Jacqui Smith – 2008 Speech on Preventing Violent Extremism

Below is the text of the speech made by Jacqui Smith, the then Home Secretary, at the Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism on 10 December 2008.

Good morning.

It may only be the second Prevent Conference, but we have come a long way over the past year and for that I want to thank you for all your hard work.

The importance of our work has been brought into stark relief by recent events.

The horrific and savage attacks on innocent people across Mumbai demonstrate all too clearly that terrorists do not care who they kill.

The victims were Muslim… they were Sikh… they were Hindu… they were Jewish… they were Christian… indeed, whatever faith they were, it’s clear that the terrorists made no distinction.

In September, we saw an attack at the Marriott in Islamabad. Again, innocent people were killed and maimed indiscriminately – taking no account of age, colour or religion.

And going back through all the terrorist attacks in recent years, we have seen the same tale of horror and misery repeated, including here in the UK – in London, in Glasgow and in Exeter.

Our sympathy goes out to the families of all those killed and injured – not just in India or Pakistan or Britain, but in every country that has had the misfortune to suffer from such attacks.

But again we are left asking “Why?”

There are extremists out there who suggest that these attacks can somehow be justified by some twisted interpretation of Islam. They cannot. Indeed, many of the victims of these attacks were themselves Muslim.

That’s why so many groups around the world have utterly condemned these terrorist acts.

Influential religious bodies in both India and Pakistan have this year proclaimed suicide bombing to be forbidden by Islam. Former high-profile terrorist supporters have denounced the use of violence.

And here in the UK – The Hindu Forum of Britain, the British Muslim Forum, and the Muslim Council of Britain have all come out to condemn the terrorist atrocities in Mumbai, to name just three from a long list.

It is clear that violent extremists do not truly represent any religion or community. They are simply criminals and terrorists.

Rapidly evolving terror threat

It is also clear we are facing a rapidly evolving terror threat that spans the globe, as well as being relevant at local level.

As such, we all have a duty to be even more prepared, more vigilant and more determined than ever to prevent further terrorist attacks taking place – no matter where that threat arises.

As you know, the threat level in the UK remains severe. In other words, an attack is highly likely.

The police and the security services are working all-out to disrupt and negate that threat. But we also need the public to remain vigilant – to trust their instincts; to pass information to the police; and to keep our shared responsibility to help keep each other safe.

In addition, we have to make sure the infrastructure is in place at national level and international level – whether that means getting the right legislation on the books or enhancing coordination across the various agencies.

However, even that will not be enough. We cannot simply arrest our way out of the threat.

That’s why our long term strategy is ultimately about stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting violent extremism in the first place.

That is why we have to work particularly hard at local level to make sure that we are tackling violent extremism before it can take root – before the ideologies of fear and hatred can infiltrate and poison our society.

And that is why your work with Prevent is so important.

More funding for Prevent

You are key in delivering this – and as we will hear from Hazel in a moment – it’s already working.

I know that Hazel will want to talk about the success of the Pathfinders scheme, so I won’t go into any detail myself. However, I do want to commend the police for the way they have responded to the challenges of Prevent.

The Police have recognised that the community needs to be at the heart of their strategy in tackling this threat. They have prioritised a partnership approach that includes working closely with schools, colleges, universities, and across communities.

This marks real progress and to support these activities even further, we are funding more than 300 new Prevent police posts over three years.

£16 million will be spent this year creating new posts across 24 priority forces, as well as funding several other initiatives such as the Channel programme, which is currently up and running in 6 forces.

I’ll just say a little bit about Channel since it is an excellent example of partnership in practice.

This scheme identifies individuals that may be vulnerable to getting swept up in violent extremism and refers them toward multi-agency support.

Since it started in April 2007, the two pilot sites in London and the North West have received over 100 referrals. We are going to expand this further and the aim is that by the end of the financial year, we will bring the total number of sites up to approximately 25 operating across 12 police forces.

Prevent is still a relatively new strategic programme and I think the successes we’ve seen to date show that it is effective. But as always, there is more to do.

I am determined to make sure that we continue to support your efforts and, to that end, I am delighted to announce we have just granted a further £5.8 million to Prevent.

This funding comes in addition to the £12.5 million we announced in June this year and the extra money will be used at local level to fund a wide range of projects to disrupt radicalisers, strengthen institutions and support vulnerable individuals.

Future projects

One project we have in mind is a scheme to develop a Pan-London Somali Youth forum that will operate across 16 boroughs and work with Somali youths who may be vulnerable to radicalisation.

Another programme we’ve identified involves boosting the Prevent capacity and capability in universities.

We are not stopping there though. A further £5 million will be made available this financial year for local authorities, government offices and the police in support of our work in schools and colleges.

Focusing on younger age groups is important and these funds will help local schools and colleges put into practice the advice in the DCSF toolkit that Ed Balls published in October.

We are constantly analysing our performance and trying to find out how we can do more. We are also listening to you.

That’s why, for example, Hazel and I will be setting out simply and clearly how all these different funding streams will sit together ahead of the next financial year.

Some of you have also raised the point that your would like more information about the threats and vulnerabilities in your area.

So from the New Year we are introducing a process for sharing information that will enable all local authority chief executives and police borough commanders to see a ‘CT local profile’.

This includes an assessment of the vulnerabilities in a particular area, as well as an analysis of the factors that can contribute to radicalisation. It will also detail further research on extremist groups active in the UK and the ideologies they try to promote.

Again, this is part of our commitment to ensure that you have all the tools and information you need to target activities and resources as effectively as possible.

Where necessary, we will support you with changes that can only be delivered by national government. As such, we have introduced legislation to tackle those who incite violence.

Not only that, but just in the past few weeks we made it easier to exclude from the UK any foreign national who promotes hate.

More than legal solutions

But tackling extremism cannot just be about legal solutions. It is about supporting those who have real knowledge within Muslim communities, who can point authoritatively to how violence and separateness are not part of our shared values.

A great example of how we are doing this is the work we are doing on the Internet.

We know that radicalisers use the internet to prey on vulnerable individuals. As a result, we recently worked with companies that provide internet filtering products to strengthen the protection they offer against online material that can promote violent extremism.

And for the first time tomorrow we will host a core network of people who will put forward positive messages from the British Muslim community on the internet, directly challenging the extremists that set out to groom vulnerable individuals.

This readiness to make a civil challenge to extremists wherever they are is important and I can illustrate that with another recent example.

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to visit Luton and see at first hand the ‘ambassadors for Islam’ scheme funded by the local authority and supported by the police and other partners.

This initiative is doing a great job working with young Muslims in the community. It aims to build understanding and equip them with the tools they need to counter extremist ideologies and develop them into role models of the future.

What is even more important than the skills they are learning, though, are the values that underpin the mentoring scheme.

There was a strong sense of pride in being Muslim AND being British. A recognition of what they could contribute and a determination to make the most of the opportunities this country has to offer.

These young people – like the ones I met recently at a similar project in Waltham Forest – are our future, just as much as any other group of confident, articulate, challenging young adults. So it is vital we get them engaged and the project is doing a good job on that.

But I have noticed something else during my visits around the country.

As we have rolled out the Prevent strategy and become more effective in challenging extremist ideologies, we have seen a greater challenge from extremist groups who are careful to avoid promoting violence.

Instead they cynically skirt the fringes of laws that rightly defend free speech to promote hate-filled ideologies.

They may not explicitly promote violence, but they can create a climate of fear and distrust where violence becomes more likely.

These are the groups that fail to speak out and condemn violence when any reasonable person would be outraged.

In many cases, mosques, community centres and other institutions are being targeted by the Far Right, as well as by those peddling their particular brand of antidemocratic ideology in the guise of religion.

On both sides, these extremists are trying to create the idea that being Muslim and being British are incompatible.

Clearly, they are not. But the lesson here is that we need to respond to the extremists out there who are working to undermine the democratic and inclusive values that these young Muslims exemplify.

Confident as they are, these young people are having to put up with threats, intimidation and general abuse and that is something we all need to make a stand on.

This is not the only example. Take the case of Derby where an extremist group sought to take over a community centre by worming its way into the management structure.

The community banded together and drove this outside pressure away.

We applaud that and want to support it.

That’s why we have to work even harder to ensure that we are supporting the positive individuals in our communities, especially when it sometimes takes real bravery to make a stand.

That is why we are getting money and support into the grassroots of all our communities so they can respond.

Emphasising all that we share

Tackling extremists cannot just be about legal solutions. That is why we are giving a strong governmental lead by supporting and funding those who promote shared values. And this is why we are calling for a civic, as well as a legal challenge, against those who seek to undermine us. All of these elements are central to the Prevent strategy.

Hazel has made this case strongly and David Miliband, the foreign secretary, has been up and down the country in the last few months setting out our position on key foreign policy issues.

He is responding to the legitimate concerns of Muslim and other communities, but he has also been very ready to challenge those who want to twist their concerns into a general critique of our inclusive and liberal democracy.

We won’t win the argument by running scared. And we certainly will not be intimidated.

The message is loud and clear – we have the intellectual, moral and emotional confidence to take on the extremists and we will defeat them using every democratic means at our disposal.

We must all challenge the extremists, racists, and apologists for both, and not define any community by its extreme elements.

For despite what the extremists may want, our country is not built on hatred. It is built on shared values – tolerance, compassion and a respect for democracy and the rule of law. At heart, it is about fair rules and a fair say for everyone.

The threat we face is significant. But our most profound response is to have the confidence in people of all faiths and backgrounds to stand up for our shared values.

The appetite to fight for these shared values is there and that’s why – despite what the extremists may try – I’m confident that we will succeed.

Britain has always been stronger and more united because of its rich mix of people and cultures and the values they share.

That is who we are, and that is why we will face down this challenge together.