We all have a role in beating extremism

MP John Hayes
MP John Hayes
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‘God is dead’ declared the German thinker Fredrick Nietzsche at the end of the 19th century. In the place of the Judeo-Christian tradition, Nietzsche argued, we should create our own value system without regard to the moral absolutes of good and evil. Though Nietzsche’s rejection of God heralded the turmoil of the early 20th century, probably the most terrible epoch in all human history, the awful idea that characterised his thinking – that morality is relative – remains fashionable to this day.

For the most part moral relativism is the result of lazy thinking – an easy excuse to turn a blind eye to behaviour that, deep down, we all know to be unacceptable. At its worst, relativism is a subversive notion used by those who wish to undermine the values on which our freedom depends. In this malevolent endeavour such extremists are aided and abetted by those who have lost faith in the nation – complete with its abiding values – which nurtures them.

A misguided writer in the Guardian newspaper recently argued that the problem with the Government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy, which aims to stop the spread of radicalism in schools, universities and elsewhere, is that it relies “upon a very clear idea of what is considered extremism and what is not, when it comes to Muslims, many educators find it difficult to make that distinction”. I am confident that, in fact, the majority of British Muslims would be insulted by this idea that Islamic extremism is difficult to spot. The acceptability of extremism does not vary in relation to a religious or ethnic group: what is wrong is just plain wrong.

Recently I travelled to Spain to represent the UK at a United Nations conference on such matters. As I said there, “all that stands between us and chaos is order which all we do is designed and made to preserve”.

‘Prevent’ is focused on challenging all forms of terrorist ideology, supporting people who are vulnerable and working with institutions where there are risks of radicalisation. We must challenge the extremist ideas that lie at the heart of the terrorist’s dogma. As the Prime Minister said in his recent ground-breaking speech on extremism: “You don’t have to support violence to subscribe to certain intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish.”

The ‘Prevent’ strategy, for which I am now responsible in Government, is about stopping the poisonous influence of extremist ideas used to legitimise terrorism.

As one of my heroes, the great philosopher and politician Edmund Burke, wrote: “When bad men combine, the good must associate.” Protecting those who are at risk of radicalisation is a job for all of us. We must work together to challenge all those who despise all we are.