Remove Jihadists – yet many live near schools, drive busses

There has been far too much tolerance of extremism in this country. And now — in lost lives and spilled blood — we are counting the cost.

There is no other conclusion to draw — and I should know.

For years, I have been one of those working to curb the appalling behaviour of a dangerous Islamist minority in the Muslim community who have hidden behind religion as an excuse for their actions.

As Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England, I prosecuted criminals from all communities without fear or favour, including Muslims, for terrorism and other offences.

I led the case against nine Muslim men, largely of Pakistani origin, who groomed vulnerable teenage white girls in Rochdale and committed sex offences against them.

I paid a price. In many cases, my efforts attracted hostility from a minority of the Asian community.

Some claimed that grooming cases were politically motivated — ‘a stick to beat Muslims with’. Some accused me of being a ‘coconut’ — meaning I was ‘white on the inside’.

I was also criticised for pointing out that, in grooming cases, white professionals’ fear of appearing racist allowed the crimes to continue for years.

As a result, I believe Muslims in Britain must accept it is their responsibility to join the fight against extremism.

When the BBC approached me to be a panellist on Question Time on May 25, in the wake of the Manchester atrocity, I accepted — even though it meant stepping down as chief executive of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners after being advised that it would be inappropriate to appear.

Worryingly, though, there are those in the Muslim community’s leadership who are undermining Prevent, the Government’s anti-radicalisation programme, which seeks to counter extremists.

Indeed, I was staggered there was nothing on the agenda for last year’s Muslim Council of Britain annual general meeting about radicalisation or the threat of people going to Syria. Crucially, young Muslims must be robust enough to resist grooming by ideologues.

To help achieve this, the Government must radically re-think where it puts resources to counter extremism.

A major problem is that, at times like this, the Home Office seeks help from our so-called ‘community leaders’. These men with long beards sermonising in mosques are no more representative of the community these days than Mickey Mouse is.

They haven’t produced many answers to Islamist extremism in the past and are unlikely to produce any in the future. This is partly because they are invariably professional and middle class — but the majority of Muslims in the UK are under 25 and come from low-income backgrounds.

The ‘community leaders’ don’t understand who we are dealing with when it comes to extremism. Also, I suspect that they want to avoid such challenging problems. Our young people, women and poor need better leadership.

Young British Muslims don’t have a political voice. But it’s with them that we need to concentrate efforts to tackle extremism. Young people listen to other young people. So we need to start de-radicalisation programmes in schools and colleges — not mosques.

As Chief Crown Prosecutor, I learnt the value of information from within the Muslim community. Without such support, I wouldn’t have been able to root out the Rochdale sex-traffickers.

We need to make it easier for such information to be passed on — above all by persuading communities that cooperating with the authorities is not an act of disloyalty but will protect people from danger.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of opposition from organisations such as CAGE, which deliberately mislead young Muslims about Prevent.

Their claims that Prevent is about persecuting Muslims are simply untrue: the programme tackles all forms of extremism and a quarter of those referred are far-Right extremists.

Too often, Muslims are encouraged to see themselves as victims of hate, rather than recognising that the perpetrators of hate come from within their own ranks and that the majority should help the authorities expose them.

I believe the Prevent strategy must be encouraged. It has flaws, mainly around communication, but there is no current alternative. And it has stopped at least 150 people from going to Syria for jihad, 50 of them children.

The problem is deep-rooted. Two years ago, a London head-teacher told me he was being approached almost daily by parents who said their children were being groomed to be jihadis. To compound matters, the parents did not want the police to be told of such fears and teachers didn’t want to criminalise their pupils.

But they have a social responsibility to help. We ask people to identify victims of child sexual abuse by looking for signs, and it should be the same with radicalisation.

A vital way forward is through Muslim mothers and daughters. I have had many dealings with Muslim women’s groups because they are the front line in tackling child sex abuse, forced marriage, honour-based violence and other similar social issues. Women are well placed to identify those at risk of being radicalised.

Yet Muslim women’s groups struggle for funding. They need financial help from the State and well-off members of the Islamic community.

There are many wealthy Muslims in this country. I urge them to use their money to help deal with issues in Britain rather than the poor in South Asia or the Middle East.

Of course, there are some things only the Government can do — such as stopping hate-preachers coming into this country. There should be a policy of zero tolerance.

But it is essential we attack extremism in places it is festering. We’ve known for a long time about radicalisation and recruitment via the internet and how sinister messages are transmitted by word of mouth in rooms above takeaway shops and minicab offices.

It’s no coincidence Saturday’s atrocity happened just five days before the General Election. What those murderers wanted was for people not to vote. They hate democracy.

Therefore, the most immediate response for every one of us is to cast our vote. Whatever party you put your cross against, that is a message to the extremists that they will not win.