Mayor calls to tackle violent extremism
31 January 2019
THE MAYOR of London, Sadiq Khan, is calling for improved and renewed efforts to tackle violent extremism in the capital, after new research found that nearly two-thirds of Londoners would not know how to seek support from the authorities if they were worried about an individual being vulnerable to violent extremism.
Amid the threat from violent Islamist groups – and the growing threat posed by far-right extremists, Sadiq welcomed last week’s announcement by Ministers of an independent review of the Government’s Prevent strategy. An independent review is one of the early recommendations from the Mayor’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programme, following a full and frank assessment by City Hall officials of existing counter-terrorism initiatives in London. Initial findings have shown that significant improvements need to be made to increase trust and transparency among some of London’s communities.
To inform London’s efforts to tackle radicalisation and violent extremism, the mayor commissioned research in April last year to understand what Londoners’ views and experiences of extremism are, focusing on how they would identify and refer any concerns they had to the police or another authority.
This research forms an early part of the innovative and extensive engagement undertaken as part of the Mayor’s Countering Violent Extremism programme and found that:
- 61 per cent of respondents thought that the threat from extremism is increasing.
- 25 per cent of respondents had witnessed or experienced extremist views in the past 12 months.
- 17 per cent of respondents had witnessed or experienced views promoting or supporting acts of terrorism in the past 12 months.
- 65 per cent of respondents see strong, cohesive and integrated communities as the most effective way of reducing the risk of people carrying out extremist acts, hate crime and terrorism.
- 64 per cent of respondents would not know how to seek help from the authorities if they were worried about an individual being vulnerable to manipulation or exploitation towards extremism or terrorism.
- 24 per cent of respondents would feel confident about being able to spot the signs that someone might be vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation towards extremism and terrorism.
The mayor launched his Countering Violent Extremism programme as a recognition of the growing threat from extremism and radicalisation that is operating at a heightened scale and pace across the country. This recognition was reflected in the research where 61 per cent of respondents thought that the threat from violent extremism is rising.
Sadiq is clear that more needs to be done involving all London’s communities, charities, civil society, faith groups, the government, police and relevant authorities to help Londoners understand the risk of radicalisation, as less than a quarter of respondents said they were confident they could spot signs that someone might be being exploited towards violent extremism.
The programme’s findings also indicated that while there have been good examples of the government’s initiative preventing vulnerable people from being radicalised, there is evidence which shows there are sections of society that will not engage with the Prevent strategy, and the mayor is concerned about the impact this could have on people that arguably need this support the most.
Even the government’s own home office statistics revealed referrals from communities to Prevent have remained incredibly low for three years running, which suggests that the strategy is not reaching the areas of London that are harder to engage.
This is why the mayor welcomes an independent review into the government’s Prevent strategy, as his programme found that while the strategy was effective in reassuring some communities, it alienates others and improvements must be made to ensure this is a strategy that works across London and is able to engage its diverse communities.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Violent extremism is one of the biggest threats facing London and our country. We simply must do better at safeguarding the vulnerable and stopping people from promoting these vile ideologies with such horrific consequences.
“There is a role for all of Londoners in tackling the spread of violent extremism, but this research shows that unfortunately, the Prevent programme is failing some of the communities that most desperately need it. I welcome the government’s announcement last week of an independent review of Prevent to ensure a better programme that has greater community confidence.
“We have to do more to empower communities to speak out and challenge hate crime and extremist views. We need communities to report concerns to the police and local authorities, and find lasting solutions that will stop the spread of violent extremism completely.”