Cameron push to tackle radicals

British Prime Minister David Cameron has launched an inquiry into whether universities, prisons, Islamic charities and the internet have been allowed to become a ”conveyor belt” of Islamist radicalisation of the kind that apparently motivated the hacking death of a soldier on a London street last month.

Mr Cameron told MPs that Britain needed to do a better job of understanding the root causes of ”an extremist ideology that perverts and warps Islam to create a culture of victimhood and justified violence”.

He said that a new taskforce was convened on Monday to tackle the problem and that a parliamentary panel would look into whether the May 22 hacking attack on soldier Lee Rigby could have been prevented.

The group is to focus on ways of combating the radicalisation of young people and to gauge the influence of clerics seeking to recruit militants in prisons, schools, colleges and mosques.

Government officials said it would meet once a month.

Mr Cameron described the killing of Drummer Rigby as ”a despicable attack on a soldier who stood for our country and way of life”, but cautioned against any recriminations against Muslims.

”It was a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country,” he said, saluting the ”spontaneous condemnation” of the attack from mosques and Muslim groups across the country.

Only a few hours before Mr Cameron spoke, the two primary suspects in the assault appeared in court for procedural hearings. One of the men, Michael Adebolajo, held and kissed a copy of the Koran during the brief proceedings and asked the judge to address him as Mujahid Abu Hamza, according to reporters who were present.

The Arabic word mujahid is used to describe someone who has taken up jihad, and in this case would appear to confirm that Mr Adebolajo sees himself as engaged in a religiously justified war of self-defence against those who attack Muslims.

The 28-year-old was filmed shortly after the attack in south-east London carrying butcher’s knives covered in blood and describing the death of Drummer Rigby as vengeance for the killings of Muslims by British soldiers in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. He and his alleged co-conspirator, 22-year-old Michael Adebowale, were shot and wounded by police before their arrest. Both are British citizens of Nigerian descent.

”When young men born and bred in this country are radicalised and turned into killers, we have to ask some tough questions about what is happening in our country,” Mr Cameron told the House of Commons. ”It is as if for some young people there is a conveyor belt to radicalisation that has poisoned their minds with sick and perverted ideas. We need to dismantle this process at every stage – in schools, colleges, universities, on the internet, in our prisons, wherever it is taking place.”

Mr Cameron said authorities have tried aggressively to counter extremism by expelling radical preachers and by patrolling the internet. He noted the British government has taken down 5700 items of ”terrorist material” from the internet and nearly 1000 more hosted on servers outside Britain.

Drummer Rigby’s death was the first on British soil as a result of Islamist terrorism since the July 2005 suicide bombings in London.

However, 18 people have already been convicted this year of planning terrorist attacks, including one plot that failed only because the intended target, a rally by members of an anti-Muslim far-right group, ended earlier than expected. The plotters were caught afterwards because of an unrelated traffic violation.

Los Angeles Times, New York Times

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