In June 2011, the government published a new ‘Prevent’ strategy aimed at preventing people from being radicalised and being drawn into terrorism.
The document stated, ‘the percentage of people who are prepared to support violent extremism in this country is very small. It is significantly greater among young people’.
This shows the police and security services are not surprised by the flow of young Britons attempting to leave the country to join the Islamic State. It would be wrong to assess that the ‘Prevent’ strategy has completely failed because without it the number of radicalised young people would be far higher.
However, it’s clear that despite the extensive efforts, radicalisation is taking place on an increasingly worrying scale. It is hard to fathom why so many young people are willing to believe conspiracy theorists, that the Boston bombing and the murder of drummer, Lee Rigby were committed by covert government operatives rather than by the convicted extremists.
Or why these young Britons eagerly leave this country on a dangerous journey to Syria, in order to support an idealistic group who revel in beheadings, stonings and tying up homosexual men and hurling them off buildings?
All right minded Britons should surely find these acts abhorrent and wish to campaign against these atrocities, rather than travel thousands of miles to commit them.
Radicalisation is the greatest single security threat to this country and the situation is getting worse. It concerns me politicians rarely mention this issue as part of their election campaign, most likely because it has the potential to lose them votes.
Even teachers are becoming reluctant to talk about radicalisation in schools as they now have responsibilities to challenge extremism, which is set out in new counter terrorism legislation. If there was ever a topic that needed wide and open public debate then it is this. Some people are scared of discussing it because others may regard them as extremists and some are scared of being called racist or targeted by extremists.
Whichever politicians form the next government, as a matter of priority, I would want to see them drag future debates about radicalisation into full public view. This is an issue, which deserves extensive discussion before it gets completely out of hand.