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So what does this mean for social work, and for social workers?

I believe social work has responses to make, at different levels.

That is what we are supposed to be fighting against, according to our political leaders, but we are actually doing quite a good job of encouraging it.

The response to terrorism has, tragically, been largely tribal and exclusive rather than multi-cultural and inclusive.

Social work, as a human rights based profession, cannot stand by and accept this erosion of the rights of our fellow citizens, whether Muslim or not.

We really have more to fear from the responses to terrorism than we do from terrorism itself.

One cannot understand contemporary terrorism without understanding the historical background, and the sad fact is that in most western countries, including yours and mine, there is a profound ignorance of the history that had led to where we find ourselves today.

For example it is important to remember the historical legacy of religious tolerance taught and practised by the Muslim religion, often in sharp contrast to the violent and oppressive history of Christianity.

On top of this, the significant erosion of human rights and civil liberties through various forms of ‘anti-terrorism’ legislation, in your country, in mine, and in other countries in the west, has left all of us less protected and more vulnerable to arbitrary state action, and even among a group as privileged as those of us in this room, there are, I know, people who have felt this threat at first hand.

Furthermore the exacerbation of racial, cultural and religious intolerance, bigotry and discrimination, whipped up by frenzied and hysterical conservative media, and allowed to fester by governments which either actively or passively condone such obscenity, has resulted in suspicious and divided communities, and in many people feeling deeply persecuted, devalued and in some cases directly terrorised by the threat of arbitrary violence, aimed simply at a population group rather than at any individual.

One of these, which in the current climate is particularly courageous, is to apply a classical social work systemic analysis to terrorism, refusing simply to pathologise the individual, though of course strongly and unreservedly condemning their violent actions, but seeking to understand those actions in a wider context, just as a social worker would do with any offender.

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