UK Mus­lims seek own path in coun­ter­ing ji­hadism

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

LON­DON: Feel­ing un­fairly tar­geted by the gov­ern­ment’s anti-rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion drive, Bri­tain’s Mus­lim com­mu­nity is ral­ly­ing to find its own re­sponse to ex­trem­ism and take a greater role in the fight against ter­ror­ism. The Mus­lim Coun­cil of Bri­tain (MCB) has planned a se­ries of con­fer­ences around the coun­try where com­mu­nity lead­ers, activists and oth­ers will speak out against ji­hadist ide­ol­ogy, but also gov­ern­ment se­cu­rity mea­sures they say alien­ates Mus­lims.

“We do know that for any pol­icy to suc­ceed it needs to in­volve Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties as part of the so­lu­tion and not only as part of the prob­lem,” said MCB sec­re­tary gen­eral Shuja Shafi at the first of a se­ries of con­fer­ences in Lon­don this week. The ini­tia­tive comes as con­cerns mount over the num­ber of Britons heed­ing calls by the Is­lamic State (IS) group and other ex­trem­ists to launch at­tacks do­mes­ti­cally or fight abroad. IS has been blamed for a string of out­rages, in­clud­ing co­or­di­nated at­tacks in Paris Fri­day that left 129 dead and more than 350 wounded.

Mo­hammed Emwazi, a Bri­tish mil­i­tant known as “Ji­hadi John”, be­came the poster-child for IS af­ter he ap­peared in pro­pa­ganda videos de­pict­ing the ex­e­cu­tions of Western hostages. Emwazi, who the US mil­i­tary said was likely killed in an air strike in Syria on Thurs­day, and other ji­hadists who have con­ducted grisly at­tacks in re­cent years have cast a pall over ties be­tween Bri­tain’s Mus­lims and wider so­ci­ety. “We feel like many in our com­mu­nity do, that for too long ter­ror­ism has cast a long dark shadow on our com­mu­nity,” said Shafi. The gov­ern­ment has re­peat­edly called on Mus­lim civil so­ci­ety to help counter the lure of ji­hadist ide­ol­ogy, but such mea­sures have been poorly re­ceived.

A Jan­uary let­ter to imams invit­ing them to “ex­plain and demon­strate how faith in Is­lam can be part of the Bri­tish iden­tity” was crit­i­cised as im­ply­ing that Mus­lims were not part of Bri­tish so­ci­ety.

‘Cul­ture of sur­veil­lance’

Con­fer­ence del­e­gates de­cried a gov­ern­ment anti-ex­trem­ism pro­gramme called “Pre­vent”, which was launched af­ter July 2005 sui­cide at­tacks in Lon­don by four Is­lamist ex­trem­ists, three of them Bri­tish-born. “Pre­vent is sup­posed to con­cern all types of ex­trem­ism but all ev­i­dence shows that through train­ing, re­port­ing, the real fo­cus is on Mus­lim stu­dents,” said Shelly Asquith of the Na­tional Union of Stu­dents, who has cam­paigned against the pro­gramme.

Crit­ics say it creates a “cul­ture of sur­veil­lance”, and since the start of the year lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, schools and uni­ver­si­ties have been re­quired to re­port any­one show­ing signs of rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion.

In Septem­ber, po­lice ques­tioned a Mus­lim school­boy who used the word “ecoter­ror­ist” in a dis­cus­sion in French class about en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivism.

“If you’re gen­uinely con­cerned about en­gag­ing with the com­mu­nity then it can­not be done through the prism of se­cu­ri­ti­sa­tion, the prism of Pre­vent,” said Yas­mine Ahmed, di­rec­tor of UK Rights Watch. For­mer po­lice chief su­per­in­ten­dent Dal Babu, one of the few Mus­lims and Britons of Asian ori­gin to achieve the rank, said Pre­vent was a “prob­lem”.

“We need to make sure that Pre­vent is for the peo­ple, by the peo­ple and has the trust of the peo­ple. Un­for­tu­nately we are not in that po­si­tion.”

Ex­perts puz­zled

One of the dif­fi­cul­ties in pre­vent­ing rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion is that the process is not well un­der­stood, con­fer­ence speak­ers said. Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures, more than 700 Britons have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq, and of those nearly 300 have re­turned.

“The rea­sons for rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion of th­ese young peo­ple go­ing to Syria are com­plex and multi-lay­ered. There’s still no con­sen­sus about what’s go­ing on,” said Ca­tri­ona Robertson, di­rec­tor of the Chris­tian Mus­lim Fo­rum. So­cial me­dia has been cited by many as a key IS re­cruit­ment tool, but ex­perts say it is dif­fi­cult to take ac­tion against con­tent that is mostly posted abroad.

Ban­ning peo­ple from ac­cess­ing such con­tent is also dif­fi­cult. “What is the tip­ping point? Why do young Bri­tish cit­i­zens, de­spite ev­ery­thing we have to of­fer, sud­denly de­cide to get up and go to Is­tan­bul and end up in Syria?” said law­maker Keith Vaz, chair­man of par­lia­ment’s home af­fairs com­mit­tee. “The prime min­is­ter is gen­uinely puz­zled by this-I’m gen­uinely puz­zled.”—AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.