MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Thu 15-Sep-16 11:45:47

Guest post: "Radicalisation of our children - we must tackle it head-on"

Parents, teachers and the government must work to protect children from the threat of radicalisation by both Islamist and far right extremist groups, says Sara Khan

Sara Khan will be on this thread from 1-2pm tomorrow (Friday) to answer your questions - leave your comments in advance or join us then

Sara Khan

Co-founder, Inspire

Posted on: Thu 15-Sep-16 11:45:47

(30 comments )

Lead photo

"Radicalisation not only threatens our children’s future and wellbeing, it seeks to polarise our society by promoting hatred and fear."

Many of us will be familiar with the news stories about straight-A schoolgirls joining ISIS after being radicalised online in their bedrooms. Radicalisers and preachers deliberately prey on children - both online and in their communities - to groom them into an extremist mindset, seeking to destroy their families and their future careers. I have seen first-hand how extremism poses a threat to children; radicalisation should be of concern to us all.

The NSPCC has recognised radicalisation as a child protection issue. It not only threatens our children’s future and wellbeing - it seeks to polarise our society by promoting hatred and fear. Extremism can lead youngsters down a path towards violence and criminality.

Alongside the rise of Islamist extremism, there has been a worrying increase in far right extremism, with far right groups also radicalising impressionable youngsters. The fragmentation of established organisations such as the BNP has led to the emergence of more extreme groups, as a BBC News report last year highlighted. They are focussing their attention on recruiting a younger, newer generation to their worldview – especially online. Britain First, for example, has almost 1.5 million likes on Facebook. By dominating social media in this way, far right groups are able to influence youngsters’ views by creating an echo chamber effect. It is no surprise that there has been an increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric and bullying experienced by Muslim pupils in schools. Even in 2014, Childline highlighted a 69% increase in racist bullying.

Prevent only operates in the non-criminal space; its aim is to stop people from crossing the criminal line. The strategy recognises that we cannot arrest our way out of radicalisation; instead, support, counselling and intervention are key.


Prevent is a government strategy, created under Labour, that provides support, counselling and early intervention to young people who are vulnerable to radicalisation - from the far right as well as Islamist extremists. Prevent works with anti-racism civil society groups to deliver school assemblies, and produces online videos in an attempt to disrupt the far right and Islamist social media echo chambers. Through initiatives such as this, many young people have turned away from hatred of Muslims, Jews, non-Muslims, homosexuals and other minority groups.

Prevent has attracted criticism though. Critics of the strategy have suggested that it aims to criminalise Muslims, that it seeks to close down discussion in class and encourages teachers to spy on their pupils. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Prevent only operates in the non-criminal space; its aim is to prevent people from crossing the criminal line. The strategy recognises that we cannot arrest our way out of radicalisation; instead, support, counselling and intervention are key.

Nor does Prevent encourage teachers to 'spy' on their pupils. Teachers are already required to protect pupils if they could be vulnerable to child sexual abuse or violence. Now, under the Prevent Duty, they are asked to extend their existing safeguarding role by being aware of the risk of radicalisation. Honest discussion in class is also encouraged; Ofsted has made it quite clear that good practice includes schools opening up conversations in a meaningful and engaging way. Inspire has delivered training to 5000 teachers and we have overwhelmingly found teachers recognise the important role they can play – but we as parents need to work with them and take a proactive stance in looking at how best to counter extremism in our homes and communities.

Support for Prevent is provided through the Channel scheme, which is chaired by the local authority and brings together professionals from health, social services and other agencies. They identify individuals at risk of being drawn into violent extremism, assess the nature and extent of that risk and develop the most appropriate support for the individuals concerned, with parental consent.

Channel has been life-changing for a number of young people. For example, I know of a 17-year-old Muslim girl whose extreme views concerned both her parents and teachers. She recognised that she needed support and received mentoring through Channel from a female intervention provider who helped unpick an extreme interpretation of Islam that she had been exposed to on the internet. Or, take James - a teenager with a difficult family background, who was bullied at school and would glorify Hitler. He was befriended by far right extremists who sensed his vulnerability, and he began to speak increasingly violently about Muslims. Channel provided him with support including mentoring and active involvement in a local youth club. He now has friends from a range of faiths rejects the narrative of far right ideologues.

Radicalisation of our children is a very real threat - we must tackle it head-on. As parents, teachers or government we must work to protect the wellbeing of our children when we know extremists are deliberately seeking to groom them. The strategies are in place to tackle radicalisation, and we need to equip ourselves with the facts, knowledge and know-how to help safeguard our youngsters.

By Sara Khan

Twitter: @wewillinspire

freetrampolineforall Thu 15-Sep-16 17:22:36

Prevent has such a negative image I think it needs a rethink. Too many people feel it alienates young people. I really think it needs an overhaul. It doesn't matter now what positive spin is put on it. To use a crass analogy- the brand has become toxic.

OlennasWimple Thu 15-Sep-16 20:45:51

Thanks Sara for this post (and MNHQ for hosting). Just place marking for now smile

zaama Thu 15-Sep-16 21:30:49

Interesting .

Thanks for posting

Terrorised Fri 16-Sep-16 00:50:49

I have a few questions Sara - your post speaks in very general terms about the aims of Prevent and the need for teachers to be aware of "radicalisation". But what about the specifics?

The lack of a clear definition of what "radicalisation" means for example? Or the fact that it is open to teachers to interpret what could indicate radicalisation? For instance, children being reported for voicing their support of Palestinians, or for pronouncing the word "cucumber" incorrectly.

You say your organisation has been involved in training 5000 teachers - surely that's a tiny percentage of the educators out there - who's taking responsibility for providing them with a clear framework within which to do this important work? How are the Gov't ensuring that personal prejudices and bigotry don't come into play for those charged with implementing Prevent? Which department is overseeing teachers who (in addition to their other duties) now have to spot potential terrorists amongst children as young as 3?

For the children who do get referred under Prevent, how are these records kept? Will the label of "potentially radicalised" follow them to adulthood? How will it impact on their long term futures and in particular upon their ability to integrate into our society given that they have been singled out and (potentially) criminalised at such a young age?

And finally I see that your post mentions radicalisation by far right groups also being a safeguarding issue? What percentage of Prevent referrals involved potential radicalisation far right groups? Of those, were those referrals linked to the statutory reporting of racist incidents schools must keep? By that I mean, do the figures for Prevent referrals re Far right groups directly reflect the number of times children have been subject to racist language of the kind used by those groups?

Sorry - more questions than I was intending and possibly not within the remit of your organisation's work but I look forward to your reply and thanks to you and MN for dealing with such a pertinent but difficult topic.

TinyGirl1 Fri 16-Sep-16 09:42:22

Prevent needs a compete overhaul. It's a ridiculous system. We are a well integrated muslim family and my 4 year old had been learning violent language including about bombs, guns etc from a white friend who has been playing violent video games. Such language would be picked up in school. This is how easily things can go wrong.
It shouldn't affect children under 7, they pick up allsorts.

TessDurbeyfield Fri 16-Sep-16 10:07:48

Thanks for coming in Sara. It’s a very complex issue for a webchat so I hope that you don’t mind if I give the quick version of my question and then explain it more fully. I am sorry that this is long but the thread is currently very short so I hope you might have time to look at it but if not the quick Q is: why do you think radicalization or extremism is a child protection issue and on what definition?

I am sure that we would all agree that if an older teenager is watching violent extremist content online (e.g. jihadi propaganda with graphic beheadings) or communicating with people who want to recruit them into terrorism then that is probably a child protection issue, but it would be a child protection issue anyway without having to worry about the definition of extremism or radicalisation. My worry is whether we have a clear enough idea about what those terms mean and why they are a risk to children.

The Prevent guidance says that ‘being drawn into terrorism’ (i.e. the wording of the Prevent duty on schools etc):

‘includes not just violent extremism but also non-violent extremism’.

And extremism is:

“…vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”

That’s a very broad definition, for example the then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan tells us it includes homophobia. So lets say we have a school child who is very homophobic - says being gay is a sin and people who are gay will burn in hell - is that a child protection issue? What if we add in that they believe their religion is the only true way to God and all other religions are devil worship; or that democracy is corrupt and the only right way to run a country is through God’s perfect law. Is saying these things - but not advocating violence - extremism and if so is it a child protection issue? I am sure that we would all agree that they are socially harmful and that the school should both challenge these ideas and teach tolerance and respect but that is different from saying it is child protection issue.

I noticed that when the Joint Committee on Human Rights called for a review of Prevent recently it said:

“Everyone can understand the definition of safeguarding when it comes to child neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse. In relation to extremism, however, there is no shared consensus or definition as to what children would be safeguarded from. The difficulty around these issues should lead the Government to tread with great care, for fear of making the situation worse, not better”

Do you agree with that?

mimishimmi Fri 16-Sep-16 10:37:56

Yes, at the same time, look what's happened to Europe generally. A lot of that was , and still is, ordered from the top. Ireland's population went from 10 million to 4 million over a few centuries from the 16th C. 40 million dead Europeans in WW2. People don't generally radicalise unless their community is getting knocked off.

DontTellTheBride Fri 16-Sep-16 12:19:57

I don't have a question, but wanted to thank you for mentioning Britain First on social media - I'm going to flag it to the one or two people on my Facebook feed who (I hope, unwittingly) like their posts, and if they don't change their decision to like them, will make them ex-FB friends of mine. Their sly approach horrifies me.

TheSandmansSon Fri 16-Sep-16 12:50:21

Hi Sara

I think you do brilliant work - don't really have anything to add, my only question is - what can people not working in the charity sector or in schools do to support your work?

SaraKhan Fri 16-Sep-16 13:00:14

Hello everyone,
Thank you for reading the article and for submitting your questions. I look forward to this one hour discussion and I will do my very best to answer any questions/concerns/queries you may have.

Sara

SaraKhan Fri 16-Sep-16 13:01:50

freetrampolineforall

Prevent has such a negative image I think it needs a rethink. Too many people feel it alienates young people. I really think it needs an overhaul. It doesn't matter now what positive spin is put on it. To use a crass analogy- the brand has become toxic.

Hello Freetrampolineforall thanks for your question. There is clearly a lot of misunderstanding about what Prevent is and isn’t. But in my view – the problem is not with the strategy itself which I believe, with a few tweaks and improvements, is a good one. What is the greater problem is the lack of communication and understanding that exists around Prevent.

I am sorry to say but I have seen some Islamist groups in our country for example deliberately peddle lies about Prevent and misinform the wider public for their own ideological reasons – which I have evidenced in my book The Battle for British Islam.

I hear often that Prevent should be scrapped – but what would we put in place to prevent people and teenagers from being groomed and radicalised into terrorism? This threat is real and cannot be underestimated.

There needs to be an early intervention strategy which operates in the non-criminal space to deter people from travelling down that path – which is what Prevent is. It is simple enough to say we need an overhaul, but I have not heard a credible, workable or effective alternative to Prevent. I am open and willing to hear ideas!

SaraKhan Fri 16-Sep-16 13:07:20

Terrorised

I have a few questions Sara - your post speaks in very general terms about the aims of Prevent and the need for teachers to be aware of "radicalisation". But what about the specifics?

The lack of a clear definition of what "radicalisation" means for example? Or the fact that it is open to teachers to interpret what could indicate radicalisation? For instance, children being reported for voicing their support of Palestinians, or for pronouncing the word "cucumber" incorrectly.

You say your organisation has been involved in training 5000 teachers - surely that's a tiny percentage of the educators out there - who's taking responsibility for providing them with a clear framework within which to do this important work? How are the Gov't ensuring that personal prejudices and bigotry don't come into play for those charged with implementing Prevent? Which department is overseeing teachers who (in addition to their other duties) now have to spot potential terrorists amongst children as young as 3?

For the children who do get referred under Prevent, how are these records kept? Will the label of "potentially radicalised" follow them to adulthood? How will it impact on their long term futures and in particular upon their ability to integrate into our society given that they have been singled out and (potentially) criminalised at such a young age?

And finally I see that your post mentions radicalisation by far right groups also being a safeguarding issue? What percentage of Prevent referrals involved potential radicalisation far right groups? Of those, were those referrals linked to the statutory reporting of racist incidents schools must keep? By that I mean, do the figures for Prevent referrals re Far right groups directly reflect the number of times children have been subject to racist language of the kind used by those groups?

Sorry - more questions than I was intending and possibly not within the remit of your organisation's work but I look forward to your reply and thanks to you and MN for dealing with such a pertinent but difficult topic.

Dear Terrorised

Thanks you for your indepth questions. You have asked many and I will try my best to answer as many as I can in the limited time frame. Also as you pointed out, some of these questions are outside of my organisation’s remit. It is clear to me you have lots of questions which deserve being answered and there are lots of people who can sit down and provide you with those answers. Please speak to your local authority who will have a Prevent co-ordinator or a police prevent co-ordinator who would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. You can also obtain information from sites like Educate Against Hate (which has a section dedicated to parents), NSPCC and Childline.

But briefly:

There are a number of different definitions of radicalisation which are not all the same but broadly have similar themes:

-Government has defined it in a nutshell as: “the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and forms of extremism leading to terrorism.” Childline has a definition (available to read on their website). Academics have differing definitions. I quite like Peter Neumann’s definition (based at King’s College London) – where he argues there are 3 key factors involved in radicalisation: ideology, grievances and mobilisation.

-Government is responsible for delivering training to teachers and other frontline agencies. They have delivered training to approximately 500’000 people so it is their responsibility. Ofsted also assess schools’ training and the quality of training and their understanding of radicalisation.

-Teachers are encouraged to follow their own safeguarding policy – so it is not open to teachers’ interpretation as such. They are encouraged to take a holistic picture, look out for signs of troubling behaviour - this is the same procedure they would follow whether they are concerned pupils are vulnerable to child sexual exploitation or radicalisation.

-I think also we need to be careful about some of the cases we read in the press – many of which have been wrongly reported by the press or have not conveyed the whole picture. The “cucumber” case you mention is an example of a teacher NOT following the Prevent guidelines and who clearly had not had sufficient training. We need to make sure teachers are fully trained to prevent such incidences from happening. But there are also cases like the “terraced” house case (where a child misspelt he lived in a terrorist house (rather than a terraced house). The media and others used this case to say how terrible Prevent is when the truth of the matter was that this case had nothing to do with Prevent and was a safeguarding concern because the boy had written in his school work that “my uncle beats me.” Rather than Prevent, the school did the right thing of following its usual safeguarding policies where they were concerned about violence in the home, rather than radicalisation.

-Not about spotting potential terrorists at the age of 3. It’s about youngsters, yes even at the age of 3 who maybe vulnerable to radicalisation and whose welfare and wellbeing is at risk. My organisation Inspire know of cases of 4 year olds who told their teachers their mother was planning to take them to Syria, we know of cases of parents forcing their primary age children to watch violent beheading videos and in other cases violent anti-Muslim videos. There was the case of a convert convicted of terrorism offences and pictures on his mobile showed his 3 young children – including a toddler at home standing in front of an ISIS flag with a sword. Statutory agencies have an obligation to protect the welfare, safety and wellbeing of such children – even when it is the parents who are the abusers.

-Records – are kept in the same way as other safeguarding processes e.g children experiencing violence at home/child sexual exploitation. But they are not police records!

-Your question: Will the label of "potentially radicalised" follow them to adulthood? How will it impact on their long term futures and in particular upon their ability to integrate into our society given that they have been singled out and (potentially) criminalised at such a young age? - the answer is no to all of that and will not impact their future. Many Muslim parents I know whose children have had support from Prevent do not necessarily want to come out in the open and share their story because they understandably want to protect their children’s identity and allow them to get back to living normal lives.

It is very important we use the correct terminology as this undermines confidence in Prevent and compounds the misinformation that currently exists. “Criminalised” is such an example. Prevent is an early intervention scheme that provides support to those vulnerable to radicalisation. It operates in the non-criminal space in an attempt to prevent them from crossing the criminal line. It is utterly incorrect to say they are “criminalised.”

-Far -right referrals to Channel vary from region to region. In Hampshire and the Isle of Wight for eg, approx. 50% of referrals are for far right. In other areas it is skewered more towards Islamist extremism say 60% or 70%. In some cities I am aware of a minority of referrals for Sikh extremism. Prevent has to be flexible enough to deal with new and emerging threats. Years ago, the IRA was the greatest threat to our national security. Currently ISIS and Al-Qaida present the greatest threat. 850 odd people travelling to Syria highlights this and the number of terror plots stopped by the security services – overwhelmingly have been ISIS inspired in recent times. There is also growing far right extremism - we need to respond to all threats.

I hope I have answered some of your questions but please do seek more information and speak to people in the know how to reassure any concerns you may have. Thank you.

Oneforthedoctor Fri 16-Sep-16 13:07:33

Hi Sara, thanks for your post. Given the rise in racist bullying, and the incredible power of the social media echo chamber which those seeking to radicalise are tapping into - will Prevent employ any new strategies, or do you think it needs to? I ask this because it does have a contentious image. Thanks.

catsbum Fri 16-Sep-16 13:10:59

Hi Sara
Thanks for your post.
Do you think enough has been done to think about a strategy specifically for girls and young women? I don't know very much about it but it seems likely that they might have quite different motivations and touchpoints that boys/young men.

SaraKhan Fri 16-Sep-16 13:11:29

TinyGirl1

Prevent needs a compete overhaul. It's a ridiculous system. We are a well integrated muslim family and my 4 year old had been learning violent language including about bombs, guns etc from a white friend who has been playing violent video games. Such language would be picked up in school. This is how easily things can go wrong.
It shouldn't affect children under 7, they pick up allsorts.

Dear TinyGirl1 - I wish radicalisation and children saying violent or extreme things under the age of 7 did not happen but sadly they do.

If you have concerns about your child learning violent language from other children in class than I would encourage you to go straight to your child’s school and share your concerns with the teacher. It is important that you speak and engage with the school. This engagement is incredibly important. It maybe the case that this other boy you talk of needs support - or not. But it is best to make the teacher aware and for the teacher to deal with such incidences based on their internal school policies.

Wantedtobe Fri 16-Sep-16 13:13:59

Thanks Sara. I'm interested in hearing more about how free speech can still take place in schools and how teachers can make sure that isn't stifled. I think our children are afraid of what they say being misinterpreted - for young people, surely schools should be a place where they can freely discuss ideas and experiences without fear they're being monitored?

SaraKhan Fri 16-Sep-16 13:18:46

TessDurbeyfield

Thanks for coming in Sara. It’s a very complex issue for a webchat so I hope that you don’t mind if I give the quick version of my question and then explain it more fully. I am sorry that this is long but the thread is currently very short so I hope you might have time to look at it but if not the quick Q is: why do you think radicalization or extremism is a child protection issue and on what definition?

I am sure that we would all agree that if an older teenager is watching violent extremist content online (e.g. jihadi propaganda with graphic beheadings) or communicating with people who want to recruit them into terrorism then that is probably a child protection issue, but it would be a child protection issue anyway without having to worry about the definition of extremism or radicalisation. My worry is whether we have a clear enough idea about what those terms mean and why they are a risk to children.

The Prevent guidance says that ‘being drawn into terrorism’ (i.e. the wording of the Prevent duty on schools etc):

‘includes not just violent extremism but also non-violent extremism’.

And extremism is:

“…vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”

That’s a very broad definition, for example the then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan tells us it includes homophobia. So lets say we have a school child who is very homophobic - says being gay is a sin and people who are gay will burn in hell - is that a child protection issue? What if we add in that they believe their religion is the only true way to God and all other religions are devil worship; or that democracy is corrupt and the only right way to run a country is through God’s perfect law. Is saying these things - but not advocating violence - extremism and if so is it a child protection issue? I am sure that we would all agree that they are socially harmful and that the school should both challenge these ideas and teach tolerance and respect but that is different from saying it is child protection issue.

I noticed that when the Joint Committee on Human Rights called for a review of Prevent recently it said:

“Everyone can understand the definition of safeguarding when it comes to child neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse. In relation to extremism, however, there is no shared consensus or definition as to what children would be safeguarded from. The difficulty around these issues should lead the Government to tread with great care, for fear of making the situation worse, not better”

Do you agree with that?

Dear TessDurbyfield

I stand alongside the likes of the NSPCC, Childline and many other agencies who believe radicalisation of children is a safeguarding issue.

Precisely because of their age children are vulnerable to exploitation, they are not always able to take conscious and rational decisions. They can often be easily manipulated by those with bad intentions. As adults and parents we are responsible for protecting their wellbeing. Over the years I have seen how extremists have groomed young people, they deliberately target them because they know children are vulnerable. I have seen how extremists having formed a solid relationship with children, have told them to not to believe or listen to their parents - breaking the parent-child bond as extremists do not want anyone else to influence that child except themselves.

We all know how the girls from Bethnal Green were groomed and radicalised to travel to ISIS territory. I have seen how in some cases it is parents radicalising their children – which as one judge stated, is not a form of physical abuse, but emotional and psychological abuse by making them watch violent videos and teaching them a violent and extreme worldview. The resource video “This is England” shows clearly how a young 12 year old is radicalised by far right extremists. Today we also have the phenomenon of “bedroom radicals.” This is sadly the world we now live in and the challenges that we must face head on.

It took us a long time in our country to recognise that child sexual exploitation or even forced marriages or FGM were safeguarding issues. Radicalisation is also a safeguarding issue and we do not want to make the same mistake by failing lots of vulnerable children by not recognising this to be the case.

To quote Peter Wanless, Chief Executive at the NSPCC,
"Our mission is to keep children safe from harm. We are contacted daily by worried parents and children themselves on all sorts of issues including radicalisation and dangers associated with extremism. Grooming online or in person is a classic technique used by abusers to exploit vulnerable young people. Spotting the signs of such abuse has never been more important if we are to help protect children from sexual exploitation, gang related activity or other hate crimes.
"The consequences can be devastating for them and others, leading to isolation, depression, drugs, self-harm and worse.”

As much as I would like to wish away radicalisation and extremism we cannot pretend that these issues do not exist. They do and we see examples of them daily. We are not helping safeguard our children if we do not understand the threat of radicalisation and extremism and help provide solutions to them. We need to grab the bull by the horns (so to speak!) and provide practical solutions to those worries parents in our country. I have spoken to tearful mothers who have lost their children to extremism. Whose kids were killed fighting for ISIS or who have been locked up in prison because they planned to carry out terrorist atrocities. Their children’s lives were destroyed. Their families lives were also destroyed. I do not want to see other parents experiencing that same pain. But I firmly believe that early intervention is key, that we can prevent people from being radicalised, but rather like cancer, the earlier we detect the more chance we have of finding a solution and a happy outcome.

With regards to the definition of extremism. In my book the Battle for British Islam, I define extremism as any who incite violence, hatred or discrimination for political, religious or ideological causes. This can often include undermining the rule of law and democracy. Extremism is not just about violence. In the 21st century, universal human rights norms should be the means by which we judge extremism.

You give the example of the hatred promoted to gays which has in some cases led to bullying of gay children in class - which is unacceptable. How would Muslim parents feel if a non-Muslim child was saying incredibly derogatory and hatefilled things about Muslims? I’m sure many parents would find that unacceptable and indeed children would be in fear/scared.

In this instance this is about a child’s POSSIBLE VULNERABILITY to radicalisation and who needs support or even religious guidance – possibly provided by a Muslim theologian or scholar who can tease out such hate filled views. Such a child if not given the support or guidance he needs - could be preyed on by violent extremists – and that is the concern and something we would want to avoid. I have seen such cases like this before. And we must remember that there are currently thousands and thousands of extremist websites online claiming to represent “normative Islam” – as ISIS claim to do! Young people will find extremists telling them they are right and then say “so what are you going to do about it?” - in an attempt to turn their beliefs into violent action. And extremists can and have justifed the use of violence.

OlennasWimple Fri 16-Sep-16 13:26:02

Wanted - do you think children themselves are worried that they may be misrepresented, or adults are afraid that that might be a possibility? (Genuine question!)

SaraKhan Fri 16-Sep-16 13:26:26

DontTellTheBride

I don't have a question, but wanted to thank you for mentioning Britain First on social media - I'm going to flag it to the one or two people on my Facebook feed who (I hope, unwittingly) like their posts, and if they don't change their decision to like them, will make them ex-FB friends of mine. Their sly approach horrifies me.

The echo chamber effect groups like Britain First have in spreading untruths and reinforcing derogatory views about Muslims is really scary. When the attacks in Paris in November 2015 happened, it wasn't long before far right groups began sharing false images of Muslims celebrating. Of course Muslims did not such thing - such groups got such images and spread lies that, that was the case. And unbelievable numbers of people believed it, retweeted it and started inciting violence against Muslims because of the actions of a tiny minority.

We need to understand that the greatest victims of ISIS and Al-Qaida have undoubtedly been Muslims. These terrorists deliberately target Muslims who hold a peaceful interpretation of Islam because they recognise such Muslims pose a threat to them and their worldview.

But groups like Britain First do nothing to recognise the service of hundreds of thousands of Muslims who fought and died for our country in WW1 and 2 or the wider contributions they make to our society. It's not as if Britain First will share the story of mosques giving out Christmas presents to those Brits on Christmas Day last year whose houses were filled with water by the terrible floods.

I certainly do not want to live in such a polarised society when the reality is really something quite different. There is - as Jo Cox MP famously stated - far more that unites us than divides us.

OlennasWimple Fri 16-Sep-16 13:29:36

Sara - thank you for your clear and articulate posting.

My question is how far you think we still have to go to get all parts of the child protection system to understand and acknowledge that radicalisation is a child protection issue? I'm thinking of everyone from LA chief executives to social workers on the ground

SaraKhan Fri 16-Sep-16 13:33:43

TheSandmansSon

Hi Sara

I think you do brilliant work - don't really have anything to add, my only question is - what can people not working in the charity sector or in schools do to support your work?

Dear TheSandmansSon

That's very kind of you. Well I guess the first thing would be (and I know this is a shameful plug!) would be to read my book The Battle for British Islam (published last week - available from Amazon.) It highlights what Muslim activists like me face, the challenges we endure and what role and support wider society can offer. The book will explain more!

Please also visit the Inspire website www.wewillinspire.com. We deliver talks, training and many other services to schools, communities and work in partnership with others who have the same ideas as us: defending our universal human rights, standing for equality, freedom of expression and individual liberty.

What I am concerned about is the increasing polarisation of our society. I see far right and Islamist extremists gaining ground and promoting hatred of the other. And the middle ground - that ground of compassionate co-existence and shared values is currently under threat. Those of us who want to build a united Britain need to do all we can to protect this middle ground from the extremes and "othering" of each other. We all have a responsibility to that. But we also have a responsibility to call out hatred, discrimination and violence against others - whether it is Britain First calling for this or it is some extreme Muslims. As I said we have do defend our shared values at all cost.

Thank you again for your support!

SaraKhan Fri 16-Sep-16 13:39:17

Oneforthedoctor

Hi Sara, thanks for your post. Given the rise in racist bullying, and the incredible power of the social media echo chamber which those seeking to radicalise are tapping into - will Prevent employ any new strategies, or do you think it needs to? I ask this because it does have a contentious image. Thanks.

Hello Oneforthedoctor, schools are required to have anti-bullying, anti-racism/hatred policies. Schools are also encouraged to promote British values. Now without going into the rights and wrongs of the term - one of those values defined by the government is mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith. Schools have an obligation to teach this and Ofsted are tasked to monitor schools on this. Under the Prevent Duty schools are required to have strict IT policies and filters too to ensure children are not coming across extreme content online while at school.

The problem however is that we live in an era where kids as young as 10 (this disturbs me greatly I must admit) have access to smart phones - and access to all sorts of worrying online content. While schools are tasked to protect children and to challenge racist/xenophobic attitudes, we as parents need to do all we can to challenge our children's views.

DontTellTheBride Fri 16-Sep-16 13:42:07

Thanks very much for your answer about Britain First - chilling

SaraKhan Fri 16-Sep-16 13:43:30

catsbum

Hi Sara
Thanks for your post.
Do you think enough has been done to think about a strategy specifically for girls and young women? I don't know very much about it but it seems likely that they might have quite different motivations and touchpoints that boys/young men.

Hi Catsbum, there is quite a lot of work being done now with girls and young women and it does fall under Prevent. The truth is there are some different motivations but there are also similar factors too. Some schools are doing excellent work in this regard. My own organisation Inspire has produced resources and videos to discourage young girls from travelling to Syria. I wrote this letter for example after the case of three Bethnal Green girls left to join ISIS. www.wewillinspire.com/a-letter-to-young-muslim-girls-if-you-are-considering-leaving-the-uk-to-join-isis/

What we do need to recognise is that girls are equally just as vulnerable to radicalisation. For many of us that was a shock in itself.

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