The more I hear government officials speaking on extremism and young people, the more I disagree with their ideas. As a young British Muslim student, this concerns me.
Yesterday's speech left me cringing behind my computer screen and praying that "normal" people like myself don't adopt this disingenuous analysis of complex issues surrounding extremism and radicalisation.
If they do, then we will be left with young Muslims being alienated and losing trust in the very communities that can safeguard them, whilst making them feel under attack from the government that is there to protect them. The 'new' five-year plan seeks to create a new norm amongst the youth and will use social conditioning as a means to create an understanding of accepted ideas and attitudes whilst simultaneously preaching critical thinking.
One question must be asked when speaking about all of these issues in the first place: according to what parameters do we judge what is extremism? Vagueness created by terms such as 'radical' and 'extremist' needs to be clarified extensively, with quantitative parameters being drawn as opposed to them being subject to individual interpretation. The failure to categorically underline what it means to be 'radical' and 'extremist' is fundamentally concerning, and leaving this judgement to individual interpretation is not only dangerous but has the potential to infringe the rule of law itself.
Unclear definitions of extremism and radicalisation add further traction to the "us vs. them" narrative and also allows the term to be abused and used as a stick by which Muslims are targeted politically for their ideas. Targeting young Muslims for their views simply alienates them and reinforces the narrative that government policies are against their beliefs and religion.
The creation of an "us and them" paradigm means that we will further marginalise young Muslims which leads to exactly what this community and the government is trying to prevent, extreme acts that have nothing to do with Islam. The current strategy by the government aims to silence all voices of dissent with any detractors being labelled as "radical", this will only lead to us pacifying the next generation who will be too afraid to express themselves and speak out against oppression. It would be foolish to assume that this censorship would just be limited to Muslims. At first it may be but I can almost guarantee that if we as a society remain silent now, all of us who critique authority and the status quo will pay the price.
Our Prime Minister made clear that he wishes to 'work with you [us] to defeat this poison.' This is welcomed by us as a community, and in principle we also want to work to eradicate these issues. But we need to provide a significant platform to mainstream Muslim organisations that are independent of government funding and political bias, in order to discuss Muslim issues freely and intelligently. We are better informed on how to tackle this crisis and we believe that this new strategy is simply self-defeating.
We need dialogue between the police, security services and Muslim organisations to tackle threats and issues in local communities. This cannot happen if Muslim organisations feel targeted and are treated as being part of the problem instead of the solution.