British PM unveils plan to tackle ISIS terror

Five-year strategy to address 'drowning out' of moderate voices, Muslims' identity crisis

LONDON • Prime Minister David Cameron set out a five-year strategy to tackle extremism in Britain yesterday, vowing to take on those responsible for radicalising young British Muslims and demanding that Internet companies do more to help.

To tackle what he called the "struggle of our generation", Mr Cameron outlined a counter-extremism strategy designed to halt the spread in Britain of the radical ideology promoted by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.

He said major issues that needed to be addressed were: countering the "warped" extremist ideology, the process of radicalisation, the "drowning out" of moderate Muslim voices, and the "identity crisis" among some British-born Muslims.

"If you are a boy, they will brainwash you, strap bombs to your body and blow you up," Mr Cameron said in Birmingham, in central England. "If you are a girl, they will enslave and abuse you."

The government will introduce a scheme to enable worried parents to apply directly to get their child's passport cancelled to prevent travel, he said.

Mr Cameron warned that "strong, positive Muslim voices" are being drowned out by those who espouse the extremist ideology of ISIS. The government will launch a review on how to improve social integration in ethnic minority communities. He pledged to tackle what he called "the failures of integration" that have seen British citizens joining ISIS. Some British-born Muslims have little attachment to UK society, he said, and he promised to act to "de-glamorise" militant groups by making young people aware of the "brutal reality".

He singled out Internet firms as needing to do more to help the fight against extremism, especially among young people, echoing the concerns of other nations, including the US, Australia and Malaysia.

"When it comes to doing what's right for their businesses, they are happy to engineer technologies that track our likes and our dislikes," he said, without naming specific firms. "But when it comes to doing what's right in the fight against terrorism, we too often hear that it's all too difficult - I'm sorry I just don't buy that."

The speech comes as Mr Cameron is preparing to extend Britain's fight against ISIS overseas by courting parliamentary approval to undertake anti-ISIS bombing missions in Syria. Britain conducts air strikes only in neighbouring Iraq.

Britain's national security threat level is at its second-highest setting, meaning an attack is highly likely. Some 700 Britons are estimated to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS militants, some of whom have since returned.

"We have to confront a tragic truth: that there are people born and raised in this country who don't really identify with Britain," Mr Cameron said.

He said the review on improving integration would examine how to ensure minority community members learn to speak English, how to boost job opportunities and guarding against funding for community groups being used in a divisive way.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2015, with the headline 'British PM unveils plan to tackle ISIS terror'. Print Edition | Subscribe