U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech Monday outlining his counterterrorism strategy for his remaining five years in office.
Speaking at a school in the city of Birmingham, he announced several proposals, including a plan to allow parents who suspect their children of radicalization to preemptively cancel their passports before they travel to Syria or Iraq. (RELATED: How ISIS And Al-Qaida Benefit From Local Nutjobs)
The remarks come at a time when the U.K. considers what to do with disillusioned Islamic State recruits who have returned home. By one measure, over 300 people have reentered the country under Cameron’s watch.
By contrast, Cameron spoke of “using people who really understand the true nature of” ISIS to push back against its propaganda. Other European countries such as Denmark are using disillusioned ex-jihadis to combat the group’s message, and reintegrating them into society rather than prosecuting them.
Cameron called Islamic State’s ideology “an extreme doctrine,” and insisted the group’s perversion of Islam is “the root cause of the threat we face.” By this light, he challenged British Muslims, who number some 2.5 million, to “build an alternative narrative” to extremist groups and “help protect your kids” with government support. (RELATED: Three British Jihadi Brides Reportedly Ran Away From ISIS)
The Conservative Party, which Cameron leads, has recently made a broad appeal to “British values” in its attempts to stop terrorist recruitment. For this, some in the U.K. have criticized the government of relying more on slogans than policy.
Monday’s speech saw Cameron push back, recognizing that young British Muslims especially face immense challenges of identity and assimilation. He also pointed out that segregation in certain cities and towns has prevented “a sense of shared belonging and understanding” among citizens.
Another policy Cameron outlined is a proactive approach to groups that preach hate but stop short of committing violent acts. A number of legal Muslim-oriented groups have been credited with radicalizing U.K. citizens who later fled to join Islamic State. Another, CAGE, infamously called the British ISIS executioner nicknamed Jihadi John a “beautiful young man.”
Under an Extremism Bill introduced in May, Cameron said the government would have “new narrowly targeted powers” to keep such groups from “peddling their hatred.” The Prime Minister claimed such extremist but nonviolent groups have been tolerated under the misapplication of free speech, “misguided liberalism and cultural sensitivity.”
Besides promoting new policies to prevent radicalization, Cameron also said media and Internet companies have a role to play. He challenged broadcasters and platforms such as Twitter to be judicious about their policies’ effect on the public debate about terrorism.
Cameron’s government intends to publish a detailed “Counter-Extremism Strategy” in the fall.
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