Fifth of UK youngsters 'sympathise with extremist rhetoric'

Tony Blair Institute calls for UK to examine extremist views as part of a ‘whole society approach’

A police officer stands in front of Finsbury Park Mosque in London. The UK is doing little to tackle Islamist extremism. EPA
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One in five youngsters in the UK has sympathy with some extremist rhetoric, research by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) discovered.

Speaking at a TBI webinar, Cristina Ariza, a research analyst at the TBI, said countering extremism had to be a priority for the British government.

The TBI conducted a nationwide survey of youngsters from Muslim and white backgrounds on what they think about extremist views, discrimination and integration.

It revealed 6 per cent of young white people believed their country should be home to white people only and 30 per cent believed Islam was a violent religion.

One in five young Muslims interviewed said they thought there was “an unresolvable conflict between Islam and the West”.

"The majority of people did not agree with extremist views [80 per cent]," Ms Ariza said.

“However, a significant minority of 20 per cent for some of the narrative found sympathy in extremist statements.

“What this is telling us is that there are some elements of the extremist world view, aside from violence, which in our sample showed one in 10 people agreeing or sympathising with violent statements, of individuals that see resonance in these non-violent expressions of extremist statements.

“This is something that definitely should not only be looked at in terms of law enforcement but a whole of society approach.”

Last week, the UK's anti-radicalisation initiative Prevent announced it recorded the first increase in referrals in four years.

The programme, which was created to monitor potential terrorist activity in the UK, reported a 10 per cent increase in cases flagged to the authorities from April 2019 to March this year.

In that period, there were 6,287 referrals to the programme, after a record low of 5,737 last year.

About 1,500 of those referred were over concerns about Islamist extremism, an increase of 6 per cent from 1,404 previously.

Cases of right-wing extremism were almost unchanged at 1,387, from 1,388 previously.

Earlier this year the UK's independent counter-extremism adviser Sara Khan began a legal review over concerns there are gaps in the law that allows extremists to push their agenda without punishment.

It is being headed by a former senior counter-terrorist police officer.

In a report published a year ago, she described the current response to extremism as inadequate and unfocused and she demanded an overhaul of the system.