The Age of Extremes- United for Peace: Communities United Against Extremism

As we move into the latter part of 2016, we have witnessed an unprecedented rise in violent extremist and terror-related attacks in Europe, America and globally. The causal factors for the protagonist are not uniform ranging from race hate crimes and shootings in America, to misconstrued and distorted interpretations of faith scriptures to carry out indiscriminate killings of innocence in countries in the West and the East. In Pakistan, on 8 August 2016, terrorists attacked the Government Hospital of Quetta with a suicide bombing and shooting. They killed 70 and injured more than 130 others and sadly recently in Europe we have witnessed an 85-year-old priest- Fr Jacques Hemel being executed at a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray-Normandy, France where the protagonists who committed this barbaric act confessed their allegiance to Da’esh.

Closer to home in the UK, the pre-text to the EU Referendum and whether the UK should remain or leave unravelled pockets of ugliness, hatred, division, ultra-nationalism, insularism and Far Right violent extremism that sadly cost the life of Jo Cox MP who was a dedicated public servant.

Post Brexit, where in principal, collectively the UK have decided to leave the EU by a vote of 52% to 48% subject to further negotiations and legal approvals, we have seen an increase spike in hate crimes up and down the country which is a matter of grave concern.  The new Home Secretary-Amber Rudd has announced a series of new measures entitled the Hate Crime Action Plan to address this current concern along with commissioning the Home Office to complete a study that will look at how police forces across the country understand and deal with hate crime reports. The rise of tensions around race, misinterpreted and distorted religiosity, political, Far Right, economic, social and ultra-nationalistic extremism leads to a pathway of division and hatred of the other which will have catastrophic results for British citizens living on these shores, Europe and globally if these negative trends are not addressed.

As The Oxford Foundation-Representative for the West Midlands & Buckinghamshire, one feels it is imperative now more so than ever that the narrative of hatred and division does not hijack the shared values that we cherish here in the UK.  The Oxford Foundation has launched a national initiative titled “United for Peace: Communities United Against Extremism.”  The idea underpinning the national initiative is simple; it is to affirm the values of love, compassion, respect and understanding as opposed to the narrative of violence, division and hatred advocated by violent extremists of all persuasions-religious and secular. Loyalty to one’s nation is something to be cherished. The first Multi-Faith Service event was held in Oxford in partnership with the Oxford Council of Faiths. Our second hugely successful event was in Birmingham, delivered in partnership with the Chaplaincy Team from the University of Birmingham at the University of Birmingham.  More recently, The Oxford Foundation in partnership with The Lord-Lieutenancies of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, Oxford Diocese, and Oxford Muslim College held a United for Peace: Three Counties United Against Extremism Service at Dorney Lake, Dorney, Windsor. Representation from across the faith, non faith and civic society attend these services to show unity and solidarity against extremism.

It is imperative that the negative currents that are excreted by those that commit acts of terror, profligate extremism, hatred and try to divide us are counteracted and repelled through our shared collective unity and solidarity as key stakeholders in our society firmly holding on to and living out these core teachings in our daily lives.

For further information, please visit The Oxford Foundation website:

By Kaleem Hussain

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