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U.K. unveils plan to tackle extremism

Cameron urges united communities by Karla Adam, The Washington Post | July 21, 2015 at 5:05 a.m.

LONDON -- British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday unveiled a five-year strategy to combat Islamist extremism, including a measure that would empower parents to cancel the passports of children at risk of radicalization and efforts to "de-glamorize" militant groups such as the Islamic State.

In a wide-ranging speech to an audience in Birmingham, Cameron called the fight against extremism "the struggle of our generation" and said there was an urgent need to address segregation in the United Kingdom.

"For all our success as a multiracial, multifaith democracy, 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," he said.

About 700 Britons have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State, according to U.K. authorities.

In addressing the problem of divided communities, Cameron said the government would explore ways to make schools and neighborhoods less segregated.

"I'm not talking about uprooting people from their homes or schools or forcing integration," he said. "But I am talking about taking a fresh look at the sort of shared future we want for our young people. In terms of housing, for example, there are parts of our country where segregation has actually increased ... so the government needs to start asking searching questions about social housing."

Although Cameron's speech laid out the threat of homegrown terror, it offered few concrete solutions. He said there would be a new scheme under which parents worried about their children traveling abroad to join a radical group would have the power to get their passports canceled.

He spoke of the dangerous appeal of militant groups, such as the Islamic State, saying that he recognized that the extremist cause could seem "exciting," especially to youths, but that the reality on the ground was vastly different.

"This is a group that throws people off buildings, that burns them alive. ... Its men rape underage girls and stone innocent women to death. This isn't a pioneering movement," Cameron said.

He also hit out at Internet companies, saying they need to do more in identifying would-be terrorists.

"When it comes to doing what's right for their business, they are happy to engineer technologies to track our likes and dislikes. But when it comes to doing what's right in the fight against terrorism, we too often hear that it's all too difficult. Well, I'm sorry, I just don't buy that."

In his speech, Cameron mostly laid the groundwork of the philosophy behind his approach, before the government publishes its counterterrorism strategy in the fall.

He also seemed to suggest that the government would not only train its sights on violent extremism but take a tough view on nonviolent extremism and "peddlers of hatred" who manage to stay -- barely -- on the right side of the law.

Cameron said it was not enough for anti-extremist groups to condemn the Islamic State. "We can't let the bar sink to that ludicrously low level," he said. "Condemning a mass-murdering, child-raping organization cannot be enough to prove you are challenging the extremists. We must demand people also condemn the wild conspiracy theories, the anti-Semitism, the sectarianism, too."

Cameron singled out the Muslim campaign group Cage, noting that its research director earlier this year described Mohammed Emwazi, the British man known as "Jihadi John," as a "beautiful young man."

"I want to say something to the National Union of Students. When you choose to ally yourself with an organization like Cage, which called 'Jihadi John' a 'beautiful young man' and told people to support the jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan, it really does, in my opinion, shame your organization and your noble history of campaigning for justice."

He also took aim at universities, saying they sometimes failed to spot "creeping radicalization" on their campuses, and said the problem of extremism in prisons needed to be tackled, as well.

Cameron also appealed to the news media, saying they should give a platform to a broader range of speakers from the Muslim community.

A Section on 07/21/2015

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