UK will take more Syrian refugees - but Cameron warns Muslims who ‘quietly condone’ IS

David Cameron
David Cameron
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The UK will take in more of the most vulnerable refugees fleeing the violence in Syria, David Cameron has said.

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Akhtar Iqbal, the husband of Sugra Dawood (left) and Mohammed Shoaib, the husband of Khadija Dawood at a press conference in Bradford

Akhtar Iqbal, the husband of Sugra Dawood (left) and Mohammed Shoaib, the husband of Khadija Dawood at a press conference in Bradford

The Prime Minister said he would “modestly expand” the scheme as people flee the country which has been torn apart by civil war and the rise of Islamic State (IS) extremists.

The UK had previously committed to take in 500 migrants from Syria over three years and sources indicated that the Government was now prepared to accept “a few hundred more”.

The Prime Minister said: “Today I can announce that we will work with the United Nations to modestly expand this national scheme so that we provide resettlement for the most vulnerable fleeing Syria, those who cannot be adequately protected in neighbouring countries.”

Mr Cameron made the announcement in a speech at a security conference in Bratislava where he warned of the dangers posed by people in Britain who “quietly condone” Islamic State’s extremist ideology.

Police are "extremely concerned" about members of the missing Dawood family from Bradford after receiving information that they may already be in Syria.

Police are "extremely concerned" about members of the missing Dawood family from Bradford after receiving information that they may already be in Syria.

His comments prompted a strong response from a West Yorkshire Muslim group, who called for the Government to stop “pushing responsibility” for radicalisation onto the Muslim community.

Highlighting the need for British Muslim communities to take more responsibility for countering radicalisation, Mr Cameron said the threat posed by IS, also known as Isil, was “formidable and growing”.

He said: “It is what we have seen this week with the youngest suicide bomber in our history in Iraq. It is what we may have seen with three women and their young children who went to Saudi Arabia to perform their pilgrimage and who have thought to have gone to Isil territory.

“Only if we are clear about this threat and its causes can we tackle it.

“The cause is ideological. It is an Islamist extremist ideology, one that says the West is bad and democracy is wrong, that women are inferior and homosexuality is evil.

“It says religious doctrine trumps the rule of law and caliphate trumps nation state and it justifies violence in asserting itself and achieving its aims. The question is: How do people arrive at this world view?”

He continued: “I am clear that one of the reasons is that there are people who hold some of these views who don’t go as far as advocating violence, but do buy into some of these prejudices, giving the extreme Islamist narrative weight and telling fellow Muslims ‘you are part of this’.

“This paves the way for young people to turn simmering prejudice into murderous intent. To go from listening to firebrand preachers online to boarding a plane to Istanbul and travelling onward to join the jihadis.”

Mr Cameron claimed that the fact the extremist message is supported in some sections of society can help add to the appeal of IS for youngsters “angry at the world” or “looking for an identity”.

He said “We’ve always had angry young men and women buying into supposedly revolutionary causes. This one is evil, is it contradictory, it is futile - but it is particularly potent today.

“And I think part of the reason it’s so potent is that it has been given this credence. So if you’re a troubled boy who is angry at the world or a girl looking for an identity, for something to believe in and there’s something that is quietly condoned online or perhaps even in parts of your local community then it’s less of a leap to go from a British teenager to an Isil fighter or an Isil wife than it would be for someone who hasn’t been exposed to these things.”

The Prime Minister acknowledged there were other factors that contributed to radicalisation “not least questions of national identity and making sure young people in our country feel truly part of it”.

He continued: “If we are to tackle this threat we need to confront extremism in all its forms, violent and non-violent, to stop our young people sliding from one to the other.”

The Prime Minister said that a “blame game” once someone had become involved in extremist activities was “dangerous” and ignored the reason why someone became radicalised in the first place.

“By accepting the finger pointing - whether it’s at agencies or authorities - we are ignoring the fact that radicalisation starts with the individual and we would be in danger of overlooking many of the ways we must try to stop it at source,” he said.

“We need to treat the causes, not just the symptoms. Of course, we will do everything we can to help the police and intelligence agencies to stop people travelling to Syria. But we mustn’t miss the point: they are not responsible for the fact that people have decided they want to go.”

In response, the Bradford Council for Mosques said in a statement that the Government should stop “pushing responsibility” for radicalisation onto the Muslim community.

It said: “We acknowledge that the Muslim community in Britain needs to do more to combat radicalisation.

“This is a work in progress. However, the Prime Minister and his team need to acknowledge the enormous work the Muslim community and institutions are already doing in this area.

“The government needs to stop apportioning blame by pushing the responsibility back onto the Muslim community. Instead, those professional agencies that have been given resources to work

against the radicalisation agenda need to be held to account.

“The Muslim community and its institutions are only too aware of the threat of radicalisation from organisations such as IS and Al-Qaida. British Muslims and their institutions continue to work to make the community aware and remain vigilante of the dangers of radicalisation. We are disappointed that this is not being acknowledged by the Prime Minister and his team.

“The three mothers from Bradford it seems were influenced by their brother who is already out in Syria and known to intelligence services. Therefore, the family was on the radar of government

agencies.

“The safe return of the children should be the ultimate concern for the prime minister and his Government. This is not the time to apportion blame. For the moment, let’s focus on the safeguarding of these children which the government and local authorities have a responsibility and duty of care for.

“We will be contacting the IPC and the Home Secretary to discuss the issues and concerns arising out of this particular case.”

A Number 10 source said Mr Cameron was making the point that “of course Government has a part to play but so do communities and so do families too”.

The source said: “Clearly there are lots of Muslims in the UK that play a vital role in our country. But here he is saying that in some communities there may be individuals who are condoning this.

“His point is we need to have a frank debate about the role that everyone has to play. Government definitely has a part to play but so do others.”

The source added: “Where people have concerns they can seek out advice, they can talk to the authorities, they can get advice from the police.

“There are things people can do if they have concerns about what is going on in their community. We are going to do a much better job of protecting ourselves and protecting our young people if they are having those conversations.”

People could raise concerns with community leaders, Imams, the police or teachers, the source suggested.

Mr Cameron said Britain must be “uncompromising” in its approach to Russia following the annexation of Crimea and the on-going crisis in eastern Ukraine.

“We must be uncompromising about attempts to redraw Europe’s borders by force,” he said.

Britain will look at “what more we can do” to back Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko, he added.

“President Poroshenko’s government deserves support to deliver vital political and economic reforms and we must provide that support. Britain is doing so through our good governance fund and we are looking at what more we can do.”

“We should be clear, the Ukrainians are victims, not aggressors.”

Mr Cameron said that security threats from Eastern Europe to the Middle East “often have one thing in common - a failure of governance in other countries”.

“The fear of the family in eastern Ukraine listening to the Russian shells get closer and closer to the their home and the desperation of the family in Eritrea willing to risk everything in order to reach the edge of Europe, all this human tragedy comes back to a failure of governance in these countries,” he said.

The premier called for an “optimistic and ambitious approach” to dealing with failed states but said it was time to “break the link” spurring people into fleeing to Europe.

“We won’t resolve this crisis unless we do more to stop these people leaving their countries in the first place, until we break the link between boarding a boat and settling in Europe.”

Mr Cameron said “all the evidence shows” that the most important factor in the decision to make treacherous journeys to Europe from states like Libya was how people were treated once they arrived.

He called for European leaders to follow the lead of the Spanish authorities which, when confronted by thousands of people heading to the Canary Islands, worked closely with counterparts in the countries they originated from and returned economic migrants.

“We need to do the same on a larger scale. We should be leading the world on promoting development and helping our international partners build stronger institutions.”

Kalsoom Bashir, director of counter-extremism organisation Inspire, said: “For many British Muslims, the past week has been as shocking as it has saddening.

“We have been buffeted by terrible news about young people drawn by Isis into a nightmare of violence in Syria and Iraq.

“Many will be confused by the idea that any rational person could be lured by extremists to leave their country, communities and families for a pack of absurd promises; that they could throw away their lives for nothing. But we cannot afford to stand on the sidelines, perplexed - because this is an outrage, which needs to be understood, and stopped.

“The blame-game is getting us nowhere, and inaction will lead to us failing the next generation.

“By working together we can show them what we know - that it is possible to be a devout and true Muslim and to live a free and fulfilling life here in the UK.”

He said the UK is a country of religious freedom and opportunity and “anathema to the bigotry, hatred and violence of Isis”.

Imam Qari Asim, senior editor of ImamsOnline.com, said it had been a “saddening and challenging week”.

He added: “I think that what the Prime Minister is saying is that the situation is now so serious that none of us can ignore our responsibilities to challenge what these despicable Isis recruiters are doing.

“This is about the safety of our communities and our young people - it’s about ensuring that we safeguard against the evils of terrorism, and that we don’t allow radicalisers to prey upon young people and the vulnerable in our communities, who may not be fully aware of what life is really like inside Isil territory.

“Isis doesn’t care about our young people - in fact, as we’ve seen this week, they’re killing them.

“But we in this country we do care - and we’ve got to all work in partnership if we’re going to stop more tragedies like this. That means pulling together, starting right now.”

Dr Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “The Prime Minister is absolutely right in saying that finger-pointing when it comes to radicalisation is wrong and dangerous.

“Yet the media response to the Prime Minister’s speech suggests that the finger is firmly pointing only at Muslim communities, even though Muslims and Muslim organisations around the country have loudly and unequivocally condemned terrorism, they continue to be demonised.

“We are in no doubt that there are many shortcomings in Muslim civil society, which like wider society, is struggling to challenge the terrorist narrative that is potent outside the mosque and in the margins of the internet.

“But to suggest that Muslim communities have led young people to extremism or gives credence to extremist ideology is erroneous, wrong and counter productive.

“It has been suggested that Muslims are not doing enough and somehow condone extremism. We would argue that clear evidence should be presented and wrongdoing challenged, rather than perpetuate insinuation persistently.

“The reasons why people are drawn to this are many and complex. Simplifying the causes for tabloid consumption helps no-one but the extremists.

“Blaming only Muslims for terrorism is just as bad as placing responsibility only at the door of Government and its agencies.

“There must be a better way, one where Muslim communities, wider British society and the Government work together with, not against, each other to tackle the problem.”

Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) accused the Prime Minister of confusing religious conservatism with support for extremisim.

“To make the comparison he has done the way he has done, it is not only unhelpful but actually wrong,” she told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

“I speak to my constituents who are very religious and whenever an incident happens they are shaking their heads in disgust and they’re actually saying ‘Our religion is being maligned’.”

She said that Muslims were tired of constantly being called on to apologise for the actions of extremists.

“It feels absolutely awful. In Charleston you had a white man who went and killed nine black people in a church. I don’t hear anybody saying that the whole of the white population has to apologise for the action of one white man,” she said.

However there was support for the Prime Minister from Manzoor Moghal of the Muslim Forum who said the Muslim community in the UK had become “somewhat warped in its practices” and needed to change.

“The Muslim community in Britain is somewhat backward in its thinking, it is refusing to move and become progressive, it is refusing to change its old habits from attire to dress code, it is refusing to come out of an isolation which is self-imposed within certain sects of Islam,” he told The World at One.

“All these things have to change and then we might see an improvement in the behaviour of young people who’d want to stay in society and not be lured away by these false promises.

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