LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday that moderate Muslims in Britain should speak out against Islamist militants, saying it was wrong to deny any connection between their religion and acts of violence.
Cameron outlined a counter-extremism strategy designed to halt the spread in Britain of the radical ideology promoted by Islamic State militants (IS or ISIL) in Syria and Iraq - what he called the “struggle of our generation”.
He also demanded that internet companies do more to help fight the spread of radical ideologies.
An aim of the strategy will be to target “home-grown” militants. Around 700 Britons are estimated to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join IS militants, some of whom have since returned.
Cameron said to meet that goal, the religious drivers behind extremism had to be acknowledged and that moderate Muslim voices needed to be heard.
“Simply denying any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists doesn’t work,” he said. “It is an exercise in futility to deny that and more than that, it can be dangerous.”
Announcing a range of initiatives, he singled out internet companies for criticism.
“When it comes to doing what’s right for their businesses they’re happy to engineer technologies that track our likes and our dislikes,” he said, without naming specific firms.
“But when it comes to doing what’s right in the fight against terrorism we too often hear that it’s all too difficult - I’m sorry I just don’t buy that.”
Cameron is preparing to extend Britain’s fight against IS overseas by seeking parliamentary approval to undertake anti-IS bombing missions in Syria. Britain currently only conducts airstrikes in neighboring Iraq, although pilots seconded to allied air forces have taken part in air strikes.
Interfaith group Faith Matters broadly welcomed the strategy but cautioned against placing the blame on religion.
“Positing ideology as the main driver overlooks a multitude of factors that drives individuals toward violent extremism,” the group said in a statement.
“The oversimplification of the drivers toward radicalization risk alienating swathes of British Muslims.
Cameron also sought to take direct action after a spate of cases involving young Britons leaving their families to link up with IS militants they had contacted through online social networks.
The government would introduce a scheme to enable worried parents to apply directly to get their child’s passport canceled to prevent travel, he said.
Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Michael Holden; Editing by Angus MacSwan