Phil-Champain-portrait-200x200Phil Champain, 3FF Director

On 1st March this year 3FF convened a group of thinkers from the diplomatic, peacebuilding and inter-faith fields at St James’s Palace to discuss the ‘local implications of the struggle for ideas against ISIL/Daesh.’ We did this because we are concerned with the impact of actions of and responses to ISIL/Daesh on local communities where 3FF and our partners work. The January atrocities in Paris preceded the event. Atrocities in Brussels came after it. Muslim communities remain under increasing scrutiny, which puts further pressure on community relations. The Prevent duty requires many of us to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’.  And we do not know what to do with refugees fleeing ISIL/Daesh held territory (the narrow defeat of an amended bill to allow 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees into the UK from Europe a case in point).

We wanted to air our concern in a safe but robust space with those determining and implementing the foreign policies of nation states (many Ambassadors were present) and those dealing with domestic social relations. In our global interconnected world the former influences the latter. We know that to be successful in the work we do it is necessary to get to grips with the broader context in which our work takes place. This event was an occasion for doing just this.

‘Most diverse communities develop relatively successful strategies for rubbing along though a process of mutual adaptation… in spite of rather than because of the actions of government.’

Proceedings began with a talk by Professor Mike Hardy (Coventry University) which we share with you here. His views are his own and not those of 3FF. I thank him for giving us the opportunity to share them with you. Mike provided an effective stimulus for the conversation that ensued under Chatham House Rule. Mike’s essay is interesting from a number of perspectives and I would like to draw your attention to a few points that stand out for me, whilst encouraging you to read his essay in full. Interestingly, these perspectives are significant in what they say more broadly about our communities, rather than what they say about ISIL/Daesh.

Mike places his essay against a complex contextual background that includes ‘demographic shifts of an unprecedented scale’ over the past two decades, a media ‘largely uncomfortable with acknowledging the role of faith in almost every aspect of life’ and ‘inequality and political, economic and structural issues that may outweigh anything else.’ Though we should not allow the complexity this implies to justify any abdication of accountability and responsibility for the actions of ISIL/Daesh, we should nevertheless run towards such complexity and contextual considerations rather than seek simplistic explanations.

Another point of interest for me is the ‘growing body of research’ Mike points to that highlights how ‘most diverse communities develop relatively successful strategies for rubbing along though a process of mutual adaptation… in spite of rather than because of the actions of government.’  This is both a positive nod towards the myriad of community relations projects underway in different parts of the country, and also a challenge to policy makers. We await the outcomes of the Louise Casey review on integration with much interest as we continue to work with the challenges the Prevent Duty presents.

‘Taking dialogue seriously and using dialogue to validate a social capital that dilutes the difference between… the haves and the have nots.’ In other words, dialogue that can dismantle power imbalances.

Importantly, Mike focuses significantly on the need for a counter narrative, but specifically one about ‘taking dialogue seriously and using dialogue to validate a social capital that dilutes the difference between… the haves and the have nots.’ In other words, dialogue that can dismantle power imbalances. This can only happen if we find ways of enabling exchange and connectivity not only between different faiths, beliefs and identities, but also between those with different levels of access to power.

This connectivity and contact is critical to what 3FF is about. Dialogue is one expression of this contact. But Mike also uses the term ‘humility-in-action’. For me this chimes with the need of our dialogue to be productive. For it to lead somewhere. ‘Humility-in-action’ legitimises the contribution we can all make to the bigger picture, to the struggle for a dialogue-led counter-narrative, and not only though talking but through doing. Which is why, for example, 3FF’s ParliaMentors leadership programme has a social action component.

These are just a few reflections on a thought provoking piece by Mike Hardy. It opened up an interesting discussion amongst those assembled. There was, of course, a wide variety of views and perspectives from the audience – on how much the struggle for ideas is about politics or about religion; about the real nature of the challenges presented to us by globalisation; about whether connectivity and dialogue extended to members of ISIL/Daesh; about the nature of belonging and the current, immediate impacts of migration. This was not easy or comfortable territory. But it was important, safe and robust discussion about a complex and important issue, the impacts of which many of us face and deal with. Thank you Mike for helping us in our continued navigation of this particular terrain.

Read Professor Mike Hardy’s essay ‘Local Implications of the Struggle for Ideas against ISIL/Daesh’