Wednesday, 15 June 2011


From Hugh Muir's weekly column, Hideously Diverse Britain (in which he looks at diversity and race in Britain today), published in The Guardian's G2 section today.
Hideously diverse Britain: fighting extremism made easy
People who feel as if they are valued by society are far less vulnerable to radicalisation – somebody should tell the government
One of my bosses took a brutalist view of journalism. He would sit in meetings, distracted, desperate for something eye-catching on the other side of the window. And then, when the intellectual ping pong was slowing down, he would say: "Why don't we just get the facts and put them in the paper. It's not rocket science, is it?"
And he came to mind the other day as I waded through the government's new Prevent strategy for fighting extremism. Greater surveillance of universities, more intrusive surveillance of the internet as accessed in schools, libraries and colleges. No public funds for those who embrace the peddlers of doctrines that conflict with British values. Get tough and prevent the messages of radicalisation getting through to those who might be radicalised. Which makes some sense, I suppose. But wouldn't it make a lot more sense to try to find out why they might be vulnerable to radicalisation in the first place?
Here's a bit tucked away in the Home Office material. It describes what was said by focus groups. "The public generally recognise that everyone in society has a role in challenging extremism through their perception that building tolerance and integration across UK society is central to Prevent work. However, this is not top of mind for the audiences and a conclusion that is reached after detailed discussion only."
So we know the key issue is combating the alienation that makes people vulnerable to the doctrines of swivel-eyed halfwits. We know that if someone feels a valued part of society, they are less likely to tuck bolts and batteries and fertiliser into a rucksack. And we know that all the guff that says this is purely a problem for British Muslim communities — the "Oi, you, sort it out" approach – is just guff because "everyone in society has a role in challenging extremism", just as everyone in society has a role trying to combat knife crime in Black British communities and heroin smuggling involving members of the Turkish communities and the white-collar crimes of white British bankers. It's not "top of mind" but we know these are whole society problems requiring whole society solutions. It's not rocket science, is it?