A GRASSROOTS campaign led by a coalition of Muslim leaders, charities, and community groups against the radicalisation of young people in the UK has been backed by senior clerics and others from the Church of England.
The recently retired Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, and the Sub-Dean and Urban Canon of Leicester Cathedral, Canon Barry Naylor, are among the early signatories of the Fightback Starts Here coalition, which launched in an open letter last week.
The campaign pledges a collective effort against extremists who groom young people, such as the three east London schoolgirls who fled the UK for Syria in February. All were described as "grade-A students" at Bethnal Green Academy (News, 27 February). One of the three, Amira Abase, now aged 16, was this week reported to have married an Australian-born Islamic State (IS) fighter a month after she arrived in Syria.
The Fightback campaign is supported by the families of the two British aid workers killed by IS militants in Syria, David Haines and Alan Henning (News, 19 September; and 10 October 2014).
The open letter said: "We work every day to protect young people at risk from radicalisation, but it . . . demands a coordinated and concerted response.
"Today — with one voice — we launch our collective fightback against those who wish to do us harm. We reach across the boundaries of our backgrounds to come together in unity with one aim in mind — to protect our communities, our families, our young people and our way of life.
"United, we declare that we reject the lies extremists spread . . . We pledge to work together to defeat their poisonous ideology: by sharing our knowledge of how extremists seek to exploit young and vulnerable people, and our experiences of what works in response; by coming together to meet regularly, and to agree a coordinated effort."
Canon Naylor said that the faith communities in Leicester had a very close working relationship, and building such relationships across the country was key to the Fightback campaign. "We need to do everything we can to ensure that young people, especially, have a better vision of the way they can solve the world’s problems, without violence or terrorism.
"The Christian community must lead by example — one contribution we can make is to speak with one voice and build up relationships with other faith communities and those of no faiths, and show we are listening."
The anti-extremism charity Upstanding Neighbourhoods is sending victims of IS into schools to combat the organisation’s propaganda. At the Saltley Academy in Birmingham, which was accused of being involved in the "Trojan horse" scandal, three young Iraqi women told teenagers how they were kidnapped and raped by members of IS.
Henna Rai from the charity said that IS’s propaganda was so "vast" that a counter-narrative was urgently needed. The campaign hopes to recruit 10,000 people to tell their stories and to reach those whom IS may target via social media.
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