Los Angeles Times

‘ The struggle of our generation’

British premier calls for a countrywid­e effort to combat radical Islamism.

- By Henry Chu henry. chu@ latimes. com Twitter:@ Henry HChu

LONDON— Declaring it “the struggle of our generation,” Prime Minister David Cameron called Monday for a-wide- ranging effort in Britain to combat the radical ideology that has inspired hundreds of his compatriot­s to join Islamic militants fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Cameron urged universiti­es, prisons, Internet companies and broadcaste­rs to work with the government to “confront and defeat this poison.” He said it was important to promote moderate Muslim voices in society and to “de- glamorize” extremist groups such as Islamic State that glorify-grue some acts of violence.

“This isn’t a pioneering movement. It is a vicious, brutal and fundamenta­lly abhorrent existence,” Cameron told listeners at a school in Birmingham, Britain’s most populous city after London and home to a significan­t Muslim population.

“Here’s my message to any young person here in Britain thinking of going out there,” Cameron said. “You won’t be some valued member of a movement. You are cannon fodder for them. They will use you.”

Cameron’s speech came a month after horrifying reports of a 17- year- old British youth who secretly made his way to Iraq and blew himself up in a suicide attack. This year, three London schoolgirl­s were believed to have flown to Turkey and crossed into Syria after telling their parents they were going out for the day.

Authoritie­s estimate that as many as 700 Britons have gone to fight in the Middle East and that half have returned, posing a major security threat.

Officials are drafting a five- year counter- extremism strategy that will be unveiled in the fall. One step announced by Cameron on Monday would grant parents the right to ask for their minor children’s passports to be canceled if they fear those children are flight risks.

The government is also trying to increase its online surveillan­ce powers. As in the United States, British authoritie­s already collect some so- called metadata, such as details of phone calls and other communicat­ion minus the content. However, they are pushing to expand the scope of informatio­n they can obtain, including people’s Web- browsing histories and social media use.

Cameron called on Internet and media companies and college campuses to show more restraint in giving platforms to inflammato­ry rhetoric, not justo vertly jihadist speech but also other pernicious ideas that feed such viewpoints, such as anti- Semitic conspiracy theories.

“The adherents of this ideology are overpoweri­ng other voices within Muslim debate, especially those trying to challenge it,” Cameron said. “There are so many strong, positive Muslim voices that are being drowned out.”

Although he emphasized that Islam was a peaceful religion, Cameron warned it would be an “exercise in futility” to pretend there was no link between Islam and the radical ideas espoused by militants who call themselves Muslims. Exploring that link will mean “uncomforta­ble” but necessary conversati­ons, Cameron said.

He lamented the segregatio­n in some communitie­s and lack of integratio­n by Muslim and other minority youths who feel detached from “British values.”

“We have in our country a very clear creed, and weneed to promote it much more confidentl­y,” he said. “There are things we share together. We’re all British. We respect democracy and the rule of law. We believe in freedom of speech, freedomof the press, freedom of worship, equal rights regardless of race, sex, sexuality or faith. We believe in respecting different faiths, but also expecting those faiths to support the British way of life.”

The Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella group of faith- based organizati­ons, welcomed Cameron’s remarks butwarned against “litmus tests which may brand us all as extremists, even though we uphold and celebrate the rule of law, democracy and rights for all.”

“Dissenting is a proud tradition of ours that must not be driven undergroun­d,” Shuja Shafi, the council’s secretary general, said in a statement. “Challengin­g extremist ideology is what we all want, but we need to define tightly and closely what extremism is rather than perpetuate a deep misunderst­anding of Islam.”

Monday’s speech by Cameron was not the first time he has called for a plan to combat homegrown extremism.

In 2013, after the hacking death of a British soldier on a London street by two selfstyled Islamic fighters, Cameron said it was time to determine whether universiti­es, prisons, Muslim charities and the Internet had been allowed to become a “conveyor belt” of radicaliza­tion.

Critics fault the government for taking so long to come up with a comprehens­ive counter- extremism strategy.

 ?? Paul Ellis
Pool Photo ?? DAVID CAMERON talks with Zahra Qadir at a workshop in Birmingham, England, on reporting suspicious­Web activity, before a speech on counter- extremism.
Paul Ellis Pool Photo DAVID CAMERON talks with Zahra Qadir at a workshop in Birmingham, England, on reporting suspicious­Web activity, before a speech on counter- extremism.

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