Grylls: Scouts can lead the fight against ex­trem­ism

Move­ment is pos­i­tive step for Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties clam­our­ing to start groups, says tele­vi­sion ad­ven­turer

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Camilla Tominey AS­SO­CIATE ED­I­TOR

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

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