Tackling extremism and defeating ISIL will be high on the agenda for David Cameron as he meets with leaders in south-east Asia this week.
The Prime Minister will depart today for Indonesia – the first stop in a 4-day trade mission as part of the government’s efforts to boost exports and secure inward investment.
In bilateral talks with President Widodo in Indonesia and later in the week with Prime Minister Najib in Malaysia, the Prime Minister is expected to raise the threat from Islamist extremism and discuss what more the UK can do with countries in south-east Asia to defeat terrorism.
There are growing concerns that the next ISIL affiliation or branch could emerge in south-east Asia, where ISIL and other extremist groups are pumping out propaganda in local languages and where a number of extremists such as Abu Bakar Bashir have pledged allegiance to the Islamist terrorist group. Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population – around 220 million and Malaysia face the same threat of foreign fighters as the UK and other European countries. Around 500 Indonesians are thought to have joined ISIL in Iraq and Syria as well as 200 from Malaysia.
The Prime Minister is keen to explore whether the UK can offer more practical counter-terrorism co-operation to both countries, for example on disrupting foreign fighters and aviation security. He also wants to hear from politicians, religious leaders, and young people how they are tackling the extremist narrative and to look at how the UK can learn from their approach and encourage them to share their experience with others. Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population – 220 million – and people there working to better understand the drivers of extremism in Indonesia and to design more effective institutions. While Malaysia – also a Muslim majority country – has a tradition of tolerance and religious moderation, it is also experiencing a rise in extremism and local civil society groups are working to boost vibrant and inclusive religious debate to address the local root causes of radicalisation.
Following on from the Prime Minister’s speech on Monday and as the government continues its work to develop a counter-extremism strategy, the visit will provide the opportunity to better understand what kind of interventions are working in Indonesia and Malaysia and consider whether these lessons can be applied in the UK context to reduce the terrorist threat here.
Ahead of the trip, the Prime Minister said:
ISIL is one of the biggest threats our world has faced. We will only defeat these brutal terrorists if we take action at home, overseas and online and if we unite with countries around the world unite against this common enemy.
Last Monday, I set out what more we need to do at home to tackle this extremist ideology and build a stronger, more cohesive society. This week, I’ll be talking to leaders in south-east Asia about what they’re doing to keep their country safe from these Islamist extremists.
All of us face a threat from foreign fighters and from increasing radicalisation within our countries and it’s right that we look at what help we can provide to one another. I think Britain can offer expertise on practical counter-terrorism work – dealing with the threat from foreign fighters and investigating potential terrorist plots. And I think Britain can learn from Indonesia and Malaysia on the work they have done to tackle the extremist ideology and to build tolerant and resilient societies.