Speech by Sadiq Khan, Labour's Mayoral candidate for London, to the House of Commons Press Gallery

Speech by Sadiq Khan, Labour's Mayoral candidate for London, to the House of Commons Press Gallery

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“I want to talk to you today about a very serious issue. I want to talk about the rise of extremism and radicalisation in Britain. The terrorist attacks on Paris last Friday were an attack on our way of life. These horrendous crimes were committed by sick and evil individuals, in the name of a sick and evil ideology. A grotesque and perverse worldview - which has nothing to do with the Islam that I know.

“The terrorists’ aim was to divide us. And to use fear to change our way of life. But we are not going to let that happen. They will fail. Instead of dividing us they will only make us more united. And more determined to root out and destroy them and their poisonous ideology.

“The solidarity and humanity since the attacks has been inspiring.

“From the churches, temples and Mosques that opened their doors to offer shelter to those caught in the mayhem. To the Tricolour beamed onto Tower Bridge and around the world at the World Trade Centre, Sydney Opera House and the Redeemer statue.

“And to Wembley Stadium on Tuesday, where I joined 70,000 England fans in a proud and defiant rendition of the Marseillaise.

“Proud to sing not one national anthem but two! The message has been clear: we will not be divided. We will defeat the terrorists.

“And to defeat the extremists we simply must do more to stop radicalisation in Britain. It doesn't just affect us in these awful moments of violence and terror. It is a cancer eating at the heart of our society - all the time. And if we’re honest - not enough has been done to root it out. And in this week of all weeks that makes me angry. Angry because for too long we have buried our heads in the sand.

“I believe that British Muslims have a special role to play in tackling extremism. A special role not because we are more responsible than others - as some have wrongly claimed. But because we can be more effective at tackling extremism than anyone else. Our role must be to challenge extremist views wherever we encounter them.

“To challenge this perverse ideology, and to insist that British values and Muslim values are one and the same.

“To give the next generation of Muslim leaders the confidence to own the debate and defeat the extremists.

“As a nation, we also have to do something about the social segregation which creates the conditions for radicalism to thrive.

“For decades successive governments have tolerated segregation in British society. In doing so, we've allowed the conditions that permit extremism to continue unchecked.

“We’ve protected people’s right to live their cultural life at the expense of creating a common life. Too many British Muslims grow up without really knowing anyone from a different background. Without understanding or empathising with the lives and beliefs of others.

“And too many British people have never befriended a Muslim. Never worked together, never eaten together, never played sports together. As a result, too many people have formed a single identity - too often based around their religion or ethnicity. 

“This creates the conditions for extremism and radicalisation to take hold. Social segregation will not go away on its own. Tackling it will take a prolonged and concerted effort by us all.

“And this fight is personal for me. Like all parents, I want to know that my daughters are safe. I worry that they or their friends could be groomed by extremists on the internet. Or tricked into running off to Syria like other children have been. 

“Extremism isn't a theoretical risk. Most British Muslims have come across someone with extremist views at some point - and so have I. It's affected my personal life, my friendships, and my career.

“People I knew as a boy have gone on to hold extremist views, and even to act on them in terrible ways. When I was a lawyer, as well as representing people who were badly treated by the police or their employers, I sometimes had the unpleasant job of representing people with extremist views.

“It was horrible - but it went with the job. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to challenge the hideous views of seemingly intelligent and articulate people.

“People who look and sound like normal Londoners, until they say that 9/11 was a Mossad conspiracy. That the Jewish workers in the twin towers were tipped off and escaped.

“That Western foreign policy is the cause of all the world’s problems. That there could be a land of milk and honey, if there was an Islamic kalifate. I could go on.

“My family and I are lucky. Our parents brought us up to be deeply patriotic. To understand that Islam is a tolerant, compassionate and peaceful religion. 

“To know the difference between right and wrong. We get that there is no contradiction to being British and Muslim.

“But that has made us a target for those who think differently.

“Every time I’ve stood for Parliament I’ve been subjected to a campaign of hate. Extremists came and protested outside Mosques in my community.

“Handing out leaflets telling the congregation – my friends and neighbours - that voting is banned in Islam. Telling people I’ve known since I was a boy that I am destined to go to hell. They say that Muslims shouldn’t take part in democracy. That we shouldn’t help to make man-made laws.

“It's been painful for me and my family. No one wants to discuss police protection advice with their young daughters. And I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I’ve experienced because of these people. ----

“I know that there is so much more we can do. I believe that David Cameron and Theresa May are sincere in their desire to tackle extremism. David Cameron was right to establish a commission into social integration in Britain, led by Louise Casey.

“I look forward to hearing Louise’s proposals for improving integration, and tackling extremism. Because we cannot tackle extremism without addressing the reality of social segregation in Britain.

“And as Mayor of London, I'll act. For too long Government has sought to tell people what unites them. I'll give people the chance to work it out for themselves. I'll bring together schools and youth charities to ensure young people mix in meaningful ways.   

Working with the Football Association, the England and Wales Cricket Board and others to set up community sports leagues bringing together kids from different communities.

“I want to see students at faith schools and mainstream schools not just playing against one another in the same league, but side-by-side on the same team.

“But for all of the Government's well meaning, I am concerned that they are making decisions that will make it much harder for us to tackle extremism.   

“I’m particularly concerned about the massive cuts to policing that have been proposed. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has warned that further cuts to neighbourhood policing will make it more difficult to gather the intelligence we need to stop extremism.

“Counter terrorism increasingly relies on information gathered from communities, and less on intelligence services at home and abroad. The hollowing out of neighbourhood policing puts intelligence gathering work at risk. That is a price we simply can't afford to pay.

“It's also clear that we need to radically overhaul de-radicalisation programmes like ‘Prevent’. Decent, law-abiding people view these programmes as counter-productive. And despite these programmes, we still see more young people becoming radicalised. They are clearly not working. 

“As Mayor, I’ll work with the Government and grass-roots

organisations to make these programmes work. Not enough has been done to ensure that children can’t access extremist materials on the internet.

“Because radicalisation doesn't happen via sermons in Mosque. It happens in the unguarded spaces of the internet. I will work with the Government to force the internet providers to get their act together. 

“The vast majority of Muslims in Britain are proud, patriotic and hardworking members of our society. They are industrious and entrepreneurial – contributing massively to our economy. They are charitable and compassionate. And they want us to tackle the extremists more than anyone else. 

“Because like me, they are the worst affected by it. And that’s why I decided to speak out today. Because we can't go on any longer thinking that this problem will solve itself. It won't. We must act to challenge the extremists and make Britain a properly integrated society once and for all.”

ENDS


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