A British security chief has cautioned against portraying Muslims as “intrinsically extremist” soon after David Cameron suggested radicalism is being “quietly condoned" in British communities.
Charles Farr, Theresa May’s most senior counter terrorism adviser, warned against the urge to "overstate" extremism in the UK when as little as a hundred were being radicalised within a British Muslim population of around three million.
The comments by the director general of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, made at a Jewish News conference on Israel and reported by the Daily Telegraph, come just days after the Prime Minister's speech beefed-up his rhetoric on extremism.
His claim that radicalism was something “quietly condoned online or perhaps even in parts of your local community” was at the weekend condemned by former Tory minister Baroness Warsi for "demonising" Muslim communities.
Charles Farr: "We need to be cautious with our metaphors and with our numbers."
Mr Farr said he was “a little bit worried” by the idea radicalisation could not be tackled, adding: “It’s not to say the challenges they pose are not significant, they are.
"But … the more we overstate them the more, frankly, we risk labelling Muslim communities as somehow intrinsically extremist, which actually despite an unprecedented wealth of social media propaganda, they have proved not to be.
"So I think we need to be cautious with our metaphors and with our numbers.”
He also suggested those seduced by Isil often have “personal problems”, coming from a background of "broken families" and lacking "integration into what we might call mainstream society".
He added: “People join terrorist organisations in this country and in others because they get something out of them beyond merely satisfaction of an ideological commitment.
“Sometimes it's about resolution of personal problems, sometimes it's about certainty in an environment which has deprived them of it, sometimes it's about excitement and esteem, and we should not omit the last two factors.
“This is the reality in Syria and Iraq but also many other contexts we’ve worked on over the past five or 10 years.”