For years, Faith Matters has been working to ensure that people and communities in our country, have a stake in their future and in decision making. We know full well, that disaffection and alienation are avenues by which extremists can manipulate young men and women in these vulnerable positions.
Both far right and Islamist extremists have been working for years to foment hatred and division in our communities. Yet, it is also clear that both have been feeding off each other and squeezing the middle ground of balanced opinion that is so much part of our country.
Take for example, the fact that the UK took in so many Islamist extremists who came from countries where torture and persecution were part of the norm, in places like Algeria, Libya and Syria. Whilst many fled because of persecution, by taking them into the UK, we effectively stored up problems for the future. Which leads to this question. Whilst we value the position of human rights, which is a fundamental part of the values of our country, did we truly believe that incoming Islamist extremists would be model citizens, given that many of them had bought into violent Jihad as a means of implementing their views? Did we think that they would stop their activities in the UK? Did we even consider that they would try and access Muslim communities in order to promote their sectarian, Jew-hatred and violent Jihad in our country? By allowing active Salafist Jihadists into our country, we let down the vast majority of British Muslims who were not part of this extremism and who wanted to simply practice and get on with their lives.
We also let Islamist extremist proselytise and foment their hatred in Muslim communities and within time, their message and narrative overlaid any sense of attachment to the State within some sections of Muslim communities. It was a failed and disastrous policy that has led to social problems which many of us have had to tackle.
On the other side, the State has only started to use its ‘muscular liberalism’ against far right activists and groups. The Home Secretary has banned National Action and a handful of far right groups. Yet, the fact is that far right groups have splintered and are well organised and entrenched online. Their hatred of Muslims is spawning plots to harm Muslims and Muslim institutions and the State’s actions against these groups has been slow off the mark. This allied to the ‘anything goes’ attitude of social media companies, who held this position for years, meant that the hatred from far right groups consolidated the reciprocal hatred towards western values and society emanating from Islamist extremist groups.
Faith Matters has been working to tackle both ends of the extremist spectrum for over a decade now. Yet, we cannot continue to push ahead if there is no real stomach by this and future governments who sit inactively whilst civil society groups are harassed, targeted and undermined in this battle against extremism. There comes a time when we must disengage and step out for the sake of our resources and frankly, our security. That time is coming close, unless this Government can clearly show that it is committed and has the stomach to push back in a concerted way against such groups.
There is still a small window of hope. However, that hope is fading fast.