COMMUNITY groups from across the UK and grieving families of British aid workers beheaded by Islamic State terrorists have backed a campaign calling on the nation to reclaim the country from the clutches of extremism.
Victims David Haines, who was born in Holderness near Hull, and Alan Henning were murdered on camera by IS radicals after being captured in 2013. Their deaths sent shock waves round the world when their gruesome final moments were posted on the internet.
Their families have now given support to the Fightback Starts Here campaign which has launched in central London with the backing of more than 100 charities, inter-faith organisations and community leaders.
Mr Haines’s brother Mike and Mr Henning’s widow Barbara are also among those signing an open letter calling on a united effort to “reject the lies that extremists spread” and refuse to allow them “to groom our young people and destroy our families and communities”.
They were not at the campaign launch but those who were stood with placards that said #fightbackstartshere.
Suleman Nagdi, representing the Federation of Muslim Organisations which is coordinating the nationwide initiative, said: “For 30 years I have worked with other communities and faiths to promote harmony and fight against all extremists.
“Those who sow hate and prey on young people to encourage them to harm themselves, their families and the fabric of the communities in which they live must be stopped. Recent events have been a wake-up call.
“It is great to see like minded people and community groups from all over the UK join this new movement and commit to win this battle. The fightback has to start right here and right now - everyone has to step up to the challenge. The fightback starts here.”
Mike Haines previously said: “Radicalisation and extremism is the biggest challenge facing our communities in the UK.
“I have travelled across the country in recent months, as part of my journey following the murder of my brother David by IS, and I have seen the sheer determination of communities to come together in the face of this serious threat.
“We cannot allow terrorist gangs to polarise our communities, we must stand united, pool our resources and expertise in tackling radicalisation and extremism, and send a clear message to those who wish to cause us harm that they will not defeat us.
“I am proud to add my name to the Fightback Starts Here campaign and I will do whatever I can to support this incredible initiative.”
David Haines, from Perth in Scotland, was beheaded after being taken hostage in Syria in March 2013 while working for international relief agency Acted. Mr Henning, 47, of Salford, was captured by IS militants while on an aid convoy in December 2013.
Pledging her support to the campaign, which will use the hashtag #fightbackstartshere to maximise backing online, Mrs Henning added: “Like my family, communities across the UK are being affected by the serious threat of radicalisation and extremism by monsters like Isis. Their ability to use social media and the internet to spread hate must be stopped.
“Now is the time that as a country, we come together and do everything within our power as a united community, to stop these vicious and poisonous groups from stealing our loved ones away, which is why I fully support the #fightbackstartshere campaign.”
The open letter, published today, confirms a pledge from signatories to work together to defeat terrorism and states: “Enough is enough.”
It adds: “We invite everyone who loves life - whether non-government, government, voluntary or private sector - to join us in shaping these solutions, because we know we face a common and determined enemy. It demands a common and determined response.
“We can - we must - win this battle together. The fightback starts here.”
Hanif Qadir, founder of the Active Change Foundation, said: “We support any initiative that looks to promote peace, harmony and fights for the truth against the hateful and dividing objectives of extremists.”
Saleha Jaffer, founder of Families Against Stress and Trauma (Fast), said: “I have seen the damage those who wish to harm us all do to families. A lot of good work is done in communities in every town and city in this country to stop extremism hurting us. This new campaign will help us all to be stronger together as we unite in fighting back.”
The signatories of the open letter and those who attended the launch event aim to attract many other organisations, charities, groups and individuals to support the campaign.
Mr Nagdi added that recent events continue to “serve as a wake-up call to the serious threat of online and offline radicalisation”.