MEET THE DE­RAD­I­CALIS­ERS DE­RAD­I­CALIS­ERS

Grazia (UK) - - 10 Hot Sto­ries - WORDS ANNA SIL­VER­MAN

Fol­low­ing the re­cent con­vic­tion of Birm­ing­ham woman Ta­reena Shakil on ter­ror­ism charges, Grazia re­ports on the peo­ple do­ing ev­ery­thing in their power to stop those young Bri­tish Mus­lims who are trav­el­ling to Syria to join IS

WHEN TAMARA* TOLD HER MUM she only wanted to live among Mus­lims, it nat­u­rally came as a shock. The teenager, who had pre­vi­ously been a One Direc­tion fan and loved hav­ing her friends over to lis­ten to mu­sic, was al­ways on so­cial me­dia. Now, the 15-year-old said she be­lieved in a global caliphate and didn’t think it pos­si­ble to be Bri­tish and Mus­lim at the same time. Grad­u­ally, she had been pulled into rad­i­cal Is­lam through Twit­ter, to the point where she was con­sid­er­ing leav­ing her sub­ur­ban, Lon­don ter­race, where she lived with her mum, dad and sib­lings, and go­ing to Syria.

As­tounded and ap­palled, Tamara’s mother was at a loss to know what to do. So, on the ad­vice of a friend, she turned to Sa­jda Mughal OBE, a 7/7 sur­vivor who set up a pro­gramme called Web Guardians to help par­ents whose chil­dren are at risk of be­ing rad­i­calised. Sa­jda started vis­it­ing Tamara sev­eral times a week over cof­fee.

‘Ini­tially, Tamara was hes­i­tant to co­op­er­ate and tried to hide her views. But slowly, over a 10-month pe­riod, she opened up,’ Sa­jda says. ‘She’d say things like, “I don’t want to live in a so­ci­ety that’s not right.” I called in a faith leader and youth ser­vices – pro­vid­ing her with a friend­ship net­work. It struck me that Tamara lacked role mod­els she could iden­tify with and felt seg­re­gated. She was search­ing for a way to be­long.’

Tamara is one of hun­dreds of young 

Bri­tons who have been rad­i­calised. Thanks to her fam­ily’s – and Sa­jda’s – in­ter­ven­tion, Tamara never did travel to Syria. Other par­ents, how­ever, have not been so lucky.

When Grace Dare’s par­ents named their lit­tle girl, they picked a name that means kind­ness and good­will in the Bible. They never dreamed the pop-lov­ing teen, who en­joyed fi­film stud­ies and foot­ball, would grow up to be­come a Ji­hadi bride. But when the 24-year-old Mus­lim con­vert flfled to Syria with her tod­dler son, Isa, she be­came the lat­est young Bri­ton to join IS’S (also known as Daesh) fi­fight for a caliphate. Last month, Isa, now four, made head­lines af­ter ap­pear­ing in an IS pro­pa­ganda video af­ter his mother said she wanted to be the fi­first Bri­tish woman in IS to kill a Western hostage. Then, just last week, he ap­peared in a new video, ap­par­ently blow­ing up a car with three hostages trapped in­side.

But why, when we hear sto­ries of be­head­ings and hostages be­ing burned alive, are young Bri­tish Mus­lims still be­ing per­suaded to join this death cult?

Adam Deen, a for­mer mem­ber of banned Ji­hadi ex­trem­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion al-muha­jiroun, told Grazia, ‘The peo­ple who are do­ing these bar­baric things and the peo­ple who travel to Syria to join them think they’re ac­tu­ally serv­ing God. It’s brain­wash­ing. IS say they will give Mus­lims a chance to live a pure Is­lam. They’re tap­ping into the minds of in­se­cure, young Mus­lims’ crude un­der­stand­ing of the world.’

Last month, the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion launched the Ed­u­cate Against Hate web­site and the Govern­ment also pro­posed new laws that would give even nurs­ery staff a duty to re­port chil­dren at risk of be­com­ing ter­ror­ists. Com­mu­ni­ties are wring­ing their hands try­ing to work out how to stop young peo­ple from be­com­ing rad­i­calised on­line, and fam­i­lies of those who flflee of­ten have no idea that their child had ter­ror­ist ten­den­cies.

Adam was a mem­ber of al-muha­jiroun for 10 years be­fore re­ject­ing the group’s views and join­ing counter-ex­trem­ism think tank The Quil­liam Foun­da­tion. Dur­ing this time, his fam­ily were un­aware he was burn­ing Amer­i­can flflags out­side Down­ing Street or that he was de­vel­op­ing a close re­la­tion­ship with the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s no­to­ri­ous founder, An­jem Choudary.

‘I was a nor­mal teenager,’ Adam ex­plains. ‘I did the whole girls, club­bing, drink­ing thing. But I started fifind­ing it bor­ing and thought there must be more to life. When I was 18 I de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in Is­lam, but found that I couldn’t re­late to the el­ders at my mosque. One day, a young guy was hand­ing out leaflflets and talk­ing about Is­lam in a way I could ac­tu­ally re­late to. Be­cause he was around my age, he cap­ti­vated me.’

There are 2.71 mil­lion Mus­lims liv­ing in the UK. Since 2011, some 800 are thought to have trav­elled to Syria and Iraq to join IS. Like Grace, they in­clude women and fam­i­lies. ‘So­cial me­dia has al­lowed IS to achieve what no other ex­trem­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion has been able to,’ adds Adam. ‘They’re so­cial me­dia-savvy and pro­duce 1,200 pieces of new ma­te­rial ev­ery month. To­day, ex­trem­ists are able to reach and in­doc­tri­nate peo­ple on a mass scale.’

Rashad Ali, a con­sul­tant for the Of­fi­fice for Se­cu­rity and Counter-ter­ror­ism, speaks to girls whose sis­ters have run away and boys whose un­cles have left the UK, and helps them un­der­stand that they aren’t duty-bound to fol­low. ‘Some are be­ing told by their fam­i­lies to join them, so they feel torn. Emo­tion­ally, they feel they should and, re­li­giously, they feel obliged to join the cause.’

Rashad, who spe­cialises in de­rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and is also a se­nior fel­low at the In­sti­tute for Strate­gic Dia­logue, says young Bri­tish Mus­lim women who are be­ing rad­i­calised on­line are be­ing told that Western so­ci­ety has no re­spect for them. Although the West grants women more rights than coun­tries like Syria and Iraq, they’re be­ing rad­i­calised to think it’s ex­ploita­tive. Boys who go to Syria or Iraq are more at­tracted to the fi­fight­ing, whereas girls are go­ing to sup­port the ‘new state’.

‘Ev­ery­one is sur­prised that young girls who are do­ing well in their GC­SES are dis­ap­pear­ing. But they’ve been cap­tured emo­tion­ally and in­tel­lec­tu­ally,’ Rashad adds. ‘There’s a con­certed ef­fort to tar­get younger peo­ple. It’s sim­i­lar to groom­ing.’

The Home Of­fi­fice is work­ing closely with coun­cils, the po­lice and com­mu­ni­ties to of­fer ad­vice on recog­nis­ing signs of ex­trem­ism. Part of their strat­egy is to pre­vent ter­ror­ism through their work with mosques, faith groups and schools. These meth­ods are be­ing adopted in the Lon­don bor­oughs of Tower Ham­lets and Waltham For­est, where some res­i­dents gen­er­ated head­lines af­ter be­ing rad­i­calised. Deb­bie Jones, in­terim di­rec­tor of chil­dren’s ser­vices at Tower Ham­lets, says the Pre­vent pro­gramme is about mak­ing sure chil­dren have the skills to recog­nise the mes­sages others might try to push on them.

Even­tu­ally, Tamara re­alised the ide­ol­ogy be­ing ped­dled to her was wrong. Sa­jda says, ‘Now, if I men­tion that pe­riod, she’s em­bar­rassed and ashamed. She’s study­ing for her A-lev­els and wants to do medicine at univer­sity. I shud­der to think how dif­fer­ently things could have turned out.’

How­ever, this wasn’t the case for lit­tle Isa, who should be in his sec­ond term of pri­mary school. In­stead, he’s in a war zone, be­ing used as a pawn by those whose mes­sage to the world is un­fath­omably sin­is­ter: ‘We will kill non-be­liev­ers.’

Left: Mus­lim pro­tes­tors at Down­ing Street in 2011. Be­low: Bri­tish IS con­vert Ta­reena Shakil (with her son Za­heem) – now jailed. Bot­tom: rad­i­cal preacher An­jem Choudary awaits trial

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.