This week we visited Lambeth to talk to the council and civil society about the challenges they faces when it comes to challenging extremism.
The borough has complex issues to grapple with. But the local leaders and front-line staff we met are very committed to challenging extremism. We gained useful insight into how authorities are trying to deal with extremism. We heard about gaps in guidance, information and structures that if addressed would help the council in challenging extremism but also in providing support to those vulnerable to extremism in particular young people.
We then went to Loughborough Junction to meet with the Marcus Lipton Centre, which works with local young people, and Baytree Centre, which works with women and girls. As with previous visits, we were inspired by the work these groups do, the challenges they face and their thoughts on how best to counter extremism.
From day one, Sara has stressed the importance of getting out and about and hearing from communities. We have already visited a dozen towns and cities. This visit again underlined the value of engagement.
This is an important moment for the Commission. We have launched our evidence drive with a view to publishing a wide-ranging study on extremism next year. We are coming to the end of a scoping phase when – with the help of experts, activists and policy makers – we’ve been working on narrowing down our focus.
We’re clear we need to consider the scale of extremism, the tactics and objectives of extremists, the harm extremism causes, the current response and how to have a more positive public debate.
One comment that really stuck with us from our Lambeth visit was the importance of giving young people the chance to discuss difficult issues, even those deemed politically incorrect. In an era of social media and echo chambers, having the difficult conversations and challenging ideas and beliefs is vital. Dialogue and open diverse debate is an important tool in countering extremism.
This comment echoed the lively debate at a workshop with faith groups, secular organisations and free speech campaigners at a workshop this week.
Opening the session Sara explained why a study was so important. She said that communities are concerned about extremism – and a handful of brave individuals and groups are trying to do something about it but lack the resources and support. We need to help everyone to do more to challenge extremism. The first step is helping more people understand extremism today in our country and that is why we are working on the study. Right now, we’re looking into what questions we need to ask and how best to answer them. And to help us make those decisions we are continuing to speak to experts, activists and policy makers.