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July 7th People's Independent Inquiry Forum > U.K. & Ireland Watch > Govt strategy against 'violent extremism'

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Title: Govt strategy against 'violent extremism'
Description: 'Prevent' 'Contest' and 'Pathfinder'

Bridget - July 13, 2008 07:01 PM (GMT)
From The Sunday Times
July 13, 2008
New board of imams to tackle extremists
Marie Woolf, Whitehall Editor

The government is to sponsor a theological board of leading imams and Muslim women in an attempt to refute the ideology of violent extremists.

The committee, to be announced this week, will issue pronouncements on areas such as wearing the hijab and the treatment of wives and is part of a government strategy to counter radicalism.

It will rule on interpretation of the Koran and promote the moderate strain of Islam practised by most British Muslims. It will also comment on controversial issues affecting Muslims living in Britain, including whether or not they should serve in the armed forces.

Its members have been recommended by leading moderates in the Muslim community and will be technically independent, although the government is expected to provide civil service support, a secretariat and members’ expenses.

Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, will announce the committee as part of an anti-extremism strategy called Prevent, devised following the 2005 London bombings. It tries to foster close contacts between Muslims and the rest of society to combat the glorification of terrorism.

The Muslim public affairs committee questioned whether the board would address issues relevant to Muslims’ lives. “To be successful, this initiative must have credibility with the Muslim community as a whole. What matters is what happens at the grass roots in someone’s local mosque,” said a spokeswoman.

The government is concerned that extremist leaders who preach jihad have been able to radicalise young Muslims, partly because of the failure of leading Islamic figures to challenge them.

A committee of Muslim young people will try to ensure the policies are relevant to them and do not inadvertently lead to further radicalisation. The government also plans to support Muslim women by providing discussion groups and work placements.

As part of the Prevent strategy, Blears will go on an international tour to learn the roots of British Muslims. A spokesman said: “Hazel is going to the subcontinent to deepen her understanding of communities

Bridget - November 8, 2008 01:30 PM (GMT)
Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Saturday, 8 November 2008

Terror intelligence 'not shared'

The report was commissioned by communities secretary Hazel Blears

Important anti-terrorism information has been kept from two thirds of police and council chiefs, according to an official leaked report.

It contains the results of an inquiry into the £86m government Pathfinder scheme tackling extremism.

The scheme provides funds to councils for specific projects designed to steer people away from militant groups.

Communities secretary Hazel Blears said it was essential communication between the various authorities improved.

The report, entitled Preventing Violent Extremism: Learning and Development Exercises, was commissioned by Mrs Blears earlier this year.

The research was carried out by the Audit Commission and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.

It was leaked to the Guardian and published on Saturday.


The document, which was due to be released on Monday, suggests the failure to share counter-terrorism intelligence is hampering the Pathfinder programme.

Councils were given finds to pay for projects designed to increase contacts between different ethnic and faith communities and prevent young people from joining extremist organisations.

But the report warns there is a lack of trust between the authorities.

Seventy councils have received £6m in pathfinder funding since the scheme was launched in April 2007.

A further £45m is expected to be spent on expanding the programme in the next three years.

The report examines the progress of the scheme in 14 areas, including many that have experienced the impact of violent extremism first-hand.

According to the report, just one-third of the chief executives and local police commanders who were interviewed did not have access to, or were not briefed on, terrorism data in their area.

Two thirds were not entrusted with security information which affected their ability to identify vulnerable people and communities.

Inspectors assessed local schemes against four key criteria. These were:

    * Information sharing
    * Understanding the risk
    * Effective partnership working
    * Assessing success

The report states: "Whilst it is vital assurances are sought about who has access to restricted information, councils already routinely handle sensitive information on a range of areas and the same trusting, business-like relationships need to be developed on this agenda as others."

But it also indicates there are a small number of councils and police forces which have built up strong relationships and links with Muslim communities and had a great deal of experience in dealing with extremism.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said the report highlighted "excellent work" and suggested local communities were becoming more confident about tackling the issue.

There are lessons for all of us, central and local government, police and security services and community groups and this report will help us learn them
Hazel Blears
Communities secretary

But she admitted the report said progress was too "patchy" and more needed to be done.

She claimed it found that when people were directly affected by the issue, they were more likely to become involved with trying to prevent it from happening again.

It recommends that faith leaders and trusted community figures to be involved in the scheme.

Mrs Blears said that a "wait and see approach" was not an option when it came to preventing violent extremism.

She said: "When it is up close it soon becomes clear that tackling extremism is about much more than community cohesion, that trust and partnership is key and that shying away from an agenda that we all know presents challenges and difficulties is simply not an option.

"But preventing extremism is about just that. Not waiting for the worst to happen, but stopping it happening in the first place. Everyone needs to up their game, learn the lessons of what works, and quickly.

"I am confident that local responses alongside tough security measures remain the best way to tackle this issue and work will continue. There are lessons for all of us, central and local government, police and security services and community groups and this report will help us learn them.

The spokeswoman said steps had already been taken to address some of the issues raised in the report.

Bridget - November 8, 2008 01:33 PM (GMT)
Anti-terror plan hampered by distrust, report warns

• Police and councils failing to share information
• Blears to tell partners in £50m project to improve

    * Alan Travis, home affairs editor
    *, Saturday November 8 2008 00.01 GMT
Security information about terrorism is not being shared with two-thirds of the local authority chief executives and neighbourhood police commanders involved in the government's preventative drive against violent extremism, an official report is to warn on Monday.

This lack of trust is hampering the government's pathfinder programme to prevent violent extremism under which 70 councils have received £6m in the last two years. A further £45m is to be spent expanding the programme in the next three years.

The joint report by the Audit Commission and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary was commissioned by the communities secretary, Hazel Blears, to assess the progress that has been made. It is based on visits to 14 councils that have received pathfinder funding and includes several areas that have experienced the impact of violent extremism first hand.

The report says information is not consistently being shared and only one-third of chief executives and local police commanders interviewed have access to or have been briefed about specific data on terrorism in their area.

This lack of effective briefing inhibits their understanding of their local security situation and their ability to identify vulnerable individuals and communities. It also fails to encourage the flow of intelligence from local and neighbourhood levels to the police regional counter-terrorist network and security services. The report states: "Whilst it is vital assurances are sought about who has access to restricted information, councils already routinely handle sensitive information on a range of areas and the same trusting, business-like relationships need to be developed on this agenda as others."

However the report presents a mixed picture on progress so far. It says there are a small number of councils and police forces, mainly those which have experienced terrorist incidents or arrests, which already have a wealth of experience in building links into Muslim communities, and developing responses to extremism.

But outside these areas the level of confidence in tackling extremism varies around the country, with many areas using pathfinder money to improve community relations rather than explicitly targeting those most at risk of getting involved in terrorism, the report says. "Most councils ... focus on building resilience within communities rather than explicitly addressing the vulnerabilities of those who may become engaged in violent extremism."

The joint report says it is vital that faith leaders and trusted community figures are involved. The amount of briefing and training of neighbourhood policing teams and front-line council staff is also inconsistent.

Blears is expected to tell those involved in the programme that better information-sharing and greater trust between the security services, police, councils and government is needed if they are to deliver on this crucial part of the counter-terrorism strategy.

She said: "Local areas that have an experience of extremism, whether that be arrests or violent incidents, appear to be grasping this agenda better than others.

"When it is up close it soon becomes clear that tackling extremism is about much more than community cohesion, that trust and partnership is key and that shying away from an agenda that we know presents challenges and difficulties is simply not an option."

Blears said everyone involved needed to "up their game", and quickly learn the lessons of what works.

"We have seen real progress, some excellent work and a wealth of experience being developed," she added. "This was always intended to be a year we would learn from and we commissioned this report to give us the opportunity to take stock, understand what has worked and how we can better support that."

The Association of Chief Police Officers has issued guidance to police forces to encourage them to share critical sensitive information to allow local councils and police commanders to develop more sharply targeted interventions.

Information and analytical reports about the current driving factors behind radicalisation are also being provided to local authorities. Guidance on the appropriate use of language has already been issued and the Home Office's counter-terrorist research, information and communications unit has set up a new local unit to provide more active support to local authorities.

What is pathfinder?

The preventing violent extremism pathfinder fund was launched in October 2006. It aims to provide local campaigns to confront extremist ideologies, promote role models and promote understanding of the benefits Muslims have brought to local areas. Examples have included:

Barking and Dagenham Islamic awareness
The borough council supports local groups to provide education about Islam, contrasting its reality against the rhetoric of extremism.

Black Country imams
A project which aims to develop "homegrown" imams with a solid understanding of British law and politics to counter the appeal of extremist figures.

Kirklees webspace and radio activity
A West Yorkshire website for young people to share their views on identity and community relations.

Bridget - February 20, 2009 11:20 AM (GMT)
Teaching pack about 7/7 bombers withdrawn

Pupils were invited to imagine themselves from the perspective of the bombers

    * Anthea Lipsett
    *, Friday 20 February 2009 10.21 GMT

The government apologised today for causing offence as it withdrew a teaching pack about the 7 July terror attacks that asked pupils to imagine they were the bombers.

The 2005 attacks killed 52 commuters in London and injured 700 others.

The pack was put together by the borough of Calderdale in West Yorkshire and displayed on the Department for Children, Schools and Families' Teachernet website as a way of teaching pupils about extremism.

But ministers have decided to withdraw it after admitting it was "inappropriate".

A DCSF spokesman said: "While the resource in no way looks to justify or excuse the terrible events of 7/7, and is designed to educate against violent extremism, we appreciate that it may not be appropriate for use in schools.

"It's important young people discuss these difficult and controversial issues in a controlled environment but, in this case, ministers apologise for any offence caused."

The pack, called Things Do Change, is aimed at 11- to 19-year-olds and looks at life in multicultural Britain.

But it has been used by madrasas and mosques in West Yorkshire, schools in Birmingham, Sandwell and Lancashire and police forces in London, the Thames Valley and Greater Manchester.

Its author, Sail Suleman, told the Times Educational Supplement that schools should not shy away from asking pupils to think about what turns people into extremists.

She said: "Radicals, extremists and fundamentalists come in all different forms. Is it right? Is it wrong? Is it justified? Was it pressure from individuals they were hanging out with? Hopefully, we'll encourage pupils to stay away from those individuals."

cmain - February 20, 2009 01:04 PM (GMT)
Pupils told to think like a suicide bomber

Children are being encouraged to imagine they are suicide bombers plotting the July 7 attacks as part of the Government's strategy to combat violent extremism.

By Duncan Gardham, Secuirty Correspondent
Last Updated: 6:14AM GMT 20 Feb 2009

The exercise is part of a teaching pack aimed at secondary school pupils that has been adopted by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. It requires children to prepare a presentation on the July 7 atrocity – in which 52 innocent people died – "from the perspective of the bombers".

They are asked to summarise the reasons why they thought the bombers wanted to carry out their attacks and even suggest some more.

It has been produced by Calderdale council in Halifax, West Yorks, which borders the area where two of the July 7 bombers lived, and has been adopted by schools and even police forces across the country.

The pack, which is called "Things do Change", is intended as a way of addressing issues such as terrorism and suicide bombing through the national curriculum.

But it was criticised yesterday by victims, educational experts and politicians, who feared it could be "dangerous" to ask children to adopt the mindset of a terrorist.

Jacqui Putnam, who survived the Edgware Road bomb on July 7, said: "I can't see why anyone would think it is a valuable exercise to encourage children to put themselves in the position of men who treated people in such an inhuman way.

"To encourage children to see the world in that way is a dangerous thing. Surely there must be a better way of achieving their objective?"

Mavis Hyman, whose daughter, Myriam, was killed in the July 7 bombings, said: "I don't think that anyone can put themselves in the minds of these people. I have tried to see it from their point of view. I have read books and watched films and it has not succeeded. "

Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar, said the pack risked "encouraging the sort of belief we're trying to work against".

"They should be looking at it from the victims' view," he said. "Whoever thought this up has no understanding of the communities where we are fighting against extremist beliefs."

Patrick Mercer, the chairman of the Commons terrorism sub-committee, said: "How useful is it to pretend to be a suicide bomber if it defeats the object of the lesson? Imagine the uproar if we suggested that children play-acted the role of Hitler."

The pack was made available through a Government- sponsored website called A section entitled "Community Cohesion" requires pupils to "prepare a brief presentation on the 7/7 bombings from the perspective of the bombers".

After watching a DVD from the pack, which costs £200, the class is supposed to be split into four, with one group asked to adopt the perspective of the bombers.

Sail Suleman, the author of the pack, told the Times Educational Supplement : "We're looking at why people become extreme. Why do young people go out and do what the bombers did? Was it pressure from individuals they were hanging out with? Hopefully, we'll encourage pupils to stay away from those individuals."

Other groups are asked to imagine the bombings from the perspectives of Muslims in Britain, non-Muslim Asians and British people in general.

The teaching pack is already being used in Islamic schools and mosques in West Yorkshire, as well as in local authority-run schools.

A number of other authorities, including Birmingham, Sandwell in the West Midlands and Lancashire, have begun using it in schools and several police forces, including the Metropolitan, West Yorkshire, Thames Valley and Greater Manchester, have adopted it.

Tahir Alam, the education spokesman of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "This isn't any different from any educational tool people use all the time. Pupils imagine they're living in the 12th century. The important lesson is that these things are never morally justifiable."

The education department withdrew the pack from the teachernet website yesterday.
A spokesman said: "While the resource in no way looks to justify or excuse the terrible events of 7/7, and is designed to educate against


Don't tell Patrick Mercer, but one of the ways they teach the history of Nazi Germany in schools these days is to set exercises like imagining you are Hitler and writing his diary entries. I haven't noticed any uproar.

Bridget - February 20, 2009 01:29 PM (GMT)
QUOTE ("cmain")
Sail Suleman, the author of the pack, told the Times Educational Supplement : "We're looking at why people become extreme. Why do young people go out and do what the bombers did? Was it pressure from individuals they were hanging out with? Hopefully, we'll encourage pupils to stay away from those individuals."

Other groups are asked to imagine the bombings from the perspectives of Muslims in Britain, non-Muslim Asians and British people in general.

Pity any child who might find any reason to be 'extreme' - no doubt they'll end up on some list and be kept an eye on.

The Antagonist - February 20, 2009 02:52 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (cmain @ Feb 20 2009, 01:04 PM)

Don't tell Patrick Mercer, but one of the ways they teach the history of Nazi Germany in schools these days is to set exercises like imagining you are Hitler and writing his diary entries. I haven't noticed any uproar.

Don't mention another of the ways in which they teach the history of Nazi Germany in schools these days: Every school to get Holocaust specialist under anti-racism initiative.

One might think a race-relations person would be better to tackle racism, or a historian who could explain that it is class not race that is the issue, but perhaps it's only a specific type of racism that needs to be dealt with and class issues can be completely ignored.

And still they call it 'education'.

Bridget - February 20, 2009 03:18 PM (GMT)
College IT departments told to deploy anti-terror dragnet

Union criticises web snitch plan

By Chris Williams

Posted in Policing, 19th February 2009 11:55 GMT

The government has told colleges to monitor web browsing for Islamic extremist sites and report students to police, drawing criticism from union chiefs that it could alienate muslim communities.

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) released a "toolkit" yesterday calling on IT departments to "prevent staff or students from accessing illegal or inappropriate material through college ICT systems, including having appropriate monitoring systems in place with recourse to police and other partners as necessary."

"Using college computers to email terrorist publications to others would be a criminal offence," it continues. The DIUS document also notes the use of social networking sites by extremist groups to "promote their message and to encourage engagement".

A DIUS spokeswoman said the government was not pushing a particular technology or policy, but that it hoped colleges would be prompted to "look at their IT policies".

A spokesman for the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) said such systems could make lecturers and students afraid to hold legitimate discussions of terrorism or carry out research. He called for the guidance to be changed.

The wide-ranging document places particular emphasis on Islamism rather than extremism generally.

"We are concerned about the emphasis on the Muslim community," said UCU general secretary Sally Hunt. "There is no getting away from the fact that the government's laudable plans for community cohesion will be damaged by the emphasis in the guidance on targeting colleges with large numbers of Muslim students."

Similar guidance was sent to universities last year after a series of news stories exposing that they were being targeted by banned Islamic groups.

The DIUS document, "Learning to be Safe - a toolkit to help colleges contribute to the prevention of violent extremism", is here (pdf).

Bridget - February 26, 2009 11:51 AM (GMT)
More poison dwarfism from Ms Blears:
Many Voices: understanding the debate about preventing violent extremism

Date of speech  25 February 2009

Location  LSE - Hong Kong Theatre, London
Event summary  A lecture at the London School of Economics (LSE)

Draft text of the speech - may differ from the delivered version.

Thank you. It is a great pleasure to be here at the London School of Economics (LSE), founded by the Fabian Society in the century before last as a centre for rational analysis and policy evaluation, and today enjoying an international reputation for educational excellence.

This is a difficult conversation.

Talking about violent extremism does not come easily to any of us. It is laden with potential traps, clouded with emotion, confused by contested terminology, ignorance and prejudice.

But George Orwell in Politics and the English Language warned us against using confusion over words and their meanings as the excuse for what he called 'political quietism'.

It may be tough, but it is a conversation we have to have.

The attacks in the USA on 9/11, the bombings in London on 7/7, the Madrid bombings, and the failed attacks on Glasgow airport, at the Giraffe restaurant in Exeter, on the Tiger Tiger nightclub in London. These events are real. Many families have lost their loved ones. Many people have sustained terrible injuries, or live with traumatic memories.
These episodes of terror are not unconnected or stand-alone. They are part of a pattern of violence against civilians in many countries by a network of organisations and small groups which share a basic interpretation of the world, and are prepared to kill, and to die, for what they see as their cause.

And they will continue.

Barack Obama used his Inaugural Address in February to tell the world:

    "Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred."

So what is this 'far-reaching network of violence and hatred'?

It is rooted in a shifting mosaic of international groupings, with their origins in the struggle of the mujahedeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan, in the refugee camps and some madrassas on the Afghan-Pakistan border, in Algeria's political unrest of the 1980s and 1990s, and in the war in Iraq.

Some seek to define this mosaic of organisations and philosophies as 'Islamism' or sometimes 'Political Islam'. But here we run into real dangers.

There is the obvious danger that we say 'Islamism' but people hear 'Islam' or 'Islamic', especially as the word translates poorly into other languages such as Arabic. Even in English, where the two words are distinct, many people lack the political literacy to distinguish between a political ideology dubbed by some as Islamism and Islam itself. There are plenty of people, for example the far right in this country, or Geert Wilders' outfit in Holland, who would wish to conflate the two in order to stir up race hate.

A second trap is that to talk of 'Islamism' suggests there is a unified, single movement. But there is no more a unified Islamism than there is a single socialism, or a single conservatism, or a single liberalism. As with every single political creed, from Marxism to fascism, there are internal factions, theoretical disputes, acrimonious splits, personality clashes, revisionism and evolution of thought and organisation. For example, Al-Qaeda is in conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood over fundamental questions such as the nature of the state, and the duty of the individual to fight the perceived enemies of Islam.

A third trap is to assume that all Islamists are terrorists. Some groups specifically oppose violence but have religious views which are very conservative and can conflict with other values we share in society. Hizb ut-Tahrir, for example, is a party which overtly anti-democratic, is against the existence of Israel, wants an end to the British state and its replacement by a theocracy, but which nonetheless falls short of openly advocating violence or terrorism. To lump Hizb ut-Tahrir in with Al-Qaeda is to fail to understand the differences between the two, just as it would be intellectually lazy to lump the BNP with Combat 18, or the Socialist Workers' Party with the Red Army Faction.

But the question is the extent to which politically-extreme groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir contribute to an environment which makes violence more acceptable or justifiable, makes individuals more susceptible to committing acts of violence, and whether there is a symbiotic relationship between groups whose hate is expressed in words, or whose support for terrorism or suicide bombing is confined to the Middle East but not Britain, and those whose hate is expressed in violent actions. For example the Muslim Brotherhood is not a terrorist organisation, but it supports terrorist organisations such as Hamas in Gaza.

Notwithstanding my plea for an enhanced literacy when it comes to discourse about the nature of what we might call political Islamisms in the plural, it is also clear that we can discern some common threads in that 'far-reaching network of violence and hatred'.

A belief in the supremacy of the Muslim people, in a divine duty to bring the world under the control of hegemonic Islam, in the establishment of a theocratic Caliphate, and in the undemocratic imposition of theocratic law on whole societies: these are the defining and common characteristics of the disparate strands of this ideology here and around the world.

You can't ignore the facts that this ideology is rooted in a twisted reading of Islam. The academics, scholars and imams I meet to discuss these issues tell me that the message of Islam is one of peace; and the followers of Islam I meet oppose the single narrative promulgated by Al-Qaeda, and certainly oppose violence. Indeed, the vast majority are proud of their faith and their nationality, see no conflict or contradiction between being British and being Muslim, and are an integral part of the economic, cultural and social life of their neighbourhood and the country, giving the lie to the ideas of division and difference that lie at the heart of extremist ideology.

Research into British mosques that the Charity Commission released earlier this week gave a further insight. Almost all the mosques they interviewed educate young people. Four in five raise money to help the poor and vulnerable. Most have women's groups. Many more get involved in sport, health, or services for older people. This is what Islam truly means in practice for the vast majority: a personal and spiritual faith matched by a sense of social responsibility, motivating people to do good for their neighbourhood and community.

However, a report from the Quilliam Foundation into British mosques - also released this week - highlights the challenges. The majority of imams are born or educated abroad. Some speak little English, making it harder to forge a connection with young people. Government is alive to these challenges - and that is why, in response to calls from Muslim communities, we are looking to enable more faith leaders to be trained in this country, to improve qualification standards, and to help existing faith leaders improve their language, pastoral and other skills.

And the fact is that violent extremists will try and step in where young people in search of guidance can't get it elsewhere. They will use religious language, religious texts and passages, seek to get a foothold in mosques and madrassas in order to spread their messages, and exploit international events such as the war in Iraq or the conflicts on Israel's borders to inflame opinion and forge a sense of grievance.

When I am asked: why does the Government spend money as part of the Prevent strand of the CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy on mainstream and moderate Muslim groups the answer is not 'because we think Muslims are violent extremists' but instead it is 'because we know the violent extremists prey upon Muslims and especially young people and so Muslim communities are a vital part of the solution.' To ignore this fact is to blunt or neuter our ability to tackle it.

Take the evidence from the Operation Crevice trial, which revealed the truly international nature of the terrorists' network, and offered some illumination on the way radicalisation can lead to terror.

A plot to detonate a massive fertiliser bomb was successful foiled by the police and security services, and the perpetrators convicted in court.

The ring-leader Omar Khyam, whose grandfather had served in the British Army, was radicalised by preachers of hate such as Omar Bakri, watched propaganda videos which cast Chechnyan rebels as Muslim freedom fighters, and travelled to Pakistan to undergo training with Kashmiri terrorists, and to Afghanistan to support the Taliban. He trained with Mohammad Sidique Khan who went on to commit mass murder on 7/7.

Omar Khyam's radicalisation took place before 9/11, and before the subsequent invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, which proves that violent extremism is not simply the product of British or American foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Everyone who has planted bombs in the UK has been on a similar journey of radicalisation. It is not a transmission belt. Radicalisation does not lead automatically to terrorism. But no-one would strap explosives to their own bodies, in order to kill themselves and others, without first being radicalised. And the essence of terrorism is that a tiny number of individuals can wreak a disproportionate level of violence and fatality.

To dismiss violent extremism as simply 'criminal' is to fail to conceive properly its political and societal roots.

This leads me to CONTEST, the Government's counter-terrorism strategy, and what is called the Prevent strand of it, a shared responsibility between my department, the Home Office and the Foreign Office.

Prevent is the part of our strategy that goes beyond arrest and surveillance, beyond the work of the police and security services.

I do not for a minute downplay the significance of that work: a great deal of hard work has helped foil and forestall planned attacks.

But security measures are not the whole solution.

Prevent is about stopping people wanting to commit violence in the first place.

Prevent is built on the idea that, just as violent extremists seek to attack us all - the victims of 7/7 were young and old, different races and faiths, straight and gay - we all of us have a role to play in stopping them.

It's not a job for any one group of people or specialists. It's about the stay-at-home mum, the taxi driver, the dinner lady, the neighbour, the student - all of whose decisions and actions contribute towards making an environment where violent extremism can flourish - or falter.

We all have a responsibility to have an open and honest debate about these issues, and to stand up against hatred and intolerance. And nowhere is this more important than in an institution like the LSE which has a proud history of passionate debate and inspiring thinking. You as students and lecturers have a key role to play in debating these major issues of our time - in challenging prejudices, tackling ignorance and in helping to shape the kind of world we want to live in.

Prevent is designed to empower communities, so that they can spot when people may be at risk of being groomed by terrorists. To give support and encouragement to the men and women who want to stand up for the values of tolerance and respect. And to equip them with the skills and confidence to take on the ideology promoted by the violent extremists.

I have witnessed myself the passion and commitment in our communities. One young woman - a member of the Muslim Women's Advisory Group - told me:

    "I am ready to go anywhere, to any audience, at any time, in this country or abroad and say that I believe suicide bombing is wrong - as a mother and a Muslim."

National government sets the strategy for this policy. And it is part of national government's job to tell the story that undermines the extremists' simple narrative of division and difference: by explaining how the UK's foreign policy protects the safety and rights of Muslims elsewhere in the world(!!!!), from our calls for a ceasefire and the speedy allocation of aid in Gaza, to our support for Turkey's entry to the EU; how new legislation is protecting all faith groups from those inciting religious hatred; and how over the past eleven years investment in everything from housing to health has made a particular difference to those communities living in more deprived areas. But it is local government, working closely with local communities, who deliver the Prevent programme on the ground.

Backed up by £45m of funding from my department over three years, Prevent is already supporting projects across the country such as language classes for imams, leadership training for young men and women, and forums which give a legitimate and democratic place to discuss difficult issues.

This means that the Government is engaged in an unprecedented level of dialogue direct with communities and the organisations which represent them.

You can see the potential dangers inherent in this approach. Every minister is well aware of them. It involves engaging with organisations and individuals with whose views we disagree vehemently, who, for example, have unacceptable attitudes towards women, Jews, or gay and lesbian people. As a Government anchored in the European social democratic tradition, we place great store in equality, women's rights, anti-racism, and so on.

So there is a need for moral clarity, for a clear dividing line between what we consider acceptable, and what we consider beyond the pale.

We are clear that engagement is not the same as endorsement. I know our political opponents will seek to make hay with this: they will say that somehow engaging with groups with extremist views shows a lack of proper understanding of them, that we're being hoodwinked, used, or exploited by extremists, or that we don't care enough about anti-Semitism, sexism or homophobia. This is at the core of the argument of, for example, Melanie Phillips.

But if we leave the field clear to extremists, without any engagement at all, we embolden them and undermine our own objectives. And if we genuinely want to change minds, then we will never make progress merely by talking to people who already agree with us. We must be prepared to challenge, and be challenged in return.

What is needed is a framework for engagement, based on clear principles.

The objectives of an engagement strategy are twofold. There can be no place at the table for groups involved in terrorist activity. So for example, the Government will not debate or discuss with overtly terrorist organisations.

If offered the chance for a public debate with a representative of Al-Qaeda, via satellite link-up, no Minister would accept. You cannot win political arguments with groups who tell lies as part of their strategy, who change the goal-posts, who spread misinformation and seek to undermine the very process of debate. Agreeing to meet and engage in discussion with such groups would lend a veneer of legitimacy that they have done nothing to warrant. Indeed, to consider Al-Qaeda as in any way the legitimate representative of public opinion, Muslim or non-Muslim, would be a huge insult to Muslims anywhere, particularly those who have suffered from Al-Qaeda violence.

Meanwhile, if offered a public platform with a group dedicated to fighting violent extremism, matching that commitment with practical action, then there is an argument for the Government taking part, or funding specific projects - even if Government does not share all of the social views of the group.

And at the other end of the spectrum, meeting, talking to and funding groups who stand up to violent extremism and celebrate core values such as respect for others strengthens their arm: helps embolden moderate voices; and gives encouragement to the men and women who question harmful ideology.

Put simply, effective engagement can help encourage or reinforce a change in opinion and behaviour.

Defining this approach is not, however, as straightforward as ticking a few names off a list.

There is no single 'Muslim community' in the UK. There are many Muslim communities - different religious traditions, different geographic roots. About 50 per cent of the UK's Muslims are women, 50 per cent under 25. In recent years, Government has made a conscious effort to get better at listening to this range of voices, perhaps best exemplified by the formation of the Muslim women's and young Muslims' advisory groups.

And in practice, the Government - both nationally, and locally - is contending with a wide range of groups who cover a broad spectrum of attitudes towards violent extremism. Indeed, you will often find a range of attitudes inside groups themselves.

Just as we deal with a spectrum of groups, we need a spectrum of engagement, carefully calibrated to deal with individual circumstances: from isolation and rejection, to discussion through challenge and debate, to working with and funding organisations who want to be part of the solution.

With groups which call for or support terrorist acts there is no room whatsoever for debate, only vociferous opposition.

With groups which do not call for terrorism, but which have an equivocal attitude on core values such as democracy, freedom of speech or respect towards women, there is some scope for limited engagement. An important part of any engagement will be to challenge those views that the Government considers unacceptable.

With other groups or coalitions, which on the whole accept core values and reject extremism, but which have some internal dissent about these principles, there is scope for broader debate in public - especially where this would encourage men and women standing up for core values, and help them carry the day inside the organisation.

And with those groups taking a genuine lead, Ministers can make visits, share platforms, debate in public. The stronger the group's example, the stronger the case for Ministerial involvement at a high level, all the way up to the Prime Minister.

These principles hold for engagement at a local, as well as at a national level. The Prevent Delivery Strategy - published in June 2008 - gave clear advice to local authorities and their partners on what factors they should take into account when deciding which organisations to engage with, and how.

We have to have a clear analysis of the methodology of violent extremist groups. One aspect of this clarity is an understanding that violent extremists, as well as non-violent extremists operate in a clandestine way. They conceal their true aims and objects. They use labyrinthine channels of fundraising. For example, five organisers of the Holy Land Foundation, a Dallas-based charity, were convicted in American courts last November for channeling over $12 million to Hamas.

They use front organisations, with innocuous-sounding names. This is a political tactic that is well-understood and has precedents from across the political spectrum. For example the Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL) established a front called 'Militant', which in turn established the 'Youth Trade Union Rights Campaign', and the 'All- Britain Anti-Poll Tax Union', amongst others.

The Soviet Communist Party established the World Peace Council, and so on. In the USA the Global Relief Foundation was closed down in 2001 for raising funds for Al-Qaeda, and the Benevolence International Foundation has been banned by the United Nations for being a front for Al-Qaeda.

Those extremist groups which engage in democracy, for example by standing candidates in elections, are doing so as a political tactic.

So we must be vigilant at all times, because our opponents will use a variety of tactics to stay one step ahead, and some groups will seek to hoodwink mainstream politicians into their tacit support, for example by invitations to seminars and conferences. The technique was known to Lenin, who talked about 'useful idiots.'

The left, in particular, must be vigilant. The liberal-left is historically concerned for the underdog, for oppressed peoples, for taking a stand against racism and imperialism. It is part of our political DNA. The problem today is that these valid concerns can be mutated into support for causes and organisations which are fiercely anti-liberal and populated by people whose hearts are filled with misogyny, homophobia and Jew-hatred.

It leads to British democrats who are sickened by the sight of the suffering of the Palestinian people allying themselves with people who advocate the violent destruction of an entire nation-state, a member of the United Nations, who believe that Jews were behind 9/11 and fled the twin towers before the attacks, and who believe there is a global conspiracy guiding the world's economy. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Liberals' pathological fear of being branded 'racist' or 'Islamophobic' can lead to ideological contortions: condoning or even forming alliances with groups which are socially conservative, homophobic, Anti-Semitic, and violent towards women.

There are some who say that it is a form of racism or imperialism to disagree with what they see as cultural attitudes and practices. I say: the values which put all humans on an equal footing, with equal rights for all, are not western values, they are human values. Therefore it is right that we stand up against violence towards women, for example, whether it is sanctioned or encouraged by religious and cultural leaders or not. There is a line when respect for other cultures is crossed, and a universal morality should kick in.

Let me put it another way. This country is proud of its tradition of fair play and good manners, welcoming of diversity, tolerant of others. This is a great strength.

But the pendulum has swung too far. The quality of debate about religion in contemporary life - and by religion, I mean all faiths - is being sapped by a creeping oversensitivity. Three quarters of the UK population describe ourselves as belonging to one of the major world religions. A survey for the BBC this week found that nearly more than three in five people believed that national laws should be influenced by traditional religious values; and that faith should have a bigger role in the public sphere. Yet there is an astonishing amount of squeamishness about the subject.

It seems that every week we hear a new story - the nurse suspended because she offered to pray for a patient, or the school banning Christmas decorations - about people getting into a panic because someone, somewhere, might get offended.

Worse, at times leaders have been reluctant to challenge absolutely unacceptable behaviour - forced marriage, female genital mutilation, or homophobia - because they are concerned about upsetting people's cultural sensitivities.

This flies in the face of another of our traditions - open debate, rational inquiry, and plain old common sense.

We would do well to be a little less anxious and a little more robust. And just as we are confident about speaking up against the race hatred of the far right, we should be confident about condemning the intolerance of Christian extremists such as Fred Phelps, and we should be confident about saying 'no' to unacceptable practices that have their roots in different cultural traditions.

Take female genital mutilation, a wholly medically unnecessary procedure performed on young girls, which creates the danger of serious infection or death. It is practised throughout Africa, including Senegal, Tanzania, Egypt, Ethiopia and Somalia, and Middle East including Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In this country, it has been illegal since 1985. But in 2003 the Government passed a new law making it illegal to travel abroad with a girl for the purposes of undergoing female genital mutilation, with a maximum sentence of 14 years. The evidence is that this has deterred several people from doing so.

Some believe that female genital mutilation is part of being a Muslim. Yet the Qu'ran says nothing about the practice, and many Muslims argue that it is un-Islamic. So my point is that it is right for the UK Government to take a stand on this issue, and right that we backed our stance with legislation. There may be those who consider it cultural imperialism for us to ban female genital mutilation, because it imposes our cultural values on other people. In fact it is about protecting the rights of young girls to grow up without the trauma and injury forced upon them by people with reactionary and ill-informed views about female sexuality.

It might be that this is at the extreme end of the argument. But what about those who argue that suicide bombing a civilian bus or bar is a justifiable act of war, as long as it takes place in Afghanistan, Iraq or Israel? Is suicide bombing acceptable in Baghdad but not in Birmingham? I would argue that again such cultural relativism is abhorrent, because it paves the way to extremist political positions which condone the murder of women and children.

To conclude. This strain of violent extremism is a relatively new phenomenon. As our understanding of it continues to grow more sophisticated, we will continue to adapt and update our approach.

But that approach must always be rooted in our sense of what is right and wrong.

And if we are to change minds and win this debate, it will not be through restricting our engagement to a select few, but through bringing in new voices: not through concealing what we believe in, but through making our arguments confidently: and not through acquiescing with those with whom we disagree, but through being robust in our challenge to them.

justthefacts - March 2, 2009 05:18 PM (GMT)

QUOTE (Hazel Blears)
Notwithstanding my plea for an enhanced literacy when it comes to discourse about the nature of what we might call political Islamisms in the plural, it is also clear that we can discern some common threads in that 'far-reaching network of violence and hatred'.

A belief in the supremacy of the Muslim people, in a divine duty to bring the world under the control of hegemonic Islam, in the establishment of a theocratic Caliphate, and in the undemocratic imposition of theocratic law on whole societies: these are the defining and common characteristics of the disparate strands of this ideology here and around the world.

You can't ignore the facts that this ideology is rooted in a twisted reading of Islam.

user posted image
"...someone who has never dared test his or her opinions, values and personal
attributes at the ballot box is always something I find amusing." - Hazel Blears

Those extremist groups which engage in democracy, for example by standing candidates in elections, are doing so as a political tactic.
"We need people standing for office, not carping on the sidelines" - HB

Everyone who has planted bombs in the UK has been on a similar journey of radicalisation. It is not a transmission belt. Radicalisation does not lead automatically to terrorism. But no-one would strap explosives to their own bodies, in order to kill themselves and others, without first being radicalised.

I have it on anecdotal evidence that there was a case in the east of Scotland some years ago where a young person purposely "sat on a bomb and blew himself up", the definition of a suicide bomber. He was of the ethnically Celto-Juto-Saxon majority and there was no suggestion of religious or political radicalism in his reasons for so doing.
To dismiss violent extremism as simply 'criminal' is to fail to conceive properly its political and societal roots.
To dismiss mental illness as simply 'religious' is disingenuous and intellectually lazy.

Is suicide bombing acceptable in Baghdad but not in Birmingham? I would argue that again such cultural relativism is abhorrent, because it paves the way to extremist political positions which condone the murder of women and children.
In a similar vein, it could be asked of Hazel, is Tamil self-immolation in Parliament Square acceptable? Is suicide-by-bomb in Scotland acceptable? If not, what are we going to do to address them?

numeral - March 2, 2009 09:25 PM (GMT)
^^Hazel Blears
The ring-leader Omar Khyam, whose grandfather had served in the British Army, was radicalised by preachers of hate such as Omar Bakri, watched propaganda videos which cast Chechnyan rebels as Muslim freedom fighters, and travelled to Pakistan to undergo training with Kashmiri terrorists, and to Afghanistan to support the Taliban. He trained with Mohammad Sidique Khan who went on to commit mass murder on 7/7.

Doesn't this get a bit close to breaching the court order against identifying Ausman?

EDIT: The mention of Khyam was not published in any MSM as far as I can tell. It is not present in CiF.

cmain - March 3, 2009 11:58 AM (GMT)
The speech has been published in full at eGov Monitor.

I have published that section as Hazel Blears joins the dots. If anyone has an issue with J7 joining the dots they ought also to have an issue with HM government.

Bridget - March 21, 2009 10:30 AM (GMT)
Learning lessons of 7/7 toll on city

21 March 2009
By Paul Robinson

A LEEDS student has played a key role in organising a conference where hundreds of young people will get the chance to question a Government minister.

Fahad Khan, 22, is a member of the Young Muslims Advisory Group (YMAG), which was staging the 'Dialogue' youth conference today at the city's Queens Hotel.

The Government-backed YMAG is made up of 23 Muslims from across the country, all in their late teens or early 20s.

It works with politicians to explore ways of beating discrimination, preventing extremism and boosting involvement in civic activities.

And, as part of that drive, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears was tackling a question and answer session at today's Leeds conference, due to be attended by 300 young people of different faiths.

The conference programme also includes a workshop with senior representatives from West Yorkshire Police.

It is hoped the delegates will end the day with new ideas on how to make their communities better places to live.

Speaking before the event, Fahad, from Harehills, said: "Young people of all backgrounds are disillusioned with politics – they often don't feel heard, they feel they have no voice and no impact."

Fahad, who is studying International Relations and Security Studies at Bradford University, was selected for the YMAG on the strength of his work with the Leeds Muslim Youth Forum.

He says one of the reasons for his commitment to promoting unity is the toll the July 7 terror attacks took on his home city.

A total of 52 people died when four men – including three from Leeds – detonated bombs on London's transport network in the summer of 2005.

"(July 7] had a profound impact on the Muslim community," said Fahad, a former pupil at Allerton Grange High School.

"It made it more important than ever to dispel myths and stereotypes."

Recently Cohesion Minister Sadiq Khan met two members of the Young Muslim Advisory Group to discuss the situation in Gaza. video

Bridget - March 22, 2009 12:53 AM (GMT)
Page last updated at 22:32 GMT, Saturday, 21 March 2009

UK plans comprehensive terror law

Britain's alert level is set at severe, meaning an attack is likely

The UK's new counter-terrorist strategy will be the world's most comprehensive, the Home Office has said.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith wants the paper - to be published on Tuesday - to go into more detail than ever before in the interests of public accountability.

The paper will reflect intelligence agencies' opinions that the biggest threat to the UK comes from groups aligned or inspired by al-Qaeda.

It takes into account recent attacks on hotels in the Indian city of Mumbai.

Reduce vulnerability

The paper - called Contest Two - will update the Contest strategy developed by the Home Office in 2003, which was later detailed in the Countering International Terrorism document released in 2006.

Over the last six years the strategy has been split into four strands - Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare - to try and hamper all aspects of the terror threat.

These include preventing radicalisation of potential terror recruits to disrupting terror operations, reducing the UK's and vulnerability and ensuring the country is ready for the consequences of any terror attack.

A Home Office spokesman said the new paper would take account of the way the terror threat has evolved and how the authorities are learning lessons from events.

While the paper would look into the lessons learned from the November attacks on Mumbai hotels, it is not thought that attacks are likely on hotels in the UK.

The terrorism threat level, set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, has since July 2007 been "severe". This means a future terrorist attack is thought to be highly likely - but not thought to be imminent.

By 2011, Britain will be spending £3.5bn a year on counter-terrorism, the Home Office has said.

The number of police working on counter-terrorism has risen from 1,700 in 2003 to 3,000 in 2009.

The Antagonist - March 22, 2009 02:01 AM (GMT)
Home Office fails to shut down a single extremist website in two years
The Home Office has failed to shut down a single terrorist website despite a pledge to do so from Tony Blair four years ago.

By Christopher Hope, Whitehall Editor
Last Updated: 1:51PM GMT 20 Mar 2009

Stopping extremist websites operating was one of the measures unveiled by Mr Blair in the aftermath of the 7 July suicide bombings in London in 2005.

Although the powers were enshrined in law with the Terrorism Act 2006, the Home Office has now admitted that not a single website has been shut down in the past two years.

The Tories said the news "smacks of dangerous complacency and incompetence".

Under Section 3 of the legislation, a police officer can order that "unlawfully terrorism-related material is removed or modified within two working days".

However, Vernon Coaker, a Home Office minister, said: "The preferred route of the police is to use informal contact with the communication service providers to request that the material is removed.

"To date no Section 3 notices have been issued as this informal route has proved effective."

Last year a leaked report from the Security Service highlighted the importance of the internet in radicalising young people.

Mr Coaker insisted that some sites were shut down after informal contact with the sites' hosts with the police. Yet the Home Office had no idea how many were shut down after the informal talks.

Mr Coaker added: "Statistics covering the number of sites removed through such informal contact are not collected."

Patrick Mercer, the Conservative backbench MP who obtained the information, said he was shocked that despite spending over £100million on preventing radicalization [Telegraph using American spelling?], not a single extremist website had been closed down.

He said: "Websites are a crucial means of communication for the terrorist and unless the Government takes action against them, they will continue to be one of the terrorist's most powerful weapons."

Baroness Neville-Jones, the shadow Security Minister, added: "We have known for years that organisations like al-Qaeda are increasingly using the internet as a tool for radicalisation.

"So it is shocking that the Government has failed to shut down a single terrorist website, even though Parliament gave them the power to do so more than two years ago.

"They claim that they haven't closed any down because they prefer to put pressure on internet service providers to remove dangerous material. But they're not even able to tell us what they've achieved by this route."

A Home Office spokesman said: "If material is hosted in the UK, informal contact between the police and the Internet Service Provider has, to-date, proven sufficient to have material removed from the internet. We hope that this continues."

Maybe the security services weren't happy about the government plans to have their web sites shut down.

Bridget - March 22, 2009 07:07 PM (GMT)
Britain trains civilian anti-terror force

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 17:06:45 GMT

Britain has launched a clandestine alliance that recruits citizens and trains them to act as undercover agents against terror suspects.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the initiative is vital for safety in the UK. According to him, tens of thousands of civilians have already been trained for the purpose.

Brown said Sunday that the individuals range "from security guards to store managers" who know how to "deal with an incident and know what to watch for as people go about their daily business in crowded places such as stations, airports, shopping centers and sports grounds."

British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the strategy, called Contest Two, would be more open than past counter-terrorism efforts. In the last two years, the UK has imprisoned over 80 suspected terrorists.

Brown went on to claim that more than two-thirds of the plots threatening the UK are linked to Pakistan, saying al-Qaeda members in northern Pakistan and in alleged UK networks are attempting to organize attacks in Britain.

The British prime minister concluded by saying that by 2011, Britain will be spending £3.5 billion a year on counter-terrorism activities.

justthefacts - March 24, 2009 11:45 PM (GMT)
John Reid on PM (from 43mins onward). Apparently he is now chairing the "Centre for Security and Resilience Studies" at University College, London.

user posted image
Loafing around: John Reid, with freshly-baked "Raven" rye bread from his Scotch oven at Red Beard Bakery, Trentham in Victoria.

Osama Saeed on Scotland Live (from 10m9s onwards): "...if the government are going to promote this then it is problematic to see the UK government promoting regimes in the Muslim world that are tyrannical, that are anti-democratic, that are run by despots, and we know the countries, and we have trading relations with them, and that's a problem because a lot of the problem of terrorism globally comes from the fact that we don't have freedom and democracy within the Muslim world, there isn't any open dissent, and I believe that a large part of the popularity that al-Qaeda may enjoy is because with no other dissent being available, this unfortunately is what some individuals have resorted to within the Muslim world."

Bridget - March 25, 2009 01:13 AM (GMT)
Hazel Blears' standoff with Muslim Council overshadows new anti-terror launch

Blears presses MCB deputy to clarify position over alleged endorsement of Hamas threats

    * Alan Travis, home affairs editor
    * The Guardian, Wednesday 25 March 2009

A standoff between the communities secretary, Hazel Blears, and the Muslim Council of Britain was said last night to "cut to the heart" of the government's revised counter-terror strategy to challenge those who defend terrorism and violent extremism.

Blears has suspended official links with the MCB over allegations that its deputy general secretary endorsed a Hamas call for attacks on foreign troops, including possibly British troops, if they try to intercept arms smuggled into Gaza.

Blears last night pressed the MCB for further clarification after it distanced itself from a declaration calling for a new jihad over Gaza made by the Hamas-backed "global anti-aggression campaign" in Istanbul last month. The cabinet minister is still pressing the MCB's deputy general secretary, Dr Daud Abdullah, who attended and signed the Istanbul declaration, to clarify his own position.

The dispute, involving a senior government minister and one of the most significant Muslim "umbrella" organisations, coincided with the launch of the Contest 2 counter-terror strategy and illustrated the determination of ministers to challenge radical views that fall short of support for violence but reject and undermine "our shared values".

Ministers have pulled back from spelling out a checklist of views that might constitute extremism. Instead, the Home Office strategy document published yesterday opts for a more low-key commitment to challenge those who "reject parliamentary democracy, dismiss the rule of law and promote intolerance and discrimination on the basis of race, faith, ethnicity, gender or sexuality".

The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said yesterday the government had no intention of outlawing these views or criminalising those who held them: "Freedom of thought and speech are rights which are fundamental to our society. But we will not hear these views in silence. We should all stand up for our shared values and not concede the floor to those who dismiss then." At the Home Office launch of the revised strategy, Smith made it clear this extended to challenging those who voiced homophobic views in public.

The document also spells out that the new policy will be reflected in the groups that are supported and the projects that are sponsored as part of the £70m programme to prevent violent extremism.

But this failed to satisfy the Conservatives, with the shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, claiming that ministers were still funding groups that "propagate extremism".

The revised counter-terror strategy contains fresh warnings about the likelihood of a "dirty bomb" attack in Britain, saying that changing technology and increased smuggling of chemical, radiological and biological materials make the prospect more realistic. It also discloses that counter-measures are being taken in Britain in anticipation of the possible importation of the use of roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The continued fragmentation of the al-Qaida organisation may lead to smaller, more autonomous networks but it predicts these new "self-starting" organisations will have access to new technology and may become capable of conducting more lethal operations.

Senior Whitehall officials acknowledged serious concern about the impact in Britain of the deteriorating situation in the Pakistan/Afghanistan borderlands, where al-Qaida groups have been involved in the direction and training of some terror cells in Britain. But the threat may diminish as "terrorism is subject to greater challenge in and by communities in this country, notably but not only by British Muslims, making it harder for terrorists to operate here and to recruit people to their cause".

The document also reflects more sophisticated thinking within MI5 about the process of radicalisation, making clear that the security services do not think there is a single cause or pathway to extremism. It acknowledges that political and economic grievances, including perceptions of British foreign policy in the Islamic world, have played a role, and that Iraq, Afghanistan and perceived inaction over Palestine have also contributed to anger and controversy.

But it notes that such grievances do not always or often lead to radicalisation, and that social and psychological factors are also important to the individual, often rooted in conflicts of identity. The strategy plays down the influence of radical preachers and instead talks of supportive peer groups and charismatic individuals as being crucial to the process of radicalisation. The strategy says that while many contemporary terrorist organisations purport to have religious objectives, many terrorists have little or no religious understanding or knowledge.

The implication of this analysis is that in addition to tough law enforcement operations, the counter-terrorism programme also engages with "vulnerable" individuals who are at risk of being recruited or have already been recruited by violent extremists.
Contest 2

• Those who defend terrorism and violent extremism to be challenged but not banned or prosecuted.

• New threat from "dirty bomb" as technology changes due to increased smuggling of chemical and biological materials.

• Al-Qaida fragmenting but "self-starting" successor groups may pose more lethal threat.

• Counter-terror budget to rise to £3.5bn a year by 2011.

Bridget - March 26, 2009 12:55 AM (GMT)
Our shunning of the MCB is not grandstanding

The MCB deputy secretary general has signed a declaration supporting violence against troops and Jewish communities

          o Hazel Blears
          o, Wednesday 25 March 2009 18.05 GMT

Over the past two weeks the government has been privately engaging with the Muslim Council of Britain through meetings and correspondence to establish whether one of their senior members attended the Global Anti-Aggression conference in Istanbul, and if so, whether he also signed the Istanbul declaration that calls for violence against troops and Jewish communities. This is not grandstanding. The government would be shirking its duty if it fails to investigate any potential threat to the security of our troops and communities. We must take this extremely seriously.

That is why we have been asking the MCB to find out whether their deputy secretary general, Dr Abdullah, attended the conference and signed the statement. The MCB has now confirmed he did attend and did sign the declaration. A declaration that supports violence against foreign forces – which could include British naval personnel – as the prime minister has offered British naval support to stop the smuggling of weapons to Gaza; and advocating attacks on Jewish communities all around the world.

Speculation that the government intended to use our counter-terrorism strategy (Contest) to widen the definition of extremism is categorically wrong. As we have consistently set out, Contest is grounded in our shared values which we will protect, respect and promote – at home and abroad – and that includes freedom of speech and the right for people to express views about foreign policy and the situation in the Middle East. We will continue to challenge those who reject, or seek to undermine them and those who advocate violence against our troops and against particular communities.

I would urge the MCB to accept the serious nature of this issue and work with us to resolve it so that we can continue in partnership to build the safe, strong, cohesive communities in which we all want to live.

Bridget - March 26, 2009 01:16 AM (GMT)
This counter-terror plan is in ruins. Try one that works

Ministers want Muslims to accept shared values. Luckily they already do, including opposition to wars of aggression

          o Seumas Milne
          o The Guardian, Thursday 26 March 2009

The British government's brand new counter-terrorism strategy is already in disarray - and ministers have only themselves to blame. The souped-up plan to fight al-Qaida, confound dirty bombers, halt suicide attacks and confront "extremism" in the country's Muslim community was unveiled by the prime minister with much fanfare on Tuesday. But even before the 175-page "Contest 2" document had been launched, the credibility of its promise to engage with the Muslim mainstream had been thrown into question by the decision of Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, to cut all links with the Muslim Council of Britain.

Blears had been gunning for the MCB, the country's main Muslim umbrella body, which has shown increasing independence in recent years, particularly in relation to British foreign policy. The pretext was a statement about Israel's onslaught on Gaza signed by the MCB's number two, Daud Abdullah, which Blears interpreted as a call for attacks on British ships if they were sent to intercept arms supplies to Hamas. Ten days ago, in a tone more associated with Raj-era colonial governors than democratic politicians addressing independent community bodies, Blears delivered an ultimatum to the MCB: either it sacked its elected deputy general secretary or all contacts would be severed.

Never mind that Gordon Brown's idea about policing Palestinian waters has been kicked into the long grass of international talks; or that Abdullah, a Caribbean-born veteran of Grenada's leftwing New Jewel Movement (later overthrown by Ronald Reagan) made clear he was not calling for such attacks - let alone attacks on Jewish communities, as Blears claims in a letter in today's Guardian. All links have now been suspended. And if there were any doubt that the attempt to isolate Britain's most significant Muslim body was linked to the new anti-terror policy, the timing of the ultimatum for the eve of the launch made clear that for Blears they were all of a piece.

Not surprisingly, the MCB has rejected the government's diktat. As it acknowledges, to do anything else would destroy its credibility in the community, which can in fact only be boosted by the confrontation. The point seems to have belatedly dawned on Blears, whose department yesterday appeared to be looking for a way out as it pressed for "further clarity" from the MCB about its attitude to violence in the Middle East.

But the dispute goes to the heart of the fatal flaw in government policy towards the terror threat. Instead of simply aiming to stop indiscriminate attacks, something that unites almost all Muslims as well as non-Muslims, the idea underlying the new strategy is to confront "nonviolent extremism" as well. The definitions of such a catch-all target specified in earlier drafts, including support for armed resistance anywhere in the world, sharia law and a belief that gay sex is sinful, have mercifully been dropped. It became clear to other ministers - reported to include Jack Straw, John Denham and Harriet Harman - that not only would such zealotry brand most of Britain's 2.4 million Muslims extremist, it could also apply to many Christians, orthodox Jews and atheists as well.

But strong echoes of this folly remain: for example, in the categorisation of those who reject Israel's legitimacy as extremist. It is a policy that has been driven by neoconservative-leaning thinktanks - such as Policy Exchange, the Centre for Social Cohesion and the government-funded Quilliam Foundation - who believe Islamism, a political trend as broad as socialism or liberalism, is the enemy, rather than the tiny takfiri groups who think it's a good idea to blow people up on buses and tubes.

That's a dangerous blind alley, which makes such attacks more, rather than less, likely. Instead of listening to representative groups which can honestly reflect what drives Muslim anger - notably western support for wars of occupation in the Muslim world - the government ends up talking to its own creations and attempting to use cash to buy political docility. It is the same approach which preferred listening to republican defectors than Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, as the former chief of the defence staff Lord Guthrie enthusiastically emphasised this week.

The Contest 2 strategy has one merit, at least. It does for the first time officially acknowledge what the rest of the world has known for most of the past decade: that Muslim "perception" of the west's support for Israel, the Iraq and Afghan wars and the wider war on terror plays a "key role" in fuelling "radicalisation". But instead of then getting to grips with the cause of the problem, the response is still to treat the symptoms. Since Israel's western-backed devastation of Gaza unleashed a new wave of Muslim political activism, for example, the reaction has been heavyhanded policing, attempts to link protest with terrorism and renewed Islamophobic campaigns in the media.

Perhaps Blears thought attacking the MCB would play to the gallery in such a climate. But as the Jewish Chronicle columnist Geoffrey Alderman warned yesterday, not only was her interference a democratic outrage, but a dangerous precedent for other community organisations. Would Blears refuse to engage with a Jewish Board of Deputies leader, he asked, who backed West Bank settlements the government regards as illegal? Muslims are already angered by the double standards that allow Britons to serve with Israeli forces in Gaza and the Zionist Federation to raise charitable funds for occupation troops accused of war crimes, while any parallel moves to support Hamas are treated as involvement in terrorism.

The government preaches globalisation but has failed to face up to the implications of the multiple identities and loyalties that flow from it. The presence of a large population with recent roots in a part of the world where British forces are fighting unpopular wars is one reason why domestic and foreign policy can never again be separated in the way that was possible in colonial times. The government's counter-terrorism plan talks about Muslims needing to accept Britain's shared values. Fortunately, they do already. Both Muslims and non-Muslims oppose wars of aggression and want British troops brought home from Iraq and Afghanistan; they both accept people's right to defend themselves against invasion and occupation; and both mostly sympathise with the Palestinian cause. Now responding to that consensus would be a real counter-terror strategy.

Bridget - March 26, 2009 05:29 PM (GMT)
The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism

This strategy aims to reduce the risk to the United Kingdom and our interests overseas, so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence. We have had considerable success in countering the terrorist threat since CONTEST as first adopted six years ago, including disrupting a number of planned terrorist operations against the UK and bringing those responsible to justice.

Date: Tue Mar 24 09:47:07 GMT 2009

Full Document

    * The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism | Download PDF file (2 M Warning - large file)

Bridget - March 27, 2009 10:39 AM (GMT)
Sussex teachers on classroom terror alert

6:00am Friday 27th March 2009

By Emily-Ann Elliott

Teachers are to be trained how to spot potential terrorists before the youngsters become radicalised.

They will be taught alongside doctors and nurses to recognise vulnerable people who could be turned to terror.

Council bosses are concerned that if potential extremists are not rooted out at a young age they could go on to kill They believe Sussex’s health and education experts could be a key weapon in their war on homegrown terrorism.

The proposals from West Sussex County Council will be discussed on Wednesday – just as it emerged that another suspected terrorist from Crawley was quizzed for a week in a London police station.

In the report to WSCC’s public protection select committee, Richard Perry, the council’s director of operations for community services, and Jeff Fullard, head of community safety, proposed that some of the £121,000 of funding received from the Home Office should be used to train professionals to “raise awareness of hate crime and culture awareness”.

Mr Perry said: “Since the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the United Kingdom has faced a severe threat from international terrorism. While West Sussex is considered a safe and pleasant place to live and work and there is no reason to think that residents of West Sussex are more likely to display radicalised tendencies here than anywhere else, we cannot ignore the risk.

“To this end it is therefore proposed to develop a strategy that focuses preventative activity in a measured way on a wide range of institutions, schools, colleges and health-based establishments.”

Their proposals include ensuring a wide range of employees, including doctors, health care professionals and teachers, receive the training over the next 18 months.

The report also suggests that the risks which could be faced if the area of work is not adopted could include: “Radicalisation of extremist views among vulnerable people; social exclusion and discrimination not being combated; anxieties and grievances within communities not being dealt with, which could lead to tensions.”

Peter Evans, lead councillor for public protection for WSCC, said: “This is part of an overall strategy that the Government is asking to be employed throughout the UK.

“This impacts on WSCC through our community safety partnership, which is ideally placed to help develop the ‘Perform’ part of the strategy, which is really there to counter the problems that we face in society now with various groups throughout the country.

“Nowadays we are looking at extremism and that can be both religious and also against the state.

“This is to counter that and to train people and make them aware of the problems that can come up and divide society.”

The spectre of terrorism has loomed over West Sussex for ten years. In April 2008, Simon Keeler, 36, from Crawley, became the first white British Muslim to be convicted of terrorism. He was jailed for four-and-a-half years for inciting terrorism overseas and terrorist fundraising.

In May 2007 three Muslim men who grew up and worshipped in Crawley were sentenced to life in prison for plotting to commit mass murder.

Omar Khyam and Jawad Akbar, who attended Hazelwick School in Three Bridges, Crawley, worshipped alongside terror plotter Waheed Mahmood at the town’s Langley Green Mosque.

But their interest in radical Islam came from the preachings of extremist group al-Muhajiroun, who use Crawley as a recruiting ground.

They were all convicted of scheming to blow up a nightclub and a shopping centre with a massive bomb made from fertiliser.

After their conviction school friends expressed surprise that men who had been interested in normal activities, including football and cricket, could become radicalised.

Laura Moffatt, MP for Crawley, said she was “very supportive of this preventative work” and said the whole community had responded with “enormous dignity” to the town’s sad association with the terror plotters.

She added: “It is always very difficult to try and express just what the threat might be, so it is difficult work to do.

“Crawley Borough Council has also received some funding to work with students outside of school and in my briefings with the local authorities I am utterly convinced this is worthwhile.”

A spokeswoman for the BMA, which represents doctors, said: “Staff on the front line need to be trained.

“Increased vigilance is something we would not be opposed to.”

A 27-year-old man from Crawley was detained at Gatwick on March 18 as he tried to leave the country.

He was later arrested and taken to a London police station for questioning. A Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed an address in Crawley was searched as part of the investigation. The man has since been released without charge.

justthefacts - March 27, 2009 02:45 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (Bridget @ Mar 27 2009, 10:39 AM)
Sussex teachers on classroom terror alert

6:00am Friday 27th March 2009

By Emily-Ann Elliott

The spectre of terrorism has loomed over West Sussex for ten years.

Is that actually true?

indisguise - March 27, 2009 03:50 PM (GMT)
I did not advocate attacks on Jews

Hazel Blears, secretary of state for communities and local government, claims I signed a declaration "advocating attacks on Jewish communities all around the world" and attacks on British military forces (Letters, 26 March). Both of these claims are entirely untrue.

I do not advocate attacks on any religious community, including Jewish communities, and I do not advocate attacks on British military forces. In fact, my organisation, the Muslim Council of Britain, the main umbrella organisation of Muslims in the UK, has been forthright in urging our community to do everything in its power to help prevent terrorist attacks in this country.

What I do advocate is the right of all British citizens to agree or disagree with government policy and to use all lawful means to democratically make their voices heard. At the present time, that applies especially with regard to the government's double standards in its approach to conflict between Israel and the people of Palestine. Israel flouts international law, indiscriminately kills civilians and illegally occupies Palestinian lands, and nobody is even criticised by the government for supporting this.

On the other hand, those, like me, who uphold the right under international law of the Palestinian people to defend their homes and to democratically elect their own representatives are vilified and declared to be some sort of threat.

A government which tries to suppress discussion of such views by the kind of crude bullying to which Hazel Blears unfortunately stoops will have little moral support, not only in the Muslim community, but in wider society.
Daud Abdullah
Deputy general secretary, MCB

We consider the decision of the government to demand the removal of Dr Daud Abdullah from his elected post of deputy general secretary of the MCB an attack on the democratic right of freedom of speech of every British citizen.

It is our right to express whatever lawful views we wish in relation to the government's foreign policy and the criminal actions of Israel in relation to the Palestinian people. We note that the government proposes no sanctions against those who supported the military attack of Israel on Gaza and its ongoing siege despite Israel's routine flouting of international humanitarian law. It is clear that double standards are being applied which discriminate against Muslim supporters of justice for the Palestinians.

We note that there is no suggestion by the government that Dr Abdullah has broken any British law. The decision by the government to suspend relations with the MCB is an act of crude bullying which no independent organisation should tolerate. The government's actions in this matter only serve to assist those who will claim it is impossible for Muslims in Britain to support justice in the Middle East by democratic means.

We urge the government to respect the right of all British citizens, irrespective of their race or religion, to exercise their democratic right within the law to express their own opinion on domestic or foreign policies. To this end we urge the government to end its attack on Dr Abdullah and reinstate its relations with the MCB.
Ken Livingstone, Tony Benn, Lauren Booth, Bruce Kent, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Jenny Tonge, Anas Altikriti, British Muslim Initiative, Kate Hudson, Chair, CND, Andrew Murray, Chair, Stop the War Coalition, and 21 others

Hazel Blears rightly urges the MCB and other moderate Muslims to join the government in its fight against home-grown Muslim terrorism. British Sikhs faced a similar situation in the late 1980s when, in the wake of a military assault on the Golden Temple of Amritsar, Britain became a hub of terrorist activities directed against India. But the moderates among the Sikh community did not allow their extremist counterparts to go unchallenged; they were confronted at every level, from public meetings to Sikh temple congregations. By the mid1990s Sikh extremists in Britain were decisively marginalised. If moderate Muslims are really committed to fighting extremism, they ought to do what the Sikhs did: confront extremists among them at every level, operating possibly without any state support.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex

indisguise - March 28, 2009 02:16 AM (GMT)
Police identify 200 children as potential terrorists

Drastic new tactics to prevent school pupils as young as 13 falling into extremism

Exclusive by Mark Hughes Crime correspondent

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Two hundred schoolchildren in Britain, some as young as 13, have been identified as potential terrorists by a police scheme that aims to spot youngsters who are "vulnerable" to Islamic radicalisation.

The number was revealed to The Independent by Sir Norman Bettison, the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police and Britain's most senior officer in charge of terror prevention.

He said the "Channel project" had intervened in the cases of at least 200 children who were thought to be at risk of extremism, since it began 18 months ago. The number has leapt from 10 children identified by June 2008.

The programme, run by the Association of Chief Police Officers, asks teachers, parents and other community figures to be vigilant for signs that may indicate an attraction to extreme views or susceptibility to being "groomed" by radicalisers. Sir Norman, whose force covers the area in which all four 7 July 2005 bombers grew up, said: "What will often manifest itself is what might be regarded as racism and the adoption of bad attitudes towards 'the West'.

"One of the four bombers of 7 July was, on the face of it, a model student. He had never been in trouble with the police, was the son of a well-established family and was employed and integrated into society.

"But when we went back to his teachers they remarked on the things he used to write. In his exercise books he had written comments praising al-Qa'ida. That was not seen at the time as being substantive. Now we would hope that teachers might intervene, speak to the child's family or perhaps the local imam who could then speak to the young man."

The Channel project was originally piloted in Lancashire and the Metropolitan Police borough of Lambeth in 2007, but in February last year it was extended to West Yorkshire, the Midlands, Bedfordshire and South Wales. Due to its success there are now plans to roll it out to the rest of London, Thames Valley, South Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and West Sussex.

The scheme, funded by the Home Office, involves officers working alongside Muslim communities to identify impressionable children who are at risk of radicalisation or who have shown an interest in extremist material – on the internet or in books.

Once identified the children are subject to a "programme of intervention tailored to the needs of the individual". Sir Norman said this could involve discussions with family, outreach workers or the local imam, but he added that "a handful have had intervention directly by the police".

He stressed that the system was not being used to target the Muslim community. "The whole ethos is to build a relationship, on the basis of trust and confidence, with those communities," said Sir Norman.

"With the help of these communities we can identify the kids who are vulnerable to the message and influenced by the message. The challenge is to intervene and offer guidance, not necessarily to prosecute them, but to address their grievance, their growing sense of hate and potential to do something violent in the name of some misinterpretation of a faith.

"We are targeting criminals and would-be terrorists who happen to be cloaking themselves in Islamic rhetoric. That is not the same as targeting the Muslim community."

Nor was it criminalising children, he added. "The analogy I use is that it is similar to our well-established drugs intervention programmes. Teachers in schools are trained to identify pupils who might be experimenting with drugs, take them to one side and talk to them. That does not automatically mean that these kids are going to become crack cocaine or heroin addicts. The same is true around this issue."

But Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain said the police ran the risk of infringing on children's privacy. He warned: "There is a difference between the police being concerned or believing a person may be at risk of recruitment and a person actually engaging in unlawful, terrorist activity.

"That said, clearly in recent years some people have been lured by terrorist propaganda emanating from al-Qa'ida-inspired groups. It would seem that a number of Muslim youngsters have been seduced by that narrative and all of us, including the Government, have a role to play in making sure that narrative is seen for what it is: a nihilistic one which offers no hope, only death and destruction."

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are committed to stopping people becoming or supporting terrorists or violent extremists. The aim of the Channel project is to directly support vulnerable people by providing supportive interventions when families, communities and networks raise concerns about their behaviour."

Bridget - April 4, 2009 09:24 AM (GMT)
London Cornerstone of Britain’s Anti-Terrorist Program



The publication of Britain’s new anti-terrorism strategy in late March underscored the central role played by the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism.

Assigned to coordinating all of Britain’s anti-terrorism operations (see graph below), the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT) is barely two years’ old. Since its inception the organization has been headed by Charles Farr, who rose through the ranks in Britain’s security establishment and could well be named head of MI6, the country’s foreign intelligence agency (IOL 578).Published on March 24, the new version of the anti-terrorist Contest strategy unveils the entire British system for the first time. Alongside government officials, security companies figure high on the totem pole, represented, as they are, by a Resilience Industry Suppliers Council (RISC). Headed by Stephen Phipson, who is also chief of Smiths Detection, RISK speaks for more than 2,000 British companies, among them giants like BAE Systems, Thales UK and Qinetiq, as well as trade associations (British Security Industry Association, Defence Manufacturers Association) and two think tanks (Chatham House and RUSI). The companies are seeking lucrative contracts for infrastructure protection, biometric equipment, NRBC detection gear and goods needed for protection at the Olympic Games in London in 2012.

user posted image

numeral - April 4, 2009 12:22 PM (GMT)
Muslim leader sues Blears on Gaza
Page last updated at 04:30 GMT, Saturday, 4 April 2009 05:30 UK

A leading member of the Muslim Council of Britain is suing cabinet minister Hazel Blears for defamation, following a row over the Israeli bombing of Gaza.

Dr Daud Abdullah, who is the MCB deputy secretary-general, is seeking damages.

Ms Blears said a document which Dr Abdullah signed on hostilities in Gaza had advocated attacks on UK military personnel and on Jews around the world.

Ms Blears made the claim in a letter to the Guardian last week, but Dr Abdullah has vehemently denied it.

The document is known as the Istanbul Declaration and was signed by 90 Muslim leaders in response to the three-week Israeli offensive in Gaza, in December and January.

The minister said the declaration supported violence against foreign troops, including British naval forces and advocated "attacks on Jewish communities all around the world".

Ms Blears, who is Communities Secretary, said Dr Abdullah needed to make his own position clear.

Dr Abdullah has in turn accused Ms Blears of "crude bullying". He said the declaration did not represent an attack on Jewish people and that he did not call for or support attacks on British troops anywhere in the world.

Private dialogue

After the legal action was launched a spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government confirmed it had received correspondence from Dr Daud Abdullah's solicitors.

"We have been in dialogue with the MCB since 6 March, seeking clarification of the actions taken by Dr Abdullah in relation to the serious issues raised by the articles in the Istanbul Declaration.

"We are concerned with those articles which appear to call for violence and Dr Abdullah's repeated unwillingness to distance himself from those articles specifically.

"The legal route that Dr Abdullah has chosen to take despite our offer of further private dialogue with the MCB to resolve the matter means this will now be taken forward by solicitors."

The UK government has said it is concerned with the following articles of the declaration:

• "The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard everyone standing with the Zionist entity, whether countries, institutions or individuals, as providing a substantial contribution to the crimes and brutality of this entity; the position towards him is the same as towards this usurping entity."

• "The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard the sending of foreign warships into Muslim waters, claiming to control the borders and prevent the smuggling of arms to Gaza, as in effect a declaration of war, a new occupation, sinful aggression, and a clear violation of the sovereignty of the Nation, that must be rejected and fought by all means and ways."

Responding to Ms Blears with his own letter to the Guardian, Dr Abdullah said: "I do not advocate attacks on any religious community, including Jewish communities, and I do not advocate attacks on British military forces.

"What I do advocate is the right of all British citizens to agree or disagree with government policy and to use all lawful means to democratically make their voices heard.

"A government which tries to suppress discussion of such views by the kind of crude bullying to which Hazel Blears unfortunately stoops will have little moral support, not only in the Muslim community, but in wider society," he added.

Last week a Labour MP and two of the party's peers were among co-signatories with Dr Abdullah of a public statement insisting they did not "condone, encourage or support" killing any human beings or attacks on British soldiers.

Ms Blears said at the time that the statement was a "helpful first step" but that "greater clarity" of Dr Abdullah's views was needed.

She said she stood by what she believed about the declaration.

"Public statements that assert that attacks of this kind are not only acceptable but an 'obligation' cannot go unchallenged," she said.

She denied Dr Abdullah's claims that she was trying to "suppress discussion".

Bridget - May 29, 2009 12:14 PM (GMT)
The MI5 recruitment story is posted on this thread.
Camden News - by PAUL KEILTHY
Published: 28 May 2009

MI5 policy on Somali youths has gone ‘terribly wrong’

COMMUNITY organisations have claimed that the efforts of British intelligence agencies to recruit youth workers in Somali-based voluntary groups in Camden have seriously undermined anti-terrorism efforts.
Six youth workers at the Kentish Town Community Organisation (KTCO) were reported in the Independent newspaper last week as claiming they had been coerced by MI5 officers attempting to recruit them as informants.
The men, who are all British citizens and work in various roles at the Queen’s Crescent-based organisation, alleged that they had been held or deported at foreign airports, and told that they would be considered terrorist suspects unless they co-operated with MI5.
The chairman of KTCO, Sharhabeel Lone, who has raised concerns about approaches by the security services to youth workers before, said yesterday: “Instilling fear into communities at the expense of foresight and applying Stasi-era tactics rather than building bridges with the very communities that can make all the difference is counterproductive.
“This strategy has gone terribly wrong.”
The London Somali Youth Forum, which is also based in Kentish Town, issued a statement: “It is paramount that responsible authorities and figures act quickly to restore public confidence.
“A full-scale investigation of current counter-terrorism recruitment strategy is necessary while great emphasis is put on education and transparency.”
Board member Mohamed Hassan said he knew many people who “felt targeted in one way or another”, and called on MI5 to change tactics. He added: “This is not about MI5 working within the community – if MI5 wants to work with us, please come on board.
“Everyone here has the same values as every British citizen and wants to see people safe.”
MI5, which is the UK’s domestic anti-terrorist unit, has a policy of not responding to press enquiries.

QUOTE ("Hansard 30/03/09")
Community Relations

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to the Prevent strand of Project Contest, in which boroughs the Pan-London Somali Youth Forum is operating; how much each borough implementing the forum project was allocated in 2007-08; what the budget is for the project for 2008-09; and what mechanisms are in place to assess whether the Pan-London Somali Youth Forum is effective in preventing radicalisation amongst Somali youths. [263170]

Mr. Coaker: I have been asked to reply.

The Home Office has made a grant of £57,511 available to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in 2008-09 to support the Pan-London Somali Youth Forum project as part of the Prevent strategy.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is working with the Pan-London Somali Youth Forum so that it will have a representative from 16 London boroughs: Barnet, Bromley, Camden, Ealing, Greenwich, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hackney, Haringey, Harrow, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Wandsworth.

The Home Office is monitoring progress under the terms of the grant agreement with the MPS.

Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether her Department has plans to rename the Preventing Violent Extremism programme. [267682]

Mr. Khan: There are no plans to rename the Preventing Violent Extremism Programme. We are in constant dialogue with communities on how this programme is developed and taken forward.

Somalian youth are being bigged-up as the next 'terror threat'.

Bridget - June 27, 2009 08:04 PM (GMT)
Show Britain is on the right side by barring torture, say security experts

• Commission warns against control orders
• Anti-terror tactics 'can give radicals propaganda coup'

    * Alan Travis, home affairs editor
    * The Guardian, Saturday 27 June 2009

Defence, security and intelligence grandees will next week launch a critique of the government's strategy for dealing with terror, including a demand that ministers should show that Britain has "unambiguously" renounced the use of torture.

They will argue that the government must demonstrate that it is "on the right side" when it comes to the abuse of detainees and the practice of extraordinary rendition.

The 180-page final report of the Institute of Public Policy Research's security commission, to be published on Tuesday, will recommend that the government ensures that its own agents employ only legal methods and robustly challenge alleged or suspected torture .

The commission also warns that control orders and other measures that "subvert the rule of normal law" can provide a propaganda coup for radical jihadi groups.

The criticism of official policy across a range of counter-terrorism and human rights issues is expected to prove highly influential as many of its figures come from the security and defence establishment.

The commission was jointly chaired by the former Nato secretary-general, Lord Robertson, and the former Liberal Democrat leader, Lord Ashdown. Its final report has been signed off by commissioners who include the former chief of the defence staff, Lord Guthrie; the former British ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock; and the former Cabinet Office security and intelligence coordinator, Sir David Omand.

The two-year study concludes that a commitment to the rule of law at home and abroad and a willingness to uphold and protect human rights are fundamental to the legitimacy of a national security strategy.

Their recommendations include:

• Suspected terrorists should be dealt with using the standard criminal justice system;

• Ways need to be found to use intercept evidence in criminal trials without prejudicing national security;

• Deporting terror suspects to countries that practice torture on the basis of diplomatic assurances is unacceptable unless accompanied by robust independent monitoring to ensure their safety;

• Britain should sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The report also examines the government's Prevent strategy to counter radicalisation and terrorism within Britain and warns that there have been occasions where enforcement activity has backfired. "Prevent must not become Provoke. Some of the pursuit and disruption tactics employed have had just such unintended consequences.

"This damages a counter-terrorism strategy that must be enacted 'amongst the people' and that is largely predicated on community trust and confidence in the state and its agents," says the final report seen by the Guardian.

It says the police and security services must recruit more Muslim staff and also further review the use of language to build on the decision not to use phrases such as the "war on terror". On torture, the authors say they pass no judgment on the allegations in the case of Binyam Mohamed, the British resident released after more than four years' detention at Guantánamo Bay.

"However, in our view, in ordering the closure of Guantánamo Bay, the ending of CIA practices of enforced disappearances and secret detentions forbidding torture, President Obama is re-establishing Amercian legitimacy in the eyes of the rest of the world. In the UK, we too must consider what more we can do to be unambiguously on the right side of these issues."

On the rule of law in Britain, the security commission stops short of calling for control orders and lengthy period of pre-charge detention to be scrapped, but says that both involve suspending the legal right of habeas corpus - the right of the accused to hear the evidence against them.

"We recognise the difficulties in this area but we must also recognise that developments that subvert the rule of normal law, however well-intentioned, can be a propaganda coup for the radical and neo-jihadi groups we are trying to combat," they warn.

The security and defence experts add that legitimate grievances of isolated minority groups, including over British foreign policy, have to be addressed.

They say that a divided and grievance-ridden society is unlikely to prove a resilient one when subjected to the extreme disruptions that future security scenarios might bring.

Bridget - July 10, 2009 11:22 PM (GMT)
Press Release

Session 2008-09, 6 July 2009

Publication of Report

Project CONTEST: Government's Counter-Terrorism Strategy

Home Affairs Committee: Government's anti-terror strategy deserves every confidence but no room for complacency on risks to Underground and upcoming Olympics

In a report released Tuesday 7 July 2009 at 11am the Commons Home Affairs Committee says "the UK's counter-terrorism apparatus is first-class, effective and as 'joined-up' as any system of government can expect" and  it is very impressed by the work of the Government's lead unit on counter-terrorism, the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT).

The Committee says however that the Transport for London network remains "extremely vulnerable" to terrorist attack . Airport-style security will never be compatible with the demands of a mass transit system with millions of passengers every day. However, the Committee says the network is a key point of vulnerability for the UK and "there is no room for complacency".

Another "critical area of vulnerability" is the London 2012 Olympics and the Committee says engineering a safe and secure Games will be a "litmus test for the Government's counter-terrorism strategy."

The UK continues to face a sustained and extremely grave threat from terrorism, and the Committee says that "after a slow start" the Government has done a great deal to improve its counter-terrorism structures and now has an impressive approach to the issue. However, more work remains to be done in these areas to make the UK's arrangements more efficient and effective .

Rt Hon Keith Vaz, Chair of the Committee said.  "I am most grateful to Patrick Mercer and the Sub -Committee which we established to look into these matters for its excellent work which the main Committee adopted in full."

"We must never underestimate the continued grave threat the UK faces from terrorist attack. There is no doubt that there are sophisticated groups out there focussed on doing us harm. However, what we saw of the OSCT and the way it is implementing Project CONTEST, the Government's comprehensive counter-terror strategy, gave us every confidence that the UK's counter-terrorism apparatus is effective and 'joined-up' and capable of the large and difficult task it faces. That is not to say there is any room for complacency, and there is always more to be done, but if anything the Government should be more forthcoming about the successes it is having tackling the real and constant threat from terrorism. "

"Following this report we will now embark on a new inquiry into the 7/7 bombings. The former Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Andy Hayman recently raised some questions about the work of COBRA, the committee set up to deal with national emergency situations, and we will be considering its effectiveness as the next stage of our scrutiny in this area."

7 July 2009 Project CONTEST: The Government's Counter-Terrorism Strategy
HTML version (browsable) PDF version

Bridget - August 14, 2009 10:29 AM (GMT)
Page last updated at 08:59 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 09:59 UK

Appeal for anti-terrorist gadgets

Developers demonstrate their device to stop speed boats (video)

An appeal for inventors to develop anti-terrorist gadgets has been launched by the government.

Real-life versions of scientist Q in the 007 films are being offered funding to develop technology to aid the fight against groups like al-Qaeda.

Ideas already realised have included a rocket-propelled net to stop speedboats and a barrier to block suicide trucks.

Security Minister Lord West said this was "one more tool in our fight against those who would wish to do us harm".

'Serious threat'

The appeal is part of the Home Office's three-year Science and Technology Counter-Terrorism Strategy, CONTEST.

This predicts that terrorists will use modern technology not just to plan and carry attacks, but also to spread propaganda and bring in new recruits.

New technologies have been harnessed by terrorist groups very, very quickly
Dr Tobias Feakin
Royal United Services Institute

Anti-terror gun stops boats dead

In response, the government has produced a brochure for science and technology experts to put them in touch with key contacts in the counter-terrorism community.

Lord West said he believed the UK's status as a "leading innovator" in defence and security strategy should be harnessed to prevent terror attacks.

He added: "The UK currently faces a real and serious threat from terrorism and we need to utilise our position as a world leader in science and technology to counter this.

"We need to match products and ideas to problems, which is why we are actively inviting people to join us and share expertise."

Dr Tobias Feakin, director of homeland security at the Royal United Services Institute, said it was important to keep pace with terrorists who did not face the "barriers in place to harnessing new technologies that governments do".

He told the BBC News channel: "New technologies have been harnessed by terrorist groups very, very quickly because they're very adept at changing and adapting.

"Governments have to actually begin to change their processes so they can adapt to new technology types in a far more quick manner than perhaps they did in the past."

numeral - August 14, 2009 01:21 PM (GMT)
Brainwave! Genetically engineer bees (those that have not yet sucumbed to Colony Collapse Syndrome) to home in on organic peroxides. Introduce bee-hives at every station on the Underground and every bus stop.

numeral - October 17, 2009 09:40 AM (GMT)
QUOTE (numeral @ Aug 14 2009, 02:21 PM)
Brainwave! Genetically engineer bees (those that have not yet sucumbed to Colony Collapse Syndrome) to home in on organic peroxides. Introduce bee-hives at every station on the Underground and every bus stop.

numeral - October 17, 2009 09:47 AM (GMT)

Government anti-terrorism strategy 'spies' on innocent

Data on politics, sexual activity and religion gathered by government

    * Vikram Dodd
    *, Friday 16 October 2009 20.15 BST

Ed Husain of the anti-extremism group Quilliam and Shami Chakrabati of Liberty on how the community engagement scheme is being used to gather personal information Link to this video

The government programme aimed at preventing Muslims from being lured into violent extremism is being used to gather intelligence about innocent people who are not suspected of involvement in terrorism, the Guardian has learned.

The information the authorities are trying to find out includes political and religious views, information on mental health, sexual activity and associates, and other sensitive information, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Other documents reveal that the intelligence and information can be stored until the people concerned reach the age of 100.

Tonight Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, branded it the biggest spying programme in Britain in modern times and an affront to civil liberties.

The intelligence is being gathered as part of the strategy Preventing Violent Extremism – Prevent for short. It was launched three years ago to stop people being lured to al-Qaida ideology and committing acts of terrorism.

The government and police have repeatedly denied that the £140m programme is a cover for spying on Muslims in Britain. But sources directly involved in running Prevent schemes say it involves gathering intelligence about the thoughts and beliefs of Muslims who are not involved in criminal activity.

Instances around the country include:

• In the Midlands, funding for a mental health project to help Muslims was linked to information about individuals being passed to the authorities.

• In a college in northern England, a student who attended a meeting about Gaza was reported by one lecturer as a potential extremist. He was found not to be.

• A nine-year-old schoolboy in east London, who was referred to the authorities after allegedly showing signs of extremism – the youngest case known in Britain. He was "deprogrammed" according to a source with knowledge of the case.

• Within the last month, one new youth project in London alleged it was being pressured by the Metropolitan police to provide names and details of Muslim youngsters, as a condition of funding. None of the young Muslims have any known terrorist history.

• In one London borough, those working with youngsters were told to add information to databases they hold to highlight which youths were Muslim. They were also asked to provide information, to be shared with the police, about which streets and areas Muslim youngsters could be found on.

• In Birmingham the programme manager for Prevent is in fact a senior counter- terrorism police officer. Paul Marriott has been seconded to work in the equalities division of Britain's biggest council.

• In Blackburn, at least 80 people were reported to the authorities for showing signs of extremism. They were referred to the Channel project, part of Prevent.

• A youth project manager alleges his refusal to provide intelligence led to the police spreading false rumours and trying to smear him and his organisation.

• One manager of a project in London said : "I think part of the point of the [Prevent] programme is to spy and intelligence gather. I won't do that." In another London borough wardens on council estates were told to inform on people not whom they suspected of crimes, but whom they suspected could be susceptible to radicalisation. One source, who has been involved in Whitehall discussions on counter-terrorism, said: "There is no doubt Prevent is in part about gathering intelligence on people's thoughts and beliefs. No doubt." He added that the authorities feared "they'd be lynched" if they admitted Prevent included spying.

Ed Husain, of the Quilliam Foundation, who has advised both Labour and the Conservatives on extremism, said: "It is gathering intelligence on people not committing terrorist offences." Husain, whose group receives £700,000 in Prevent funding, believes it is morally right to give law enforcement agencies the best chance of stopping terrorists before they strike.

Serious concerns that the Prevent programme is being used at least in part to "spy" on Muslims have been voiced not just by Islamic groups, but youth workers, teachers and others. Some involved in the programme have told the Guardian of their fears that they are being co-opted into spying. They did not want to be named, fearing they would lose their job.

Some groups have refused its funding. In several areas the provision of funding is explicitly linked to agreeing to sharing of information, or intelligence, with agencies including law enforcement.

Traditionally in Britain intelligence is gathered by the police and security services. Prevent is trying to turn community, religious and voluntary groups into information or intelligence providers.

Prevent is run by the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, part of the Home Office. It is widely regarded in Whitehall as being an intelligence agency.

The OSCT is headed up by Charles Farr, a former senior intelligence officer, with expertise in covert work. Also senior in the OSCT is another former senior intelligence officer. The Guardian has been asked not to name him for security reasons.

Chakrabarti said she was horrified by the revelations. "It is the biggest domestic spying programme targeting the thoughts and beliefs of the innocent in Britain in modern times," she said.

"It is information-gathering directed at the innocent and the spying is directed at people because of their religion, and not because of their behaviour."

The Home Office said: "Any suggestion that Prevent is about spying is simply wrong. Prevent is about working with communities to protect vulnerable individuals and address the root causes of radicalisation."

Bridget - October 18, 2009 10:52 PM (GMT)
MPs investigate anti-extremism programme after spying claims

• Innocent people 'targeted' in intelligence swoops
• Information gathered includes sexual activities

    * Vikram Dodd
    *, Sunday 18 October 2009 22.10 BST

Keith Vaz responded to the allegations: 'It's very important this engagement takes place, but that does not mean innocent people are targeted.'

A powerful committee of MPs is likely to hold a formal hearing into allegations that a government anti-extremism programme is being used to gather information on innocent Muslims.

The home affairs select committee meets on Tuesday and will discuss widening its inquiry into the £140m Preventing Violent Extremism scheme, also known as Prevent.

The hearing follows a Guardian investigation that revealed allegations that the programme, whose public aim is to prevent Muslims from being lured into violent extremism, is being used to gather intelligence about innocent people not suspected of involvement in terrorism.

Information the authorities are trying to ascertain includes political and religious views, information on mental health and sexual activity and associates, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Other documents reveal that the intelligence and information could be stored until the people concerned reach the age of 100.

The all-party committee of MPs will consider offering private evidence sessions for whistleblowers and those who believe they were affected.

Some of those making the accusations, including people involved in running Prevent-funded projects, fear losing their jobs or reprisals for speaking out.

In a further move, the civil rights group Liberty is examining the prospect of suing the government over the scheme because it may breach a guarantee of a right to privacy in the Human Rights Act.

A leading counter-terrorism expert said the scheme was trying to brand non-violent Muslims as "subversives", which if maintained would lead to the Prevent scheme backfiring.

The government denies that Prevent involves spying on the innocent.

Keith Vaz, a Labour MP and chairman of the home affairs committee said: "We will be inquiring into these allegations. It's very important this engagement takes place, but that does not mean innocent people are targeted. In the end that would be counter-productive.

"We have the power to offer private sessions to those who wish to bring to parliament's attention issues concerning Prevent and its alleged gathering of sensitive information on the innocent."

Reacting to the investigation, Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, called Prevent the biggest spying programme in Britain in modern times and an affront to civil liberties.

She said today the group would consider suing if whistleblowers came forward, which they could do confidentially.

Chakrabarti said: "We're inviting people who feel they may have been affected to come forward to us, and we will consider litigation," she said. "We also invite anyone who has been working on these projects and has concerns."

Prevent is a cross-department programme, run by the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism. Its head, Charles Farr, is a former senior intelligence officer. He was reported to be the choice of some of his peers to be the next head of MI6, but lost out to Sir John Sawers.

A former Scotland Yard counterterrorism officer has warned the government about its tactics.

Robert Lambert headed a special branch unit countering extremism by working with Muslims whose views the government disliked. His Muslim Contact Unit gained respect from arch-critics of the police.

Lambert said: "Not only is it morally reprehensible to treat law-abiding Muslim citizens as a subversive threat, it is also hugely counter-productive.

"If ministers continue … they will begin to jeopardise social cohesion as well as effective and legitimate counter-terrorism in the UK."

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "Prevent must not become an intrusive spying programme that destroys relationships within the Muslim community and between Muslims and the rest of society.

"Combating radical Islamist ideas is one thing; gathering and keeping intelligence on the innocent is another."

cmain - October 20, 2009 02:20 PM (GMT)
Nafeez on Prevent: ordinary Muslims under surveillance while the al-Muhajiroun types (Islam4UK) say and do whatever they like without the authorities doing anything about them (maybe because they originated with MI6 and get funding from the CIA).

Right on cue, Anjem Choudary and Islam4UK are planning a march for Sharia (Telegraph), greeted with the usual outrage by Patrick Mercer, the Sun, the Express and the Star.

Bridget - October 23, 2009 10:49 AM (GMT)
Spooked: how not to prevent violent extremism
By IRR News Team

17 October 2009, 00:30am

user posted image

A report published today by the Institute of Race Relations finds that the government's Prevent programme for tackling extremism fosters division, mistrust and alienation.

Entitled Spooked: how not to prevent violent extremism, the report suggests that the Prevent programme has been used to establish one of the most elaborate systems of surveillance ever seen in Britain.

Moreover, there are strong reasons for thinking that the Prevent progamme, in effect, constructs the Muslim population as a 'suspect community', fosters social divisions among Muslims themselves and between Muslims and others, encourages tokenism, facilitates violations of privacy and professional norms of confidentiality, discourages local democracy and is counter-productive in reducing the risk of political violence.

The result of a six-month research project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the report draws on existing policy and academic work, freedom of information requests, a roundtable discussion and thirty-two interviews with Prevent programme workers and managers in local authorities, members of local Prevent boards, voluntary sector workers engaged in Prevent work and community workers familiar with local Prevent work.

The government describes its Preventing Violent Extremism programme (known simply as 'Prevent') as 'a community-led approach to tackling violent extremism'. It believes that by selectively directing resources at 'moderate' Muslim organisations to carry out community development and 'anti-radicalisation' work, it can empower them to unite around 'shared British values' to isolate the 'extremists'. With hundreds of millions of pounds of funding, the Prevent programme has come to redefine the relationship between government and around two million British citizens who are Muslim.

The report's key findings are that:

    * Prevent-funded voluntary sector organisations and workers in local authorities are becoming increasingly wary of the expectations on them to provide the police with information on young Muslims and their religious and political opinions.
    * The atmosphere promoted by Prevent is one in which to make radical criticisms of the government is to risk losing funding and facing isolation as an 'extremist', while those organisations which support the government are rewarded.
    * Local authorities have been pressured to accept Prevent funding in direct proportion to the numbers of Muslims in their area - in effect, constructing the Muslim population as a 'suspect community'.
    * Prevent decision-making lacks transparency and local accountability.
    * Prevent has undermined progressive elements within the earlier community cohesion agenda and absorbed from it those parts which are most problematic.
    * The current emphasis of Prevent on depoliticising young people and restricting radical dissent is actually counter-productive because it strengthens the hands of those who say democracy is pointless.

Author of the report, Arun Kundnani, says that: 'The stated aim of the government's counter-terrorist strategy is to enable people to "go about their lives freely and with confidence". The question we pose in this report is whether freedom and confidence for the majority can be enabled by imposing a lack of freedom and confidence on a minority - in this case, the Muslim population of Britain.'

Free download of Spooked: how not to prevent violent extremism (pdf file, 1.2Mb)

Bridget - December 8, 2009 12:00 PM (GMT)
Page last updated at 08:30 GMT, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Extremism strategy 'lacks clarity', minister admits

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News

The government hopes to make UK Muslims resilient to extremists

The government's flagship strategy to stop young people becoming terrorists has suffered from a "lack of clarity", the communities secretary is to say.

John Denham is expected to use a speech to defend the programme while conceding that some parts must change.

The Prevent strategy has been dogged by controversy over its aims and claims by some Muslims they are being spied on.

The programme to prevent violent extremism by working with communities emerged after the 2005 London bombings.

Prevent is one of the major planks of the government's counter-terrorism strategy, known as Contest, designed to combat al-Qaeda-inspired violence and radicalisation.

About £20m is being spent annually on Prevent programmes, many of them administered by local authorities.

Prevent is a crime prevention programme and at its root is to try and make sure none of our young people ruin their lives
John Denham

Some more sensitive projects come under direct Whitehall control.

Muslim community organisations have been split over Prevent, with some willing to work with government but others denying that there is even a problem that needs addressing.

Meanwhile, competition between organisations to prove to government that they are best placed to prevent extremism has raised questions about the credibility and independence of some of those bidding for funding.

At least one council initially refused to touch the money because it believed that the programme's title was enough to damage relations.

Mr Denham told BBC Radio 4's Today programme one example of the lack of clarity was the "completely wrong" perception the programme was about demonising the Muslim community.

"Prevent is a crime prevention programme and at its root is to try and make sure none of our young people ruin their lives and other peoples' lives by being drawn into violent extremism," he said.

"It works, not because you demonise a community, but because the vast majority of Muslims are totally opposed to that type of violence.

"You work with them, you bring that great majority view to bear on those who would try to promote violent extremism."

Racism threat

He also insisted there was no programme "about collecting ideas about people's political attitudes or beliefs" and denied "spying" was part of the strategy.

"No more than if you knew that someone in your street... was carrying a gun, you would report that to the police," he said.

Mr Denham's department issued new guidance in August telling councils to broaden their strategy to include a rise in right-wing racism.

In a speech to councils on Tuesday, Mr Denham is expected to say that phrases or titles such as Preventing Violent Extremism can be quietly dropped if local officials think they will be a barrier to getting things done.

He is also expected to concede that Prevent's lack of clarity has contributed to fear and confusion that the government has been attempting to impose a system of overt monitoring.

Mr Denham will tell officials who administer Prevent schemes that they will work only if Muslim groups know that their concerns are being listened to - and that they are "full partners" in tackling violent ideology.

Bridget - December 11, 2009 01:34 PM (GMT)
A is for Al-Qaeda, B for Bin Laden?
From The Times
December 11, 2009
Terror police to monitor nurseries for Islamic radicalisation

Alex Ralph and Sean O’Neill

Nursery-age children should be monitored for signs of brainwashing by Islamist extremists, according to a leaked police memo obtained by The Times.

In an e-mail to community groups, an officer in the West Midlands counter-terrorism unit wrote: “I do hope that you will tell me about persons, of whatever age, you think may have been radicalised or be vulnerable to radicalisation ... Evidence suggests that radicalisation can take place from the age of 4.”

The police unit confirmed that counter-terrorist officers specially trained in identifying children and young people vulnerable to radicalisation had visited nursery schools.

The policy was condemned last night. Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, said that it ran the risk of “alienating even more people”. Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said that it was an “absurd waste of police time”.

Sir Norman Bettison, who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on Prevent, the Government’s anti-terror strategy, said that the officer’s e-mail was a “clumsy” attempt to explain it.

Sir Norman, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, said: “There is absolutely no example, nationally, of the police engaging with nursery-age kids specifically on this issue. That is the age for learning about ‘Stranger Danger’ and ‘The Tufty Club’.”

The Home Office has disclosed, meanwhile, that a seven-year-old has become the youngest child to feature in a scheme to tackle grooming by extremists. David Hanson, the Police Minister, disclosed in a parliamentary answer that the child was one of 228 people referred to the Channel Project, part of Prevent focused on individuals.

More than 90 per cent of those identified by the project have been aged between 15 and 24 and most, but not all, are Muslim.

Criticism of the anti-extremism strategy is growing. The programme, funded from the £3.5 billion per year security budget, is said to stigmatise communities and encourage Muslims to spy on one another.

This week John Denham, the Communities Secretary, said that the programme had to be more transparent to dispel “the fear that by joining a Prevent activity, the organisers or the participants are opening themselves up to covert surveillance, intelligence-gathering and the collection of files on the Muslim communities”.

The e-mail obtained by The Times was written by a sergeant in response to Muslim community concerns. He was trying to allay fears but seems to have inflamed them.

He wrote: “I am a police officer and therefore it will always be part of my role to gather intelligence and I will report back any information or intelligence which may suggest someone is a terrorist, or is planning to be one or to support others. However, my role is to raise the level of awareness of the threat of terrorism and radicalisation and support and work with partners to try to prevent it.”

Arun Kundnani, of the Institute of Race Relations, contacted the officer and said he was told that officers had visited nursery schools. Mr Kundnani added: “He did seem to think it was standard. He said it wasn’t just him or his unit that was doing it. He said the indicators were they [children] might draw pictures of bombs and say things like ‘all Christians are bad’ or that they believe in an Islamic state. It seems that nursery teachers in the West Midlands area are being asked to look out for radicalisation. He also said that targeting young children was important because they would be left aware of what was inappropriate to say at school. He felt that it was necessary to cover nurseries as well as primary and secondary schools. He said it was a precaution and that he wasn’t expecting to come back with a list.”

There have been acute worries about radicalisation in the Birmingham area since a terrorist was caught on a surveillance tape indoctrinating his five-year-old son.

Parviz Khan, who was jailed for plotting to kidnap and behead a British soldier, was heard threatening the boy with a beating if he did not answer questions correctly. “Who do you love?” Kahn asked. “I love Sheikh Osama bin Laden,” the boy answered.

The West Midlands counter-terrorism unit confirmed that its officer had visited a nursery school attached to a primary school and had spoken to staff. The unit said that it had 21 uniformed counter-terrorism officer who engaged openly and directly with communities, schools and other public bodies.

A spokesman said: “We have been trying to bring counter-terrorism work out of the shadows. It can cause consternation at first when a policeman introduces himself as a counter-terrorism officer. But we are actually trying to get over the accusation that Prevent is about spying by being more open and we are reaping the benefits now with better engagement.”

Sir Norman emphasised that Prevent was about working with communities to protect vulnerable young people. “It is no different to addressing the harm of drugs or sexual exploitation,” he said. “Prevent is a way of addressing those most vulnerable in an attempt to protect them.

“It is easy to give Prevent initiatives a kicking because it is viewed as intrusive but, the next time there is a terrorist outrage involving young people who have been radicalised, there will be a wringing of hands and people will say, ‘What more could we have done?’ ”

Quilliam, an anti-extremism think-tank, told a Commons select committee inquiry: “The notion that Prevent is about surveillance and monitoring of Muslim communities is deeply ingrained in some communities and will be difficult to shift.”

Home Department
Written answers and statements, 11 November 2009

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people have received assistance from the Channel project for vulnerable individuals at risk of extremism since 1 January 2009; how many such people were under (a) 16 years and (b) 12 years old; how many such people were not Muslim; what evaluation of the outcomes of the programme has been undertaken; what proportion of people assisted by the Channel project were found to have been at risk of becoming violent extremists; and on what grounds such findings were made.

    * Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 11 November 2009, c424W)

David Hanson (Minister of State (Crime and Policing), Home Office; Delyn, Labour)

holding answer 2 November 2009

We hold the following data on Channel which covers the period April 2007-December 2008:

Between April 2007-December 2008:

228 referrals were made to the Channel Project

The known age range of those referred to Channel as potentially vulnerable to violent extremism and in need of multi-agency support was seven-50 years.

The majority of referrals were aged between 15-24 years;

Of those referred to Channel as potentially vulnerable to violent extremism and in need of multi-agency support 93 per cent. were male.

We will be publishing, shortly, a guidance document on Channel for partnerships. This document will include and reflect feedback and the implementation lessons learned from some of the longest running sites.

There is no single profile of a violent extremist. There are a range of factors and vulnerabilities that may facilitate the process of radicalisation. Delivering the Prevent Strategy: An Updated Guide for Local Partners includes a description of the factors that might make a person more susceptible to exploitation by violent extremists. These include: open support for violent extremist causes; possession of violent extremist material and behavioural change. Local partners work together and use their professional judgement to assess an individual's vulnerability to being drawn in to violent extremism.

Referrals are made on the basis of this assessment.

Bridget - January 11, 2010 04:22 PM (GMT)

MI6 are keeping a close watch on universities

Sunday January 10,2010
By Hilary Douglas

SECRET service agents are keeping a close watch on universities in a bid to weed out fledgling terrorists.

MI6 officers’ frequent under- cover visits to campuses are likely to increase after it was revealed that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a Detroit- bound Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day, was probably radicalised while studying at University College London.

A university source told the Sunday Express: “The MI6 agents used to come in once at the beginning of the academic year to ask about students from potentially ‘difficult’ countries.

“They would want to know where they lived and the accommodation officers had to be sure that if they moved the change of address was recorded and forwarded on to the relevant security services.

“In recent months they have upped those visits in some cases to twice a month where they think there could be problems brewing with radicalisation of students.”

Lecturers and tutors have been advised on how to spot extremists who might be using colleges as recruiting grounds.

Students from Libya, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Egypt have long been unofficially monitored by university staff in charge of allocating accommodation.

One source said: “Funnily enough they were all sponsored by their governments and none of them were over here studying English, it was all nuclear physics and engineering.

“Their addresses were kept a close eye on and if they moved they had to tell us and we would pass on the information to the appropriate authorities.”

Intricate guidelines have been drawn up on how academic staff should respond if they suspect  terrorist groups are circulating extremist literature or organising meetings with radical speakers.

Security officers are even teaching staff how to “profile” would-be radicals so they can spot those most likely to drift into extremism.

Guidance directs staff to look most closely at vulnerable first-year students, who may be lonely and missing family and therefore most at risk from the grooming techniques used by militant recruiters.

Additional support for students has also been put in place so they have someone to turn to if they are approached by radicals, while moderate imams have been recruited to universities where insurgents have been known to operate.

At least five campuses are under special watch. They are University College London, Brunel University in west London, Bedfordshire University in Luton, Sheffield Hallam University and Manchester Metropolitan University.


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