One of them worked in a call centre, another was a Primark shop assistant.
Last year six men from Portsmouth abandoned their friends, their families, and their lives on the south coast of England to join ISIS, the death cult that enslaves women, crucifies homosexuals and beheads its enemies.
We all must reject the pernicious ‘Islam vs the West’ narrative that only drives a wedge between communities, radicalises vulnerable people and makes us all less safe
Just this week a 17-year-old boy from Yorkshire became the UK’s ‘youngest suicide bomber’.
These people, born in Britain, leave everything behind to join a Middle-Eastern outfit that wishes to murder innocent Western civilians.
Tackling the extremism that fuels this nihilistic violence is one of the most important challenges facing us today. To do so we need more transparent community engagement, better education and a total rebuttal of the ‘Islam vs the West’ narrative.
The first step in stopping radicalisation is preventative work in the communities where it is found.
Whilst no religion has a monopoly on fanaticism, in 2015 the greatest threat to our security is from Islamic extremism, so we need to develop fresh partnerships with mosques and other Muslim community groups, and to help them show at-risk individuals that the British state is on their side.
Unfortunately the government’s Prevent strategy is still viewed with suspicion in many Muslim communities. A sense of distance from and even grievance with the British government fuels radicalisation, so we need to be transparent about who we are engaging with, and engage more widely.
Efforts to reach out to local community organisations will not be enough – radicalisation now takes place online.
Our security services need the powers to track those who seek to radicalise others, but we also need to equip young people with the skills to be critical of propaganda. Education is a shield against extremism.
Yet tackling extremism is not just an issue for the government. British values are Islamic values; British Muslims serve in our Armed Forces, work in our NHS and employ people in businesses across the country.
There is no conflict between being both British and Muslim. We all must reject the pernicious ‘Islam vs the West’ narrative that only drives a wedge between communities, radicalises vulnerable people and makes us all less safe.