Wednesday, 29th July 2009
United front to help beat extremism
23 July 2009
By Adam Wolstenholme
"YOUR democratically elected governments continually perpetrate atrocities against my people all over the world. Your support makes you directly responsible.
"We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation."
These were the chilling words of Mohammed Sidique Khan, the Dewsbury-based mastermind of the July 7 bombings, in his posthumously-released video address.
The world view he expressed is one that terrorists seek to impose upon impressionable young people.
Fighting the psychological battle against such tactics is Kirklees Council's leader, Mehboob Khan, who is the local government national leader of Prevent.
Prevent is one of four strands of the government's national strategy to combat violent extremism, the others being Protect, Prepare and Pursue.
Its remit is to challenge the extremist ideology by disrupting extremists, supporting those who are vulnerable to them, and addressing the grievances they exploit.
As Mohammed Sidique Khan, who lived in Batley before moving to Thornhill Lees, showed in his video address, terrorists play upon grievances arising from British foreign policy.
But Coun Khan believes that discussion and awareness of global affairs is healthy.
He said: "Although British foreign policy is a grievance it is not the sole cause for people to become terrorists.
"It is one of the areas that violent extremists will exploit to try to get people on board.
"Our Muslim communities and other young people do take an interest in what is happening outside Britain. Many have families and contacts abroad.
"We need to enable them to freely have discussions about what is going on
Stimulating further debate is healthy and a better understanding will help us all to denounce those who are trying to use this as yet another tool to turn innocent people into violent extremists.”
Coun Khan said the young in particular were vulnerable.
He said: “This is because of a range of circumstances – for example where they don’t feel they belong, feel a sense of disengagement, have had personal experience of being treated unfairly or have witnessed this.”
This picture of angry, alienated youths fits with what we know of Hammaad Munshi, the Dewsbury teenager who, at the age of 16, was jailed last year for plotting to kill non-believers.
What can be done to prevent similar cases?
Coun Khan said: “For us, it’s all about building on our work to empower communities more and building cohesion within and between communities.”
While some may see terrorism as an Islamic issue, religion can be the solution rather than the problem.
Coun Khan said: “Young men who are devout will understand Islam is a religion of mercy and does not permit terrorism and therefore will be much less prone to extremism as they will be able to challenge the more radical and extremist interpretations of their religion.”
There is mounting concern among anti-terrorist police about a threat from the far-right – the conviction of Neil Lewington at the Old Bailey of terrorism and explosives offences last week being a recent example.
Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Sir Norman Bettison warned a security conference this month of a ‘growing right-wing threat.’
Coun Khan said: “For Kirklees, Prevent is about all forms of violent extremism and terrorism.
“This could include far-right extremism, animal extremism and religious extremism.”
Recent initiative in Kirklees have focussed on women and young people.
Coun Khan cites the examples of the Kirklees Women’s Alliance, Dewsbury Together, and performances across Kirklees of GW Theatre’s play One Extreme to Another, which explores how young people can be drawn into terrorism.
He added: “We want to engage with all sections of the community and create an environment where people don’t have the grievances that can be exploited and where communities – particularly young people – are able to be honest with us.”