Britain’s top Muslim policeman has called for children as young as five to be monitored for signs of “Islamist extremism.”
In an interview with the Guardian, Scotland Yard commander Mak 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.
Chishty, who’s head of community engagement for the Metropolitan police in London, said ISIS propaganda is so powerful he had to be vigilant about his own children.
He said children aged five had voiced opposition to marking Christmas, branding it as “haram.” He also warned that there was no end in sight to the parade of British Muslims, some 700 so far, being lured from their bedrooms to Syria by Islamic State.
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 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.”
Asked to define “private space”, Chishty said: “It’s anything from walking down the road, looking at a mobile, to someone in a bedroom surfing the net, to someone in a shisha cafe talking about things.”
He said friends and family were best placed to intervene. Questions should be asked, he said, if someone stops shopping at Marks & Spencer or starts voicing criticism. He said it could be they were just fed up with the store, but alternatively they could have “hatred for that store”. He said the community should “look out for each other”, that Isis was “un-Islamic”, as proven by its barbarity.
Chishty warned of a very real threat to Muslims in Britain from the backlash that might follow a terrorist attack, which counter-terrorism officials believe is a matter of when, not if.
After the murder of Lee Rigby in May 2013 by two men espousing jihadi views, attacks against Muslims increased from one to seven a day, and there were 28 attacks on Muslim buildings.
Such an attack, and even terrorist atrocities abroad, such as January’s massacre in Paris of Charlie Hebdo staff, were making community relations in London more challenging, but he said police had boosted their efforts to reassure and protect all communities.
Chishty’s comments are likely to be perceived as scaremongering and targeting of the Muslim community by many activists.