Violent extremism is one of the greatest challenges to this country's security today. Since 2001, there have been nearly 200 convictions for terror-related offences, with more prosecutions being prepared. This is testament to the hard work of the police and security services. But the solution to this challenge does not lie in arrests alone. It lies in making communities resistant to extremist messages, in equipping them with the skills and confidence to stand up to poisonous ideology and, ultimately, in stopping people getting to the point where they can contemplate committing violence.
This is one of the central aims of the government's renewed counter-terrorism strategy, published in March. It means that government, both national and local, is engaged in an unprecedented level of dialogue and interaction with the UK's Muslim communities. This is not — as some mischievously imply — because the government believes all Muslims to be terrorists. Rather, we know that extremist recruiters look to target people from Muslim communities, using a "single narrative" concocted from half-truths and conspiracy theories. We also know that there are courageous men and women in those communities who want to make their voices heard, standing up for decency and common humanity. We must support them.
Crucial though this dialogue between government and communities is, it is subject to myths and misunderstandings.
The first myth is that "dialogue" means ministerial colleagues and I meeting a small handful of familiar faces while in London. The fact is that there is no one Muslim community in the UK. There are many Muslim communities, with different ethnic origins, religious and cultural traditions. The government has long recognised that achieving a meaningful dialogue means reaching all those people. This means local contact is vital. With support from the government's PREVENT programme, town halls have renewed and deepened their contacts at the grass roots. At a national level, we have encouraged new voices to join the debate, including those who may not have been heard in the past, including women and young people. This is especially important as these are often the same people with a unique viewpoint and insight to reach out to those most at risk.