On the 23rd of June, the United Kingdom voted to seal its fate outside of the European Union. This was a significant decision that will no doubt have consequences for our political, economic and security policies for generations to come. At the same time, Extremely Together was represented by myself and Bjorn at the TeRRa 2 Conference in the Netherlands.
I was fortunate enough to be among a cadre of experts, including the Rt Hon Hazel Blears and Members of the European Youth Parliament. I was also able to hear from and learn about the experiences of a group of former extremists from both far right and far left ideologies.
Over the course of two days, we discussed policy approaches to CVE in Europe, brought together examples of best practice and most importantly debated the role of youth in countering radicalization. This was particularly apt for me, as I was only just coming to terms with the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU and the multitude of implications this would have on my life, my work and my community.
During the panel discussion, I shared my experiences and why I am dedicated to countering violent extremism. As a British Bengali Muslim woman, I experienced first-hand a sharp change to how I was viewed by society following the events of 7/7. In light of the recent Brexit vote, this feeling once again resurfaced.
However, despite the uncertainty and increasing feeling of insecurity, I was able to impart to conference attendees one important message. While the UK’s formal relationship with Europe may have been dissolved, this was in no way an end to our co-operation on matters of security. If anything this is a real opportunity to extend the CVE space, re-define security politics by taking it from the hands of officials and governments and re-directing it into hands of youth.
We, as young people, must be recognized and afforded the right to play a crucial role in counter-radicalization. It is only through meaningful peer-to-peer engagement, by sharing our real and lived experiences, combined with positive counter-speech, can we build resilience to all forms of violent extremism and hate.
I am confident that as the Extremely Together mission spreads across Europe and the re-empowerment of youth occurs, that it will be the youth of Britain that helps direct and shape the UK’s future outside of the EU.