The Data Behind Cameron's Radicalisation Plan: It Doesn't Add Up

28/07/2015 15:24 BST | Updated 24/07/2016 10:59 BST


David Cameron recently announced his 5 year plan to tackle radicalisation. I am concerned at the inconsistency in logic and the lack of data behind his speech; particularly because it will impact so many people.

Let's have a closer look:

"When people say "it's because of the involvement in the Iraq War that people are attacking the West", we should remind them: 9/11 - the biggest loss of life of British citizens in a terrorist attack - happened before the Iraq War."

67 British Nationals died in the tragic event on 9/11. It's true that 9/11 happened before the Iraq invasion. However at a 9/11 commission hearing, where FBI Special Agent Fitzgerald explains the motives behind the attacks, we see that US foreign policy regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict may have been the root cause. Of course this is not a justification for such a crime, but for Cameron to distance himself from foreign policy as a potential cause is inaccurate with the very example of 9/11 he brings forward.

When they say that these are wronged Muslims getting revenge on their Western wrongdoers, let's remind them: from Kosovo to Somalia, countries like Britain have stepped in to save Muslim people from massacres - it's groups like ISIL, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram that are the ones murdering Muslims.

It seems, according to this argument, that a metric for terrorism is the number of Muslims that have been murdered. There are almost 500,000 war related deaths in Iraq and around 150,000 deaths in Pakistan and Afghanistan; these deaths were a direct result of arguably failed foreign policy. For example, the US led attack on Fallujah, Iraq, is argued to have been more damaging than Hiroshima. The government ignores the significance of foreign intervention, Cameron cherry-picks examples that seemingly support his claims; diverting attention away from foreign policy. Moreover, 'white saviour complex' negates the fact that Britain has also contributed to the death of thousands. It paints Britain in a utopian image of a protector. It's not just the metric for terrorism that is a problem, but the precedent being set here is that Britain is the saviour, which contradicts what we know about Iraq and Afghanistan; countries which are now actually worse off post-invasion.

Now others might say: it's because terrorists are driven to their actions by poverty. But that ignores the fact that many of these terrorists have had the full advantages of prosperous families or a Western university education.

Anecdotal evidence can never sufficiently substitute real data. What remains to be proven, through clear evidence, is that those considered to be terrorists have been from prosperous families. We find targeting extremists synonymous to targeting Muslims, such as the controversial CTS Act marginalises Muslims. Since we are implicitly talking about the Muslim community (for some reason), we may as well look at the data regarding Muslim communities in the UK. We find that they are the most deprived faith group with the highest rate of unemployment, the poorest health and the fewest educational qualifications according to census data. It is likely that some extremists are wealthy and do have a western university education. However that is certainly not reflective of the Muslim population. Equally, there are examples of terrorists who have a history of poverty and crime. Take Michael Adebolajo, the man who carried the heinous murder of Lee Rigby, he had a history of petty crime and anti-social behaviour. Of course, this anecdote is not data. It is highlighting how easy it is to find counterexamples to bold claims which lack any real evidence. Simply put, Cameron has no valid argument as there is no evidence to suggest a trend, either for or against wealth and terrorism. The occurrence (or absence) of higher education (or poverty) does not allow us to draw any conclusion. Not until there is more robust data, at least.

We must be clear. The root cause of the threat we face is the extremist ideology itself.

David Cameron acknowledges that these views are overpowering other voices within Muslim debate. The question is, why? The media constantly uses the uses the words Islamism, Muslims and extremists interchangeably, whilst giving fringe groups and individuals such as Anjem Choudhary a public platform, as if to say he is an accurate representation of the Muslim population in Britain. Portraying Muslims in bad light brings more views and more problematically is how significant the media is in manipulating perceptions. When studies suggest the media has an anti-muslim bias, we have a problem.

We have to confront a tragic truth that there are people born and raised in this country who don't really identify with Britain - and who feel little or no attachment to other people here.

73% of Muslims state their only nationality as British. That's an overwhelming majority. There are people who choose not to identify with Britain, but when this figure is so small in comparison to those who do, it begs the question: what are the values that David Cameron constantly refers to? There's a very fine line between patriotism and racism.

That, Mr Cameron, is the real data.