The grassroots action comes from the London mayor after a record number of young people get arrested for terrorism offences.
By: Shubham Ghosh
London mayor Sadiq Khan on Wednesday (7) announced a record £725,000 investment for grassroots community groups with the goal of empowering them to counter extremism; tackle the rise in hate crime offences; and protect Londoners from radicalisation.
The investment is part of the mayor’s fund of more than £2 million to back grassroots community groups to stand up to hate and the move comes at a time when a record number of young people are being investigated for terror-related offences and a new warning that far-right extremists are increasingly being radicalised online.
Major cities across Europe have been targeted in recent terror attacks, with a bomb blast in a busy area of Istanbul killing six people last month and a terror incident outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital in November 2021. Since then, recommendations made by the Manchester Arena Inquiry have called on all frontline emergency services and responders to strengthen preparedness against the threat of terrorism which is constantly evolving.
According to a release from the mayor’s press office, the cost-of-living crisis has also exacerbated existing concerns about young and disenfranchised Londoners being exposed to hateful ideology online. The mayor is continuing to work closely with the Met, key agencies, and security partners and has ensured that the capital is significantly better prepared for a terror attack than it was five years ago, as a result of the Lord Harris Review that he commissioned.
Also, investment from City Hall to tackle all forms of extremism coincides with the launch of this year’s Counter Terrorism Policing Winter Vigilance Campaign, which is a nationwide policing initiative that encourages the public to be extra vigilant and to report anything suspicious when attending Christmas markets and other mass gatherings during the festive season.
Khan’s grassroots fund will support community and grassroots groups across the capital to run projects and educational activities to help empower Londoners of all ages to challenge racist, extremist, and hateful views in their communities.
Since their launch in 2020, tens of thousands of Londoners have directly benefited from grassroots projects that tackle all forms of hate and extremism, including racism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, incel ideology, religious extremism and misogyny.
A number of projects are already underway, thanks to the mayor’s funding, and they include:
The mayor has been clear that extremism and bigotry of any kind has absolutely no place in London and his fund is focused on investing in projects that work to address and diffuse the complex drivers of extremism through education and understanding as part of his work to build a safer London.
“We know that uncertainty and hardship can create fertile breeding grounds for hatred and division as extremists take the opportunity to prey on impressionable young Londoners,” Khan said.
“My continued investment in grassroots initiatives has already ensured that thousands of people in our city are actively engaged with projects and programmes working to strengthen our communities and encouraging everyone to reject extremist ideologies,” he added.
“This is part of my ongoing commitment to make our city fairer and safer for all so that more Londoners are better equipped to resist the threat of extremism.”
Commander Richard Smith, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said, “We’re becoming increasingly concerned about the number of young people who are being drawn into extremist and terrorist activity. The work we do though Prevent, in close partnership with others, including the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), is vital in helping to steer those who are vulnerable away from the dangers of extremists and terrorism. Whilst this work is vital, so too is the support of the public – in particular parents and carers – to be vigilant and get in touch and to act early, in order to prevent their loved-ones from going down a dangerous path towards radicalisation.”
Nigel Bromage, founder and CEO of Exit Hate UK, said, “Far-right extremism today can reach anyone, causing damage and hurt everywhere it touches.
“Seeking to offer a safe route away from right-wing extremism, Exit Hate has benefited from the support of the Mayor’s Shared Endeavour Fund by facilitating us to develop a programme called ‘Peace Advocates’. The project seeks to train local people to spot the signs which could highlight that someone is potentially vulnerable to or targeted by far-right extremists alongside showing participants where to access specialist and non-judgemental help and support.
“Understanding the growing threat from right-wing extremism, the Shared Endeavour Fund is crucial to supporting small independent charities like ours to deliver critical work in the heart of communities and empower local people to create positive change. Without this support, many well placed and willing stakeholders simply would be unable to play impactful roles in keeping their family, friends and communities safe.”
According to Hadiya Masieh, founder and executive director of the Groundswell Project, “The legacy of the Coronavirus pandemic has had lasting effects on young people. The experience of becoming suddenly isolated, feeling a sense of true fear for the future and finding solace in increased online activity created potential openings for extremists to exploit. Alongside the pandemic, other big issues such as increased societal polarisation and the cost of living crisis are continuing to create platforms for those who peddle hate and extremism to susceptible young minds.
“At Groundswell Project, we use the lived experience of former extremists to share their stories and give young Londoners the tools to identify the manipulative tactics of extremists and reject hate. Our policy of drowning out the loud minority, whose ambition is to promote division, suspicion and intolerance with a groundswell of love, positivity and the defence of our shared values is proven to be impactful in tackling hatred.
“But we can’t do this on our own. The support of the mayor of London’s Shared Endeavour Fund has been invaluable in helping us deliver meaningful workshops with young Londoners across the capital and continue our work to find, connect and amplify those who want to promote love and inclusivity as well as inspire positive change.”