Islamist propaganda is so addictive it is influencing children as young as five and should be countered with intensified monitoring to detect the earliest signs of anti-western sentiment, Britain’s most senior Muslim police chief has warned.
Scotland Yard commander Mak Chishty said children aged five had voiced opposition to marking Christmas, branding it as “haram” – forbidden by Islam. He also warned that there was no end in sight to the parade of British Muslims lured from their bedrooms to Syria reports The Guardian.
In an interview with the Guardian, Chishty said there was now a need for “a move into the private space” of Muslims to spot views that could show the beginning of radicalisation far earlier. He said this could be shown by subtle changes in behaviour, such as shunning certain shops, citing the example of Marks & Spencer, which could be because the store is sometimes mistakenly perceived to be Jewish-owned.
Chishty said friends and family of youngsters should be intervening much earlier, watching out for subtle, unexplained changes, which could also include sudden negative attitudes towards alcohol, social occasions and western clothing. They should challenge and understand what caused such changes in behaviour, the police commander said, and seek help, if needs be from the police, if they are worried.
Chishty is the most senior Muslim officer in Britain’s police service and is head of community engagement for the Metropolitan police in London. He said Isis propaganda was so powerful he had to be vigilant about his own children. But some will argue that his ideas walk a fine line between vigilance in the face of potent extremist propaganda and criminalising thought.
Scotland Yard has recently said police are making nearly an arrest a day as they try to counter a severe Islamist terrorist threat. On Friday, the Met confirmed it is investigating the potential grooming and radicalisation of a 16-year-old east London girl to run away and join her sister in Isis to become a “jihadi bride”.Police estimate that about half the 700 thought to have gone to Syria to support Isis have since returned to Britain.
Chishty said communities in Britain had to act much earlier. He said: “We need to now be less precious about the private space. This is not about us invading private thoughts, but acknowledging that it is in these private spaces where this [extremism] first germinates. The purpose of private-space intervention is to engage, explore, explain, educate or eradicate. Hate and extremism is not acceptable in our society, and if people cannot be educated, then hate and harmful extremism must be eradicated through all lawful means.”
He said that what was new about Isis is the use of social media and the internet to spread its message and urge people lured by it to join the group or stage attacks in their home country.