Youths turning to Jihad because mainstream religion not ‘exciting’ enough – Welby

Young people are turning to Jihad because mainstream religion is not "exciting" enough, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Most Rev Justin Welby told faith leaders that Britain’s religious communities must do more to provide an alternative to extremism which gives young people a “purpose in life”.

He also warned against being too quick to brand people and groups with strong views on religious matters as extremists.

Nothing will ever be achieved if the only conversations which take place involve “nice people talking to nice people about being nice”, he said.

The Archbishop’s comments came as he hosted a reception at Lambeth Palace for leaders from most of the major religious communities in the UK.

Asked by one Anglican cleric whether it was too simplistic to ask only what the Muslim community is doing to prevent radicalisation, he said it would be wrong to blame politicians.

“The longer I do this job the more I see that politics involves making incredibly difficult decisions with too few resources, too little information and too much hurry,” he said.

“It’s just the reality, decisions have to be made and it is often unbelievably difficult, politicians know that quite often they are doing the best they can and the more I see of them the more I reckon that it’s very rare to find one who isn’t doing the best they can but often in incredibly difficult situations.

“I think we also have to recognise that there are some problems that don’t have a good solution.”

But he added: “I would want to turn the question back to us as religious leaders and say to the faith communities: what are we doing that provides a narrative about purpose in life and commitment to society and benefits of a purposeful, flourishing life that is so exciting that the evil temptations offered by extremist groups of all cultures and types anywhere in the world including this country are simply paled into insignificance?

“And that's a challenge for us, and let's get our house in order and [only] then question the politicians.”

Pressed on how to define an extremist he said: “Extremists are always someone else – you never hear someone – or very seldom – say: 'I'm an extremist'.

“In our context, and I'm probably further along than some people, partly because of a long experience in dealing with conflict ... that you only deal with it when you deal with the people who are the extremists.

“I think the greatest danger we have is hallowing out the middle, the mainstream, by driving people to the edges, by marginalising those who disagree with us and calling them extremists.

“My feeling is that extremism becomes a serious problem when it advocates violence and disruption and oppression – that we ought to be able to have the confidence as a society and in our own faiths to cope with very vigorous expression indeed – provided it is not seeking to create hate, violence or oppression and where that is the case then you begin to see extremism.

“But if we define extremism too widely, then we narrow the mainstream too much, then it's only nice people talking to nice people about being nice, then you can't make much difference.

“But I know a lot of people would disagree with me very profoundly on that.”