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How we take on the terrorist threat in our homes and neighbourhoods

The whole country has been left stunned and horrified by the recent attacks in Westminster, Manchester and now London Bridge. What other cities and countries have experienced at the hands of Daesh has now come to our shores and we need to understand how to cope with this threat. More than ever, we’ve got to learn how to be resilient and vigilant.

WARN works with women to identify the early signs of radicalisation. That threat has changed from people fleeing to go and join Daesh in Syria to forming terror cells here in the UK and carrying out domestic attacks. It’s appalling to think that there are people in our communities who would even contemplate such acts. But clearly they exist. So what must we do to turn the tide on Daesh?

More than anything – all of us must recognise the risk. That might sound obvious. But what I mean is that we must fully acknowledge the existence of violent Islamist extremism as an ideology used to radicalise people into murderous acts. Grievance alone is never enough. Grievance opens the door in the brain through which terrorist ideology can enter. It’s that ideology that rationalises terrible deeds and creates a barbaric logic for stabbing and shooting complete strangers.

Extreme right wingers have been busy on Twitter this weekend saying the problem is all Muslims. It isn’t. The Islamist extremist ideology I refer to uses Muslim theology – but it also relies on those it wins over to have a low level of understanding of their faith. Time after time, Daesh terrorists convicted in court have been found to have a shaky grasp of Islam. If they really understood the Qur’an and hadiths, they wouldn’t find any justification for terrorism.

The overwhelming majority of Muslims who have ever existed since the time of the Prophet have lived peacefully with their neighbours. The same applies today. We believe in Islam but don’t use it as a weapon to attack our fellow citizens. That is what separates Islam the faith from Islamism, a historically recent and supremacist ideology. Islam urges co-existence. Islamist extremism demands world domination. There’s a big difference!

Many young Muslims in Britain today are searching for their identity. They may no longer accept the cultural Islam of their parents from wherever they originated. Everybody has a right to define themselves and go on a journey of discovery. All young people do that and it can be the most exciting phase of your life. But a tiny minority go down the wrong path. Or more accurately, a tiny minority are lured down the wrong path.

In this digital age, there are new challenges for families. Young people are in their bedrooms online and who knows what they are watching or who they are speaking to. You don’t want to be over-prescriptive or try and regiment their lives but you also need to spot those tell-tale signs that something may not be right.

So I urge you to get involved with WARN. Come and talk to us or attend a workshop and get some good advice on keeping your family safe. This threat will not disappear overnight. And it will only be rolled back when we start to share our knowledge and support each other.

Henna Rai, WARN