Skip to main content

David Cameron: Islamic State group is an ‘existential’ threat to the UK

The British prime minister has said 'extremists' are acting as 'a gateway to terrorism' in the UK
British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a press conference at the European Union (AFP)

British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday morning that the Islamic State (IS) group poses an “existential” threat to the United Kingdom.

Speaking to the BBC after an attack in Tunisia on Friday that killed at least 30 Britons, Cameron described the fight against IS as “the struggle of our generation”.

“They [IS] have declared war on us,” he told Radio 4 presenter James Naughtie. “They are attacking our way of life – we must stand with others who share our values.

“Rather like when we were fighting Communism in the Cold War, it’s a battle of our values and our narrative against their values and their narrative.”

IS has risen to prominence in Syria and Iraq since declaring a caliphate at the end of June last year. Since then a US-led coalition has targeted the group in over 6,000 air strikes, and despite the UK contributing little more than 300 bombing raids, Cameron insisted that his country is playing a key role in military operations.

The British leader said IS must be “crushed” militarily in Syria and Iraq. He added that in Libya, where the group have gained a foothold in the midst of a debilitating civil conflict, the priority must be to support talks aimed at forming a unity government.

“As long as ISIL is present in those countries we are at threat,” he said, using an alternative acronym for IS.

However, Cameron was keen to stress that the battle against IS is not just a question of “terrorism” but is also an issue of dealing with those who peddle an “extremist narrative”.

Writing in the Telegraph on Sunday, the British prime minister said it is Islamism that must be combated, if IS and other similar groups are to be defeated.

“We must be stronger at standing up for our values – of peace, democracy, tolerance, freedom. We must be more intolerant of intolerance – rejecting anyone whose views condone the Islamist extremist narrative and create the conditions for it to flourish,” he wrote.

Cameron said on BBC Radio 4 that “extremists” are acting as a “gateway into terrorism”. He explained that he believes the only Muslim organisations that should be engaged by the government are those who support what he described as "our [British] values".

“We should engage with [Muslim] organisations who want to build an integrated, democratic, successful, multi-racial Britain,” he said. “That’s what I believe in, and that’s what most Muslims believe in. Speaking with people who don’t take that view isn’t helpful.

“Some organisations set themselves up as being representative of Muslim communities, when actually they are not.”

Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed on Sunday that the Home Office will establish a new extremism analysis unit, which, according to a Guardian journalist on Twitter, is “drawing up a blacklist of extremist individuals and organisations”.

Prime Minister Cameron did not name any of the "extremist" organisations in his BBC interview, but has in the past condemned advocacy group CAGE for suggesting the security services contributed to the crimes of Mohammed Emwazi, a British citizen who joined IS and has appeared in a number of videos purporting to show the execution of two American journalists and two Britons – one an aid worker and the other a humanitarian.

CAGE had documented that Emwazi – who is popularly known in the media as “Jihadi John” – was harassed by the security services for at least four years prior to his joining IS in 2013.

Cameron also ordered a review into the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in April last year, announcing at the time that he would challenge "the extremist narratives that some Islamist organisations have put out". 

Publication of the review has been repeatedly delayed by the government, allegedly due to it not condemning the Brotherhood as terrorists. The review was originally rumoured to have been commissioned under pressure, according to the Financial Times, from British Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who have both outlawed the group.