Uniting Against Extremism

LONDON – Governments worldwide are increasingly facing a fundamental question: how to deal with the causes of violent – often religiously motivated – extremism. They are not short of advice – and from a wide range of sources.

A former Al Qaeda member, for example, recently stated that the UK authorities’ failure to explain properly why it had not intervened in Syria’s civil war risked radicalizing more Muslims. Meanwhile, London Mayor Boris Johnson suggested removing children from radicalized parents. Although such ideas have received a somewhat mixed reception, they are a welcome sign of much-needed public debate.

Most people accept the need for security services to respond to terror, particularly in the aftermath of an attack. Achieving lasting change, however, requires addressing not just the consequences of extremism but also its root causes. What can be done?

First, governments must start thinking about education as a security issue. For example, while endlessly worrying about the existence of dangerous material online, we could do more to educate our youth in the critical thinking skills needed to dismiss such content.