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The undernet takes children away

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The internet is a force for good and we must never blame the technology for the human beings who abuse it. It is the undernet that I am wary of. The private places where pain and harm are delivered in the guise of communication. We have to challenge the narrative of jihadism. We must encourage women, girls and boys to pursue aspiration and ambition here rather than be taken in by the deluded glory hunters…writes Nazir Afzal OBE, former Chief Crown Prosecutor

notinmyname _active-change-foundationIn recent months the drift of young people flying to join Isis in Syria has shocked us all. Why would they want to leave the 7th richest nation on earth to the hellhole that is the so called Islamic State?

Why would they fall for the propaganda of these narcissists when there’s so much good telly! That misunderstands the problem and suggests that it is a battle between two ways of life, when it is nothing more than the grooming of the most vulnerable by those who target them. Grooming is what it is – manipulation of the unwanted, their distancing from friends and families, and then they are taken.

Mr Nazir Afzal OBE,  former Chief Crown Prosecutor
Mr Nazir Afzal OBE, former Chief Crown Prosecutor

The internet is a force for good and we must never blame the technology for the human beings who abuse it. It is the undernet that I am wary of. The private places where pain and harm are delivered in the guise of communication. We have to challenge the narrative of jihadism. We must encourage women, girls and boys to pursue aspiration and ambition here rather than be taken in by the deluded glory hunters.

What is the lure of the so called caliphate? Adele, a 15-year-old Parisian girl joined Isis following an online conversation wrote a farewell note to her mother:

“My own darling mamaman.

It’s because I love you that I have gone.

When you read these lines I will be far away.

I will be in the promised land, the sham, in safe hands.

Because it is there that I have to die to go to paradise.”

She called herself “Oum Hawwa” (mother of eve). A little while later her mum received a text from her phone which read “ Oum Hawwa died today. She was not chosen by God. She did not die a martyr, just a stray bullet. May you hope that doesn’t go to hell.”

She was torn between her French identity and her Muslim one as if they were incompatible. I have always said that there is no conflict between being British and Muslim, you do not love your first child any less if you are blessed with a second. Her groomers presented a picture of her life in Europe as being nothing  compared to the prospect of being “raptured” and physically transported to heaven whilst others perish in earthly mayhem. Who is delivering our counter narrative? Who is giving a new source of meaning to those who consider themselves socially alienated?

When I led on tackling violence against women and girls and against child abuse I asked everyone to be concerned about what happens behind closed doors. It is often those same “closed doors” which hide the young people at risk of being groomed by extremists. One of our challenges is the alienation of the young and/or the poor communication that exists with these children. Too many have low aspirations and seek another path. We must always be keen to listen to the children and offer them hope where little exists. It is easy to forget that unless we actively make it happen, the only role models they have are the ones that that the media or online world gives them.

The best in our communities notice that there will be children and young people in these homes at risk of being pulled into extremist ideologies but they haven’t just sat by idly – they take responsibility for the families, they guide the youth to safety and they protect us all from harm.

(Mr Nazir Afzal OBE, is the former Chief Crown Prosecutor)