Disillusion with politics is fuelling extremism, young Muslim leader warns


Extremist ideology is being fuelled by disillusion with politics, a young leader with the Kofi Annan Foundation has said. 

Fatima Zaman said there was a need to recognise the roots of all extreme views, and it was the country's tolerance and respect for different cultures that made Britain great.

"Across the entire spectrum, from the far right, the far left and Islamist inspired extremism, there exist certain commonalities.

"Irrespective of the type of terrorist organisation, extremist ideology is fuelled by discontent, social fragmentation and a disillusion with the political order of the day," the 23-year-old east Londoner said.

Ms Zaman, who will speak at a gathering of young people with leadership potential at the One Young World Summit in Ottawa, Canada, this week, was driven to tackle extremism following the July 7 bombings in London.

Through her work as a civil servant, and with the Kofi Annan Foundation initiative Extremely Together, she aims to show "there is only so far hate can travel".  

She said: "There is an onus on the media and society to drown out extremism by amplifying the voices of reason, using positive stories to defeat extremism and by offering a better alternative narrative.

"This is exactly what Extremely Together aims to do. We are not just stating what we are against, but also what we are for."

Engaging young people in discussion about subjects such as foreign policy, often held up as a reason men and women travel to join organisations like Islamic State (IS), is an effective means of discouraging extremist views and encouraging critical thinking, Ms Zaman added.

"The extremists state that being British directly contradicts being Muslim and that the two identities should always be at war. But the great thing about being British is tolerance for other cultures, understanding of difference and respect for culture," she said.

"There is so much diversity in the UK and we as a nation celebrate our differences. It's particularly important for me to highlight my different identities and show how I am comfortable with being both British and Muslim.

"I am the representation of a balance, of peaceful co-existence and it is this that allows me to challenge the extremists' claims that being Muslim is not compatible with being British." 

The One Young World Summit brings 1,300 young leaders from around the world together to discuss issues from climate change and extremism to animal rights and poverty, with pledges made to be acted on throughout the year. 

Speakers at the four day event this week include Sir Bob Geldof, Cher and Kofi Annan.