The UK Government has announced plans to invest £5 million this year in building a national network of grassroots organisations that will challenge all forms of extremist ideology. Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement was made on the eve of the publication of the Government’s new Counter-Extremism Strategy.
At the very heart of that Counter-Extremism Strategy is a new partnership approach to strengthen community resilience and promote a coalition to speak out, challenge and ultimately defeat extremism.
Initially for this financial year, the new funding will be dedicated to providing direct and in-kind practical support to groups to expand the reach and scale of their work on confronting extremism, and also the development of “credible alternative narratives” to the dangerous views propagated by extremists. This could include social media training, technical assistance to enable a small charity to set up a website and targeting funding for specific projects.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “I stated last week that there’s one more big social reform in our mission to rebuild Britain as an even greater country. We need to systematically confront and challenge extremism and the ideologies that underpin it, exposing the lies and the destructive consequences it leaves in its wake. We have to stop it at the start – stop this seed of hatred even being planted in people’s minds and cut off the oxygen it needs to grow.”
The Prime Minister continued: “The Counter-Extremism Strategy sets out our new approach to tackle this poison, vigorously counter the ideology that underpins it, take on the violent and non-violent parts of the creed, actively support the mainstream voices such that they can rise above those of the extremists and tackle the segregation and feelings of alienation that can help provide fertile ground for extremist messages to take root.”
David Cameron also explained: “At the core is building a national coalition of all those individuals and groups who are united in their determination to defeat extremism and build a more cohesive society. We will do everything we can to support them through our new Community Engagement Forum and with practical support and funding to tackle these deep-rooted issues. The scale of the task is immense, and that’s precisely why we need everyone to play their part.”
Partnership between industry, the police and Government
The new Counter-Extremism Strategy also goes further in developing the partnership between industry, the police service and Government to remove terrorist and extremist material online.
The past 18 months has seen a big change in the way that extremists use the Internet to target their radical ideology directly at young minds. According to recent research conducted by the Quilliam Foundation, ISIL produces 38 unique pieces of ‘high quality propaganda’ every day which is then disseminated widely by a network of thousands of ISIL supporters and sympathisers all over the world.
Extremists are increasingly using the Internet to inspire radicalisers to groom new recruits through online peer-to-peer relationships.
Co-operation with industry and police to remove harmful terrorist and extremist content has significantly improved in recent years. The Metropolitan Police Service’s Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit has now removed over 110,000 pieces of extremist propaganda since 2010 and over 38,000 pieces so far this year, with referrals from the public up 400% between the end of 2013 to 2014 and 2014 to 2015.
Organisations working to counter extremist ideology
There is no single model of radicalisation. Extremist ideologies can prove very attractive. They appear to offer a sense of belonging and purpose, reinvention and focus on a single set of beliefs governing how people live their lives and the actions they take.
Feeding off the vulnerability of their audiences, extremists use their ideologies to radicalise and recruit online and offline.
Examples of those organisations already working to counter extremist ideology include:
Active Change Foundation (ACF) is a successful youth centre in East London. It runs the Young Leaders Programme for aspiring young leaders of all backgrounds. The programme trains, mentors and supports the young leaders to have the critical thinking skills and confidence to achieve their ambitions in life and offers them a platform to use their skills in their local communities
Inspire is a women’s counter-extremism organisation campaigning for Human Rights and gender equality. It’s led by Sara Khan and Kalsoom Bashir. They run facilitated workshops for Muslim women across the country, supported by Prevent Local Co-ordinators, and are both recognised media commentators on the issue of young women travelling to Syria.
The group launched its Making A Stand campaign in October last year, which called on Muslim women to take the lead in their communities by vocally rejecting extremist narratives.
Sara Khan recently attended the Prime Minister’s Community Engagement Forum.