'COUNTERING EXTREMISM'

Daily Telegraph – 1 June 2017

In July 2013, following the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby, former Labour Cabinet minister Hazel Blears and I, as members of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, wrote a paper for David Cameron’s taskforce on tackling radicalisation and extremism (Comment, May 31) and gave evidence to it in person.

Our message was that we are well-served by our Security and Intelligence Agencies in identifying and disrupting home-grown terrorists. However, we lack comparable capacity to neutralise the ideology which infects them in the first place.

We argued that, to prevent people from being radicalised and drawn into extremist activity, we should follow the precedents of the wartime efforts to expose Nazism and the Cold War campaigns to counter Communism. The extremist ideology of political Islam is a similarly totalitarian creed, requiring an organised effort to undermine its appeal and to strengthen the long-term resilience of the communities most vulnerable to it.

This work must be owned by the whole of government, on a cross-departmental basis, working closely with local government and engaging with civic and faith organisations on the ground. It requires the creation of a specialist counter-propaganda agency to develop a counter-narrative and to support communities in their efforts to challenge extremists. This agency should operate under the supervision of a permanent ministerial committee on which the Home Office, the Foreign Office, the Department of Communities and Local Government, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development should all be represented.

Nothing which has happened in the succeeding four years has lessened the need for this overall strategy. Action against deluded individuals, however necessary, can never be a substitute for it.

(Dr) JULIAN LEWIS
Cadnam, Hampshire