Maajid Nawaz, the Founding Chairman of Quilliam, a globally active counter extremist organisation, has talked to an audience of students, parents and teachers of Brampton College about the need for a secular democratic movement to create its own narrative to challenge the ISIS ‘brand’ that has gained considerable support. This propaganda of ideas, narrative, leaders, symbolism and goals, so easily spread, needs an alternative five rallying points for the young to identify with. He compared ISIS’s use of the black flag and the image of the French flag which has gone viral on social media this week.
Mr Nawaz is an author and a former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn and he talked openly about extremist ideologies, based on his first-hand experience and the recent atrocities in Paris.
Under the new Government Prevent agenda, all schools now have a legal duty to prevent pupils being drawn into terrorism – defined as not just violent extremism, but also non-violent extremism that can “create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and popularise views which terrorists exploit”. Whilst Brampton has evidently got a compliant approach to this statutory requirement and has been responding to these themes for many years, there are significant concerns that this is new territory for other schools. “It’s far from schools’ normal areas of expertise so there’s quite lot of nervousness and uncertainty about how best to do it – and the stakes are very high,” says Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).
Brampton, a private sixth form college, situated in the heart of North West London, believes that schools and colleges should provide a safe space in which children, young people and staff can understand the risks associated with terrorism and develop the knowledge and skills to be able to challenge extremist arguments. It made a donation to the Quilliam Foundation through its Charitable Trust as it felt the work they do is so important in countering the extremist agenda. This is part of its principle to perpetuate the harmonious co-existence of multi-faiths within the college and the wider community.
Principal Bernard Canetti explains, “It has been a long-term aim to promote a mutual understanding and respect for others’ religious beliefs amongst our students. In fact, students often comment about how Brampton has given them the opportunity to make friends for the first time with those from different backgrounds.” He goes on to say, “Maajid Nawaz is an inspirational speaker, whom I first heard at the Campaign against Anti-Semitism rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice in August 2014 and a signatory to the recent letter opposing BDS. I was very proud to see how all students engaged so well with the talk. In particular the questions asked were really thoughtful and exceptionally impressive. It is a timely opportunity for our students to hear a key thinker of our time, who has a remarkable life-story and presents a voice of sanity and moderation as well as a call to action”.
Transcript of student question and answer session. Click here