Ten years after four homegrown Muslim radicals attacked London’s transportation system, killing 52 civilians and wounding more than 700, Prime Minister David Cameron has laid out a “counter-extremist strategy” to confront the scourge of Islamic radicalism in Britain.
In an important speech in Birmingham on July 20, Cameron correctly described the ongoing battle against Islamic extremism as “the struggle of our generation.”
He has a point.
Since September 11, 2011, when 19 airborne Arab terrorists brought down the Twin Towers in Manhattan and damaged the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., the world has been faced with the spectre of rampant extremist Muslim terrorism.
We are in one of those dark periods when, as the political theorist Samuel Huntington suggested, the clash of diametrically opposed ideas haunts our universe.
Islamic radicalism, as exemplified by Islamic State, is rooted in an intolerant strain of Islam which utterly rejects the principles of liberal democracy we value so dearly. Islamic State wants to turn back the clock to the medieval era. It seeks to impose Shariah law, quash democratic institutions, abolish the rule of law and freedom of expression and assembly, persecute non-Islamic minorities, do away with women’s rights and execute gays and lesbians.
Islamic State has already foisted its twisted values on wide swaths of Syria and Iraq, and its affiliates in eleven countries, ranging from Nigeria to Egypt, are trying to bomb and terrorize their way to power.
It’s almost a certainty that their ruthless campaign for dominance will claim many more lives and torment us for decades to come.
Awed and inspired by Islamic State’s ideology, battlefield successes, bravado and social media expertise, disaffected young Muslims throughout Europe have come under its malevolent and corrosive influence, adopting militant social and political positions. In some cases, they have joined its ranks to fight alongside Islamic State jihadists in Syria and Iraq. These are alarming developments, given Europe’s rising Muslim population and its geographic proximity to the Middle East.
With this worrisome backdrop in mind, Cameron delivered a thought-provoking speech that cogently defines the ills affecting the Muslim community in Europe today.
In a reference to the disaffection that grips some European Muslims, Cameron said, “We have to confront a tragic truth: that there are people born and raised in this country who don’t really identify with Britain.”
These extremists, he declared, must be isolated, while moderate Muslim voices should be encouraged to challenge and condemn their radicalism, violence and antisemitic rhetoric.
“The extremist world view, both violent and non-violent, is what we have to defeat,” he said, rightly pointing out that the British government cannot stamp out this phenomenon without the active assistance of Muslim leaders, imams, teachers and parents.
To his credit, Cameron added that more job opportunities must be created for minorities. All too often, members of minority communities bump up against racial prejudice and cultural misperceptions in their job searches.
Cameron was also right to say that his government, in tandem with the Muslim community, is obliged to deal with “uncomfortable” faith-based issues such as female genital cutting, forced marriage, the legitimacy of Shariah courts and Salafist indoctrination in Muslim parochial schools.
Cameron’s ground-breaking speech was long overdue. One can only hope that it is taken seriously and that its ideas will be incorporated into the counter-jihadist strategy he intends to unveil in the autumn.