On the 26th October 2017, over 40 influential Muslim community representatives, with constituency, travelled from across England to share their perspectives on the impact of the terror attacks in London and Manchester in 2017. At a time of intense national scrutiny on Muslim communities a neutral space was felt necessary to discuss, identify, prioritise challenges and reach consensus on the solutions moving forward.
The aim of the discussion was to provide a positive platform for affected communities to share their reflections with parliamentarians, policy makers and national media representatives. Participation reflected a diverse network of grassroots community interlocutors including academics, community practitioners, faith and youth leaders and included communities from where the violent extremists emerged. The meeting was chaired by Dominic Grieve QC MP, Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Panellists and speakers included Max Hill QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation; Mohammed Khozbar, Chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque and Amna Abdul, a Libyan community psychologist from Manchester (pictured).
The discussion enabled a spotlight to be focused upon the ongoing challenges facing diverse Muslim communities since the unprecedented spate of terror attacks which shook the UK. This crisis brought into focus the challenges facing community-government relationships which if left unaddressed have consequences for all concerned. Participating national and local Muslim organisations feel underused, ignored and that the national government is out of sync with their concerns and visions for the future. Since the attacks, grievances continue to coalesce around perceived threats to ethnic and religious identity, in particular for young British Muslims. The subsequent sense of isolation and demoralisation is compounded by overwhelmingly negative media portrayals; a noticeable rise in religiously and racially aggravated hate crime; individual and community trauma caused by terror attacks and subsequent security response and a worrying disengagement of young Muslims from public life.
Since 2008, communities have been frustrated and have worked to change the active policy of ‘disengagement’ with perceived ‘problem’ Muslim groups. There is no ‘silver bullet’ which can answer the question of ‘how to respond to terrorism effectively’, however, limiting the spaces for inclusive discussion on key issues can fuel the chance for mistrust, misunderstanding and grievances being exploited by those at the extremes.