David Cameron: Time to pull up the roots of extremism

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WHAT we are fighting, in Islamist extremism, is an ideology. It is an extreme doctrine. And like any extreme doctrine, it is subversive.

Like so many ideologies that have existed before – whether fascist or communist – many people, especially young people, are being drawn to it. We need to understand why it is proving so attractive. Some argue it’s because of historic injustices and recent wars, because of poverty and hardship.

This argument, the grievance justification, must be challenged.

When people say it is because of the involvement in the Iraq war that people are attacking the West, we should remind them: 9/11 – the biggest loss of life of British citizens in a terrorist attack – happened before the Iraq war.

When they say that these are wronged Muslims getting revenge on their Western wrongdoers, let’s remind them: from Kosovo to Somalia, countries like Britain have stepped in to save Muslim people from massacre and it is groups like ISIL, al-Qaida and Boko Haram that are the ones murdering Muslims.

Others might say terrorists are driven to their actions by poverty. But many of these terrorists have had the full advantages of prosperous families and a Western university education.

We could deal with all these issues – and some people in our country and elsewhere would still be drawn to Islamist extremism. The root cause of the threat we face is the extremist ideology itself. And I would argue they are drawn to it for four main reasons.

One – like any extreme doctrine, it can seem energising, especially to young people. They are watching videos that eulogise ISIL as a pioneering state taking on the world, that makes celebrities of violent murderers.

Two – you don’t have to believe in barbaric violence to be drawn to the ideology. No one becomes a terrorist from a standing start. It starts with a process of radicalisation. When you look in detail at the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were first influenced by what some would call non-violent extremists.

It may begin with hearing about the so-called Jewish conspiracy and then develop into hostility to the West and liberal values before finally becoming a cultish attachment to death. The extremist world view is the gateway, violence the ultimate destination.

Three: the adherents of this ideology are overpowering other voices within Muslim debate, especially those trying to challenge it. There are so many strong, positive Muslim voices being drowned out. Ask yourself, how is it possible that when young teenagers leave their London homes to fight for ISIL, the debate focuses on whether the security services are to blame? And how can it be that after the tragic events at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, weeks were spent discussing the limits of free speech and satire, rather than whether terrorists should be executing people full stop?

Four: there is also the question of identity. For all our successes as multi-racial, multi-faith democracy, we have to confront a tragic truth that there are people born and raised in this country who don’t really identify with Britain – and feel little or no attachment to other people here. Indeed, there is a danger in some of our communities that you can go your whole life and have little to do with people from other faiths and backgrounds. So when groups like ISIL seek to rally our young people to their poisonous cause, it can offer them a sense of belonging that they can lack here at home leaving them more susceptible to radicalisation.

We have to answer each one of these four points. Do that, and the right approach for defeating this extremism follows.

We need young people to understand that here in the UK they can shape the future by being an active part of our great democracy. Achieve this and more people from ethnic minority backgrounds will feel they have a stake in our society.

I have charged Louise Casey to carry out a review of how to boost opportunity and integration in these communities and bring Britain together as One Nation.

She will look at issues like how we can ensure people learn English, how we boost employment outcomes and how state agencies can work to properly promote integration and opportunity while learning lessons from past mistakes when funding was simply handed over to self-appointed “community leaders” who sometimes used it in a divisive way.

David Cameron is the Prime Minister. This is an edited version of his counter-extremism speech.