Grylls: Scouts can lead the fight against extremism
Movement is positive step for Muslim communities clamouring to start groups, says television adventurer
AS A FORMER SAS-trained soldier, he has built a career on surviving in the harshest of environments and against all the odds.
But as he embarks on his latest adventure as the new chief ambassador for the global Scout movement, Bear Grylls now wants to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing society – including gang violence and extremism.
After being appointed the UK’s youngest-ever chief Scout nearly a decade ago, the father-of-three has set his sights on mobilising the Scouts into some of Britain’s hardest to reach areas.
With Scout numbers having swelled by an unprecedented 43 per cent to 638,000 under his leadership, Grylls believes growing demand from Muslim communities could help in the fight against radicalisation.
“We have hundreds of mosques every week, reaching out, asking, ‘ Can we start up groups?’
“MI5 is spending resources to stem the blood but we’re saying, ‘Don’t create the wound’. That’s why we have the mosques coming to us. They’re saying: ‘Hold on, we can see that you’re providing hope, purpose, pride, British values, sense of discipline. All the things that Isil give people, but for good, not bad. Come and speak to our youths.”
Insisting the Scouts are providing “a positive alternative to kids joining gangs”, he adds: “It’s what I was saying about the young Muslim kids in this country. If you don’t give them something good, they go to the bad.”
Grylls is convinced he can persuade any teenager to join the Scouts, even those on crime-ridden estates.
“I have total confidence going into those groups and saying, “Do you want to climb a mountain?” One might laugh, but 99 per cent will say, ‘Yeah, I want to do it.’ I had the same conversation with Anthony Joshua when I took him away. He said, ‘I was that kid, in a group of 50 kids on BMXs intimidating people outside McDonald’s and I realised if I don’t get my s--- together I’m going to do this for the rest of my life and he went to a boxing gym. You know, kids want opportunities and Scouting gives people opportunities.”
But would they want to wear the woggle? “The whole gang culture is all about uniform and identity,” he insists. “Be in the best gang. Be in a good gang and a worldwide force for good. You are right, as they get older, and entrenched into violence it’s really hard. I can do it because I’m on the telly, but it’s harder for a Scout leader to go in and win over a 17-year-old in a violent criminal gang. But I actually do have confidence in going into those gangs and providing an alternative. There’s amazing things going on in some of the
‘MI5 is spending resources to stem the blood but the scouts are saying, ‘Don’t create the wound’’
most deprived, difficult, troubled areas of the UK at the moment.”
Having landed in hot water with his local council for erecting a giant slide on the island he owns off the coast of North Wales, it is probably no surprise the 44-year-old, who has sons aged nine, 12 and 15, thinks parents are too risk-averse.
“No one is equipping kids with the life skills they need. School isn’t. And I do think we have a culture where everyone is always nervous of risk. When you strip risk out of kids’ lives, you do them a disservice. Life is full of risks. Lack of risk leads to a lack of independence which explains why anxiety is such a problem among young people.”
Insisting he isn’t the kind of dad who bans screen time, he says it’s more important for parents to set an example by getting off their phones. “I don’t play to the cliché of being the dad who tells the kids to never watch TV and ride a BMX instead because it’s not real. I’m just saying, don’t go home when you’re tired and think that it’s going to improve your life or your kids’ life to sit Pokémon scratching your b---- playing aged 45. You know?”
Praising Scout patron the Duchess of Cambridge as an “amazing” example to girls who may be wanting to join, Grylls – who attended Eton like Princes William and Harry – revealed: “She’s brilliant. She says: ‘I don’t just want to, you know, do the glitzy, I actually want to go and get dirty with the Scout group’. She loves it.”
Asked if she has enrolled Prince George yet, he declares: “I can absolutely guarantee he’ll become a Scout.”
The Duchess of Cambridge with Bear Grylls, chief ambassador for the Scouts