My Lords, the problems of terrorism and extremism were mentioned more than once in the gracious Speech, and I will speak on this subject. Unfortunately, I have suffered civil strife and terrorism most of my life, first as a young child in 1947, when killing and carnage followed partition of India, then in Belfast where I have been living since 1966. There were some 16 bomb attacks on my businesses; I have been held at gunpoint and robbed while my family was held hostage. I believe that such experiences qualify me to speak on this subject.
Against this background in Belfast, I sought, over a long time, to work for peace, through facilitating dialogue in my own home between people from opposing sides when it was considered impossible or too dangerous to do this. We are, essentially, facing a global conflict. We know that it has an ever-widening international reach and today it comes with various name tags. Sadly, the current international crisis is based on the actions of a limited few from Islamic communities. I recognize that Islam’s core message is one of peace and harmony, but that message has been distorted so that those seeking to radicalise others use a version of Islam to brainwash vulnerable people, even to the extent of them becoming suicide bombers.
We should concentrate our efforts to mobilise opinion internationally to counter this threat. This should include international conferences in an attempt to settle on a common agenda to defeat the scourge. We must also explore whether there are any deep-seated reasons and genuine grievances being exploited to radicalise young people who are born and brought up in otherwise peaceful European cities. Why are they prepared to join these extreme groups? What is the trigger leading these young people to the extreme of killing innocent people and being willing to kill themselves in the process?
Dialogue with Islamic countries and communities will be essential, and they too need to acknowledge their role and to put their own house in order to combat extremism wherever it is being nurtured and supported in their midst. In the case of people in Islamic communities who have influence and are willing to discuss the issues peacefully, we must facilitate genuine and respectful dialogue with them. As to those who have passed the point of no return, their actions must be resisted with great force and their message constantly challenged. It is a long struggle. There are no easy answers nor any early solutions. The international community must work together, and without any “ifs” and “buts”, when condemning such terrorism. We need to fight a war on many fronts but ultimately we must do so based upon the same principles on which the world fought against Nazism. I am convinced that Islamic communities are aware that they will need to develop, as a priority, their own means of condemning violence and promoting peaceful dialogue.
It may be of interest that in Northern Ireland it was ultimately the local communities, including women’s organisations, which proved particularly effective in condemning violence and denouncing those who offered succour to the violent. Comparative valuable efforts were also made by churches of various denominations. The terrorists will not win but they will not be readily defeated. This requires international commitment and effort at every level. This war is likely to prove a long haul, but terrorism can ultimately be isolated and defeated.
Are the Government convinced that the Prevent strategy, in its current form, is working? What are they going to do to ensure that the many hundreds who we know pose a threat are properly monitored? How can communities work with the Government to stamp out the evil of terrorism?