Western leaders have been treating Islamic extremism like ‘Lord Voldemort’

Counter-extremism expert says the failure to name and shame Islamist ideology for what it is has led to youngsters joining Isis in their hundreds

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Islamic extremism has been treated like a “Lord Voldermort” taboo subject in Britain, counter-extremism experts have said ahead of David Cameron’s set-piece speech on how the government plans to combat home-grown terrorism over the next five years.

Haras Rafiq, managing director of the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism thinktank, criticised leaders in the West for shying away from naming the ideology that extremists are signing up to.

As a result youngsters are leaving to join Isis in their hundreds because the terrorist organisation satisfies their “longing for identity and belonging” – something that is not offered to them by the increasingly disintegrated British society.

He said political and community leaders must name and shame the ideology that Isis proclaims for what it is: an Islamist ideology.

Mr Rafiq said: "It has so far very much been a Voldemort effect - he who shall not be named - with no-one actually coming out and saying it is an Islamist ideology. It is totalitarian and fascist, it tells people to do things for God in order to rally them to its cause.

"They are taking on this Islamist identity rather than the British identity. This is because IS, for decades, have been peddling this utopian, Islamic caliphate without being challenged within society."

It is not abnormal for young people to rebel, Mr Rafiq says, especially in Britain where rebelling against the establishment is something that is “very British”.

But in lieu of British society offering a feeling of identity and belonging, groups like Isis have taken advantage of youngsters feeling vulnerable at home in the UK and will manipulate them with ideological arguments that offer individuals a route to finding a meaning in life.

Quilliam was set up to address the unique challenges of citizenship, identity, and belonging in a globalised world and is hopeful that today’s speech by the Prime Minister will finally set out a nuanced plan to address the disintegration of British minorities.

In a speech in Birmingham Mr Cameron will suggest that young Muslims are being drawn to fundamentalist Islam in the same way young Germans were attracted to facism in the 20th century.

He will say Islamic extremist ideology is based on the same intolerant ideas of “discrimination, sectarianism and segregation” that led to the rise of Hitler and that still exist in the far right.

“What we are fighting in Islamist extremism is an ideology,” he will say.

“It is an extreme doctrine and like any extreme doctrine, it is subversive. [It] subscribes to intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish.

“Ideas which are hostile to basic liberal values such as democracy, freedom and sexual equality. Ideas which actively promote discrimination, sectarianism and segregation. Ideas – like those of the despicable far right – which privilege one identity to the detriment of the rights and freedoms of others.”