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July 21, 2015 11:56 am

British PM’s Speech Remarkably Clear About Radical Islamist Threat

avatar by Steven Emerson

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David Cameron. Photo: World Economic Forum.

David Cameron. Photo: World Economic Forum.

British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a remarkable and powerful speech Monday about combatting radical Islamist extremism, a topic many other Western leaders, including President Obama, often avoid tackling head on.

Cameron, speaking at a Birmingham school, appropriately distinguished between “Islamist extremism” – a fundamentalist political ideology with religious underpinnings – and “Islam the religion.” He directly addressed moderate British Muslims, framing the struggle against radical Islam as a phenomenon that is plaguing the Muslim community.

“I know too how much you hate the extremists who are seeking to divide our communities and how you loathe that damage they do,” he said.

Cameron defined what he saw as the roots of the threat. While many point to poverty or Western wars in the Middle East, Cameron explicitly called out Islamist ideology and radicalization as driving the violent threat facing British and other societies.

There is no single path to radicalization, he said, but even non-violent ideology can be a “gateway” to violence.

“It may begin with hearing about the so-called Jewish conspiracy and then develop into hostility to the West and fundamental liberal values, before finally becoming a cultish attachment to death,” Cameron said.

The speech was part of a five-year plan Cameron is implementing this Fall in hopes of curbing Islamist extremist influences. It calls on empowering British Iraqis, Syrians, and Kurds, who can speak about the devastation ISIS is wreaking in their native countries.

Cameron also invited “some pretty uncomfortable debates – especially cultural ones. Too often we have lacked the confidence to enforce our values, for fear of causing offence.”

But a true debate would give greater influence to Muslims who oppose and challenge the radical narrative, he said. “There are so many strong, positive Muslim voices that are being drowned out. Ask yourself, how is it possible that when young teenagers leave their London homes to fight for ISIL, the debate all too often focuses on whether the security services are to blame? And how can it be that after the tragic events at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, weeks were spent discussing the limits of free speech and satire, rather than whether terrorists should be executing people full stop? When we allow the extremists to set the terms of the debate in this way, is it any wonder that people are attracted to this ideology?”

He also addressed young British Muslims who might be tempted to travel to Iraq or Syria to wage jihad.

“You won’t be some valued member of a movement,” Cameron warned. “You are cannon fodder for them. They will use you. If you are a boy, they will brainwash you, strap bombs to your body, and blow you up. If you are a girl, they will enslave and abuse you.”

The speech is significant because of Cameron’s direct approach and specific references to “radical Islamist ideology.” That is something many other Western leaders, including President Obama, avoid as a matter of policy. The Islamic State, Obama has said, “is not ‘Islamic.'”

Cameron, in contrast, said it is not enough to condemn ISIS or al-Qaeda.

“This means confronting groups and organizations that may not advocate violence – but which do promote other parts of the extremist narrative,” he said. “We’ve got to show that if you say ‘yes I condemn terror – but the Kuffar are inferior’, or ‘violence in London isn’t justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter’ – then you too are part of the problem. Unwittingly or not, and in a lot of cases it’s not unwittingly, you are providing succor to those who want to commit, or get others to commit to, violence.”

This applies directly to many Islamist groups in the United States and the West which, acting as civil liberties organizations, justify terrorism in some contexts – especially against Israeli civilians.

According to Cameron, their doublespeak and double standards only serve to promote the extremist narrative.

Steven Emerson is the Executive Director the Investigative Project on Terrorism ( where this article first appeared.

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  • Joseph Feld

    P M Cameron has been consistent and honest. He supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas terrorist rockets and tunnels all the way through last summer’s war. It says something about British Muslims that the only Muslims involved in the anti-Jewish London demo recently were Muslim members of Golders Green Together, the group representing Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu faiths opposing anti-Semitism. The Dept of Education has tackled head on the Trojan Horse plot in Birmingham to get Islamists appointed as governors of several schools in Muslim neighbourhoods. All British universities have rejected BDS, regardless of student unions and the NUS. On the 2011 census less than five percent of Brits were Muslim and we must work to fully integrate them into a liberal, tolerant and democratic society.

  • Terror
    “Let me explain to you what we – all of us -are up against. Classic warfare is fundamentally a contest of wills fought to impose so much stress on the enemy that he loses the will to fight. A war of terror has the same intent, but with a singularly insidious twist: the enemy can be anybody, anywhere. He is without uniform or identification. His targets are random. His weapon is fear. He knows no constraints. He comes in all guises, often in the dress of his victims. He seeks to shatter nerves and break morale by flaunting the impotence of the authorities to protect their people. He uses his own women and children as his shield. He seeks to goad the defender into ever-harsher counter measures so as to stoke the general hate. He goes all-out to sow despair and to brutalize the agitated hearts of the other side. And in so doing, he strives to corrupt the defender’s military professionalism and discipline through combat stress, demoralization, fatigue, boredom and overkill, the very things we’ve been talking about. Well” – this in a final arpeggio – “no enemy is going to brutalize our hearts, nor corrupt our military professionalism and discipline.

    Fighting terrorism is not unlike fighting a deadly cancer. It can not be treated just where it is visible – every diseased cell in the body must be destroyed.

    YJ Draiman