Those on the margins: A comment on radicalisation and terrorism in the UK.
I recently wrote about Kamila Shamsie's book 'Home Fire' which deals with the issues around marginalisation, terrorism and radicalisation which you can read in my earlier blog posting.
Then by pure chance connected to this was the main headline in the next morning's Sunday Times that suggested British voters were increasingly turning to the far right and that this was connected with a feeling of hostility through anti-Islamic sentiment.
Politicians, journalists and members of the general public have been at pains to say that Islam as a religion has nothing to do with Islamic State and of course they are right Islamist terrorism is political and no ,the Koran does not subliminally support IS in florid verse (I got a very different impression reading the Koran it a few years back).
A few thoughts flow from the above paragraph though. How many people in the secret world of our own head really do understand the above assertions? Do a larger than comfortable number of people in the UK and the world believe that underneath the layers, people of faith through Islam are to be treated with caution, suspicion or at worst contempt?
74% recently said in 2017 that compared to a year ago, Britain is a more divided than united country. More alarmingly, 57% in the same poll said Britain was a more racist country than a year ago and only 6% said it was not. So the trend then wasn't encouraging and there is no recent data to suggest anything has massively improved.
So are people conflating Islam as a religion with Islamist terror? Most people say no, but increased marginalisation, increased anti-Islam feeling... does this suggest otherwise?
How does the UK try and unite it's citizens more so that the margins do not grow but the feeling of one nation of many stand together? Is Prevent by the UK government enough to root out marginalisation? Do we also as a nation have to face up to the fact that radicalisation won't just go away through counter terrorism, that we as a society also have a role to play. So many questions are there and Shamsie's novel touches on them all.
Here's some further thoughts and perspectives. Should our public media explain Islam more? Should we have more people on radio and TV talking about their Islamic faith, as much as we have Christians doing the same? Should there be greater representation of people of faith in prime-time drama? Religion is not greatly spoken about in British socierty, but do our dramas show enough people who have a faith, who are shown practicing it, even if the scenes are unspoken (someone simply looking up... talking about a prayer they've spoken or walking to a religious institution for a brief visit). Are we as unassuming and secular as our TV habits would like us to believe?
An analysis by YouGov made a headline recently that Britain had the most right wing press that was too negative about immigrants and immigration. So therefore do second generation Britain's feel they really 'belong' to our United Kingdom or again are we conflating migration with the second or third generation who largely know only Britain and British values?
There's probably an element of everything in the conclusion. Those who love the UK and feel loved by the UK and those who don't.Those who tolerate openly and privately, those in between and those who don't. We all hope that the majority sit in the former camp.
There is one certainty though. The UK like any other country will always have foreign nationals inside and have had so for a very long time. The numbers can be debated, but we are surely a better society if we are tolerant and where necessary highly vigilant. There's no doubt we live in dark times where citizens have violent intentions for mass terrorism. They are currently planning them and intending to carry them out inside our country and we shocked and alarmed. Equally, we have a society that benefits from those who bring over all those things we cherish in our own lives. We would be a foolish country to have a largely 'one size fits all' negative view of those who enter and those who practice differently to us before they have uttered a breath.