This week we published the report of our investigation into the roots of violent extremism. I wasn’t just interested in the subject as a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, but because recent events locally made it particularly relevant. It is important that we know what the steps are which lead to radicalisation so we take steps to intervene and put them back on the right path.
In Cardiff recently, two young men were seduced into travelling to Kenya with a view to crossing into Somalia to join the Al Shabab terrorists. Three Cardiff men were among the nine sentenced this week for terrorist related offences. And arrests were made when police and the council closed down a radical group which had been using Canton Community Centre. Should we now feel more or less safe? In my view we can feel safer because of the positive response of the leaders and Imams locally and the way the whole Muslim community has engaged.
Our report highlighted the less obvious – but very real – threat posed by right-wing terrorism linked to incidents in other parts of Europe. And we found that the internet is one of the key factors which influences behaviour rather than in public arenas. Looking at mosques and universities, we found that they are no longer places of radicalisation, which is more likely to occur in private homes and online. One Muslim leader said to me that “you should worry more about Sheikh Google than about what’s happening at the mosques”. He’s right and it fits with the evidence that we saw.
One of the most worrying aspects of potential radicalisation is the increase in self-radicalisation over the internet. Through online forums, users who feel alone and isolated – perhaps struggling with cultural identities – can become prey for those with malign intent.
The big challenge is to work with Internet Service Providers to tackle some of the issues of radicalisation and knowledge of the means of violence that come from the web. And we also need to spread the good news stories and celebrate positive role models. If it’s only those who commit acts of violence who make the front page, that doesn’t send out the right message at all.