to join their struggle in the Middle East.

They are using the internet to prey on the insecurity of those people who harbour doubts about Western foreign policy before attempting to entice them with rhetoric which bears no resemblance to the reality that will confront them if they reach Syria or Iraq. That such hatred is being preached online, and going largely unchallenged, means the potential audience is far greater than the number of people attending mosques.

Yet, if the internet is the problem, it is integral to the imposition of effective counter-extremism strategies – especially if better ways can be found to halt the IS propaganda machine and its barbaric ideology. As Lord Carlile, one of the country’s foremost experts in this field, noted: “It’s hard to counter, but one does have to use the same tools, the same thought processes, that do radicalise people.”

Two other points are worthy of consideration. First, it is encouraging that Muslims have been united in their condemnation of the Dewsbury student’s senseless actions and his callous disregard for the lives of others. This unanimity can only be helpful to multi-faith relations in the longer term. Second, it is Islamic community leaders who need to place themselves at the forefront of the radicalisation debate. For, while the Government can prescribe new policies, affirmative action by imams and other Muslim role models is likely to be more effective. As such, there is now an even greater need for such people to lead by example.

Murphy’s law: ‘The voters are never wrong’

NOT only do the four contenders vying for the Labour leadership, including Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper, face an uphill battle winning over party members and union activists in sufficient numbers, but the task of convincing the country at large about their credentials is greater still.

This has not been an invigorating contest after Ed Miliband led the party to its worst defeat since 1987. Quite the opposite. Not one contender has any business experience of note.

Meanwhile leading Labour luminaries appear to have spent the past months talking to themselves about the paucity of well-qualified candidates, including a debate on whether there should be a mechanism to oust the new leader ahead of the 2020 election, rather than looking at the qualities that should be expected of the leadership aspirants.

The reason is this. Labour will almost certainly remain in the electoral wilderness, even more so if the economic recovery continues to gather pace under the Conservatives, unless it seeks to broaden its support base and win back the trust of those voters who were persuaded to back Tony Blair in three successive elections. Like it or not, Mr Blair realised that elections are won from the centre ground of politics and that economic competence is pivotal to winning this trust. And, until Labour can articulate a coherent narrative on the public finances, it does not deserve to be entrusted with the guardianship of the country. As Jim Murphy, Labour’s defeated leader in Scotland, ventured, the voters are never wrong. It is time for the rest of his party to wake up to this reality.

A national duty: Preservation of North York Moors

THE evocative words once articulated by President Lyndon B Johnson continue to resonate as those guardians charged with preserving the North York Moors come to terms with the realities of today’s funding challenges – and the fact that they no longer have a bottomless pit of money at their disposal. “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it,” he once said.

Even though JFK’s successor was speaking to an American audience, he could easily had in mind any one of the UK’s iconic national parks. For, without innovative schemes like the new charitable trust being set up to secure funding for the North York Moors, the breathtaking beauty of such landscapes will be diminished. In this regard, President Johnson’s words and wisdom have never been more relevant.