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Chris Grayling: Radicalism is a domestic and international challenge

Let me start by saying what a great pleasure it is to be here with you today to discuss issues that I believe to be of fundamental importance to the future of our two countries, and to the future of our transatlantic relationship.

Few countries enjoy such close ties of kinship and shared adversity as the United States and the United Kingdom. We share a common history, common values and common interests. 

We have been partners in foreign and defence policy over the last century, we have made vast sacrifices together, we have stood side by side for what is right.

This does not mean that there have not been disagreements. Churchill and Roosevelt, presided over huge achievements in Anglo-American co-operation, had many   disagreements over the Second World War and its aftermath. Margaret Thatcher famously complained to Ronald Reagan over the invasion of Grenada. Washington and London had a fundamental and very public disagreement over Suez, and again over the Balkans in the 1990s.    Yet these disagreements have only rarely disrupted a deep and enduring partnership.

Right now the biggest challenges we face as nations are economic. We have a big job ahead in repairing the damage done in the financial crisis we have experienced in the last few years. But we must not forget the importance of the other challenges we face, and particularly those in relation to the security of our citizens.

<h2>Security challenges</h2>

In the last two decades huge changes have taken place. The security environment of the 1980s and now could not be more different.   Last month, we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.   The events of 9 November 1989, in which East Berliners streamed across the wall that held them captive for nearly three decades, changed the face of Europe and the course of history.  However, while the end of the Cold War and the advent of globalization have removed the walls of separation between states, they have also made us vulnerable.

There are many reasons why the world looks likely to be a more dangerous rather than less dangerous place in the coming decades. For previous generations, threats usually occurred because of the rise of a single, dominant adversary. Now we are faced with pockets of instability and a global terrorist threat which are clearly different from those we have faced before.  We are dealing with people who are prepared to do anything, kill any number, and use suicide attacks to further their aims.

It is now far easier for terrorists and criminals to move across international borders, organize, coordinate their activities; to move money, and spread their ideas.   A terrorist today may be a EU citizen, who has been trained in Pakistan, fought in Afghanistan and whose goal is to carry out an attack on the streets of Britain.

Al Qaeda is not a domestic terrorist group focused on a single political issue or geographical area, but an international network with an international agenda.

Often it is not even a network - but a loose collection of groups with a shared militant ideal, but relatively limited organisational ties.

It is also sustained by violent extremist ideology, which regards countries such as the UK and USA as engaged in a global attack on Islam; and considers violent action to be a religious duty incumbent upon all Muslims.    International terrorism is also sustained by unresolved regional disputes and conflicts (particularly Palestine, Iraq Afghanistan, and to a lesser extent Bosnia, Chechnya, Lebanon, and Kashmir) and state fragility and failure.   These factors make the task of identifying and stopping terrorists hugely difficult, and is why international cooperation on the issue is so vital. 

We need to be clear about the level of the threat we face.  In the UK alone , the director-general of MI5 has warned that there are hundreds of terrorists or potential terrorist groups known to the security services in Britain, and thousands of  individual suspects.

Fighting this new enemy will require new tactics. An effective security agenda both in the UK and USA must have key components:

...identifying and thwarting terrorist plots...

...separating the terrorists from their recruiting base...

...and winning the trust of the majority Muslim community...

as well as addressing the geopolitical issues that constitute direct and indirect security threats.

<h2>Approach of the next Conservative Government</h2>

Today I want to set out how a Conservative Government in Britain would approach the security challenges facing us. 

I will say first of all that a key principle underpinning our approach would be our commitment to the transatlantic alliance. We are ready to work with our counterparts in Washington from the opening moments of a new government in Britain if we are successful next year.

That's why I am in Washington this week. To deepen my understanding of the relationship that exists between us in intelligence and security, and of the people who make up the US end of that relationship.

I am absolutely clear that whether it be in matters of intelligence, diplomacy or commerce, the close alliance with the United States is and will remain indispensable to the United Kingdom.  When critics of our closeness to the US fight against terrorism complain that this puts our citizens at risk, the honest answer is that without the intelligence cooperation we enjoy, British citizens would be at greater risk still.

However as David Cameron has said, our commitment will be 'solid but not slavish' in its nature.  Some of the highpoints of Anglo-American cooperation in the last relationship has been the readiness of our leaders to partake in frank debate. 

My Party has always been willing to provide clear and firm leadership in meeting the international challenges we face. I believe we have to be resolute in standing up to the threat of international terror.

But equally we are also determined that it is right to stand up for the rule of law.   We must be careful not to employ methods that undermine it.   Reports of prisoner abuse and of extraordinary rendition flights leading to the torture of terrorist suspects results in a loss of goodwill towards America and its allies.

<h3>Action abroad</h3>

Ever closer intelligence cooperation with our international partners will be vital, given that the membership and activities of terrorist networks are transnational.    This means both sharing analysis and sharing best practice on an international level. 
The attacks in Mumbai last year demonstrated this.  That model of attack could be imitated elsewhere.  So co-operation in investigation and intelligence in relation to emerging tactics is very important in understanding and responding to  the changing nature of the threat. Governments should help each other to stay ahead of terrorists.

Another key element of our approach is the military contribution to countering terrorism.  The single most urgent priority in foreign policy if we come to government will be the American, British and wider NATO commitment in Afghanistan.

It's worth remembering why our troops were originally sent to Afghanistan, why they are there today and why we value so much the sacrifices made by young men and women from both our countries while serving there.

A decade ago, Afghanistan was a training camp for international terrorism. It was the country from which Osama Bin Laden freely operated before 9/11.
Whatever the challenges we face in bringing lasting stability to that country, we cannot go back to the way things were.

Afghanistan cannot again be allowed to become a base that is used by international terrorists to pose a strategic threat to the US, the UK, and our allies and partners.

On Tuesday evening President Obama set out his plans for Afghanistan. We applaud his continuing commitment to stabilising the situation there. We have been very clear in our view that we need a clear sense of purpose in what we are trying to achieve. We need to take major steps towards a stable Afghanistan.
 
If NATO forces simply walked away now, there is a real danger that the Taliban would quite quickly retake the country, providing a base for Al Qaeda. It would also provide the Taliban with a large swathe of territory from which to attack Pakistan. That cannot be allowed to happen.

We all want our troops to return from Afghanistan as soon as possible. But we cannot leave the job half done. So a future Conservative Government will stand alongside the US administration in fulfilling our commitments as quickly and as effectively as we can. And the enhanced commitment of the administration outlined this week to that task is very welcome to us.

Pakistan should be another major priority for us and for our international allies and friends. We must do everything we can to help Pakistan secure a stable, prosperous and democratic future, with a Government capable of controlling terrorist threats and playing an active role in securing a stable Afghanistan. Our connections to Pakistan as a nation, through the very large number of family ties between Britain and Pakistan, give us a particularly important role in this.

What happens in Pakistan is particularly important for a number of reasons. It is now the base for the remaining leaders of Al Qaeda. To some degree the tribal homelands in particular have become a successor to Afghanistan in providing training for would-be terrorists. The progress that the Pakistani government has made in recent weeks in tackling the threat that it faces from the Taleban is very welcome. We will be much less secure as nations if large parts of Pakistan are under the control of militants.

We also need to strengthen Britain's links with many friendly Muslim nations.   A Conservative Government would support and encourage social, economic and political reform across the Middle East and other parts of the world, but it will not engage with those whose aims and methods continue to be violent . 

<h2>At home</h2>

That is an approach we also need to take in our own domestic policies. We face an ideology which would destroy our culture as well as the lives of our citizens, and is rightly repugnant to us.

But it is not the ideology of the vast majority of Muslim people in our countries and around the world.

And the danger is that they become the biggest victims of the threats we currently face.

That they are seen as potential terrorists for just being Muslim.

It's a frustration that I hear again and again from decent law abiding members of the Muslim population - and as politicians we have to take a lead in saying that it is completely wrong and completely unacceptable.

In fact, the research organisation Gallup did a fascinating and important piece of research this summer which showed a stronger degree of identification with British national values and institutions among our Muslim community than among some more long-standing parts of British society.

I suspect that would surprise many people - but it is true.

But this just underlines the need for us to take a tough approach to radical extremism in our society. Because the excesses and sometimes the violent acts of a militant minority cannot be allowed to undermine good community relations.

Radicalisation is a challenge both domestically and internationally.  And just as terrorist networks and plots are transnational in nature, so is radicalisation.

But our Government has missed the risks and threats on far too many occasions over the past decade. And we have sometimes been far too slow to respond to public demonstrations of extremism, in the name of political correctness.

A culture of radical and extremist teaching built up in the UK which should never have been allowed to happen, and which has been dealt with too slowly and too ineffectively.

We saw notorious preachers like Omar Bakri Mohammed given much too much freedom to spread a culture of hate in Britain, and we allowed too many organisations with a message of hate to survive unchallenged.

That has to change.

We have to recognise that those who wish to spread messages of hatred - the destruction of Israel, the overthrow of democracy, the honour of killing British and American soldiers - that those who push such views have and are becoming smarter in the way they operate.

So even though we have finally, and far too late, expelled some of those preachers of hate from our country, they are still getting their message across through technology and with the help of their supporters in Britain.

So we have seen numerous examples of banned preachers propagating their views to British audiences by video or audio link from the countries where they now live.

Sometimes those meetings are quietly organised in public buildings for hire by the public - and discovered only too late. So I urge you to watch for similar actions as you work to prevent the growth of extremism in this country.

If we are in Government, we will take further steps to outlaw such activity - and to prosecute those who organise the propagation of banned ideologies via video and satellite links in public places.

We must also be willing to challenge and where necessary to ban groups that mask an ideology of hate behind a public veil of moderation. We have just such an issue with the radical group Hizb'ut Tahrir. Within the UK it takes extreme care about how it words its propaganda. And claims that those who want it banned are completely misplaced.

But anyone who doubts its true character should take a look at the website for its sister organisation in Bangladesh, which talks about evil American plans to subjugate Muslims, and about mobilising armed forces to eliminate the Jewish entity. We cannot allow such views free rein in our society.

We will not be afraid to take tough decisions with radical extremists who propagate hate.

We have been too willing to allow their groups to operate in Britain.

If we are in Government, that will stop.

We have also been far too willing to tolerate extreme public protests. We have seen public acts which amount to nothing more than incitement against troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

We have seen very public acts of incitement against the Christian and Jewish faiths - and against innocent, law abiding Muslims, and our criminal justice system has been much too slow in its response.

None of this is acceptable and it must change.

But there are also some big lessons for us to learn about our own conduct and approach.

We need to confront the actual ideology that is espoused by extremists - the ideology that can lead vulnerable individuals to terrorism.

But we cannot do that if we compromise the fundamental values of democracy - tolerance, freedom under the rule of law. They must be upheld and defended.

That poses some difficult challenges for us.

It does mean sometimes operating with our arms tied.

But it is a necessary part of winning the battle.

We learned that from our experiences in Northern Ireland.

Our security forces knew full well who the leading members of the IRA were.

Operating outside the law, it would not have been difficult to take direct action against them.

But we also know that when we stepped outside our legal conventions, and introduced internment for IRA suspects, it had the opposite effect to the one we wanted. Internment became the IRA's greatest recruiting sergeant.

Setting aside our principles actually strengthens the hand of the terrorists.

Whereas a determined resistance to their goals using democratic and lawful means in the end is the only way to defeat them.

I believe that we must be passionate about defending our values as we combat the terrorist threat.

That's why we as an Opposition fought strongly against Government proposals to extend powers to detain without charge from the current 28 days to 42 days or 90 days.

It's why we believe we cannot ignore allegations that our Government has been complicit in torture.

It's why we have to maintain the highest standards in the way we deal with suspects both at home and overseas.

That's why we particularly welcome President Obama's decision to close Guantanamo Bay, and his commitments on torture.

And why we should always look to the courts for our judicial response.

None of us, as democracies, will always get all of this right. Mistakes will be made. Misjudgements will be made.

And we have to understand the pressures on individuals in difficult times, particular in the heat of a theatre of operations.

But we must also ensure that we retain a determination to stand four square alongside the founding fathers of our nations and our democracies in preserving the things that have always made our two nations a beacon of light around the world.

And have always made our two countries such a magnet for those seeking a better life for themselves.

There's one other area I want to touch on today.

One of the things I have always admired about the United States is the way in which your citizens manage to retain cultural diversity whilst building a strong sense of ownership for the common values of this great nation.

It is very noticeably how your citizens identify themselves as African Americans, or Italian Americans, or Vietnamese Americans - a juxtaposition of ethnic origins and national identity.

It is an admirable characteristic and one we should seek to build within our own multicultural society.

For too long we have championed an ideology of multiculturalism which has created divides rather than broken them down.

We have supported organisations that themselves support individual ethnic or religious groups and not those which seek to break down the cultural divides in our society.

That is something we will also seek to change.

My view is that it is the role of the state to foster cross-community ties - to encourage individuals, groups and organisations that remove boundaries rather than create them.

People came to the United States from around the world in search of a common vision of a better life - and that sense of a common purpose became, thanks to the vision and values of your founding fathers, a strong sense of national identity.

We have to do the same.

To move on from a doctrine of multiculturalism that has served our country very badly.

To one that really focuses on cross-community unity and a sense of national identity and purpose.

It is also the only way to provide an effective, long term response to the extremist challenge we face.

To challenge an ideology of hate by building a strong sense of identity and community across our multicultural societies.

And by being unashamedly tough on those who seek to propagate a hate-filled alternative.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

We have faced many challenges together in the past.

We are doing so today.

We will do so again.

We have always faced down those challenges by staying true to our shared values and beliefs.

We face a long and challenging road in overcoming the extremist threat we both face.

But I know that we will follow that road together, and together we will get to the other end.

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