Two Muslim women have set up a course to help mums spot the “signs of extremism”, which was initially funded by Derbyshire Police, and is now receiving financial support from the Home Office, reports the Derby Telegraph.
Tazim Fayaz, one of the founders of “Tackling Terrorism through Women”, said she had been inspired by mums coming to her with fears about their children spending excessive time in their bedrooms on the internet.
She said: “Mums had fears about what was happening on the internet because they didn’t really understand it themselves. They weren’t computer literate and didn’t have the knowledge to put on parental controls.
“I wanted to get the children off the internet and to integrate more with their families but also to look at vulnerabilities, what they may be looking at and who they may be talking to.
“I wanted to support the ladies with computer literacy and to know how to put on parental controls and to understand who their children were speaking to.”
She realised, among other risks, that young people could be vulnerable to being recruited into extremist groups.
She said: “Extremism is around us here in Derby. People who join extremist groups and travel abroad don’t come from the planet Mars but are around us in our communities. And we need to identify them.
“People aren’t radicalised in a day but over a period of time. They have a certain vulnerability, become indoctrinated and take on an ideology and then follow this.
“At times, they aren’t really certain themselves what they’re doing. And they don’t understand Islam.
“It is important that women have the knowledge as they are the ones who will pick up the signs because they’re often the ones at home with their children.”
Before setting up the course with fellow founder Shahida Shabnam, Tazim researched where she might get help and came across the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy, Prevent.
Tazim said: “I contacted the Prevent team at Derbyshire police and did a little proposal, which was supported by the police.
“It was to engage mums in a course that covered a range of sensitive issues around internet safety and to help them understand why perhaps somebody would be vulnerable and why it could lead to certain things, such as extremism.
“I wanted to look at integration, bringing communities together, ideology, vulnerability and internet and social media.
“It was a very small course to start with and Derbyshire police funded it.
“That was about four years ago. Then the group got stronger and stronger and we got some funding from the Home Office through Derby City Council. It’s now a very hardcore course that gets the message across.”
The course covers all types of “extremist ideologies”, forced marriage, drug abuse, domestic violence, gangs and how to “spot the signs”.
Prevent a “toxic brand”
The failing Prevent programme is vehemently supported by neoconservative think-tanks like the Henry Jackson Society, anti-extremism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, and women’s rights group Inspire.
Many within the Muslim community have argued that Prevent has failed miserably in convincing grassroots Muslim organisations and leaders to adopt the strategy. Even the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the largest Muslim umbrella organisation have criticised Prevent.
The National Union of Students (NUS), National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), and civil rights group Liberty, all objected to the statutory footing of Prevent prior to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill becoming law.
Academics such as Professor Malcolm Grant, of the University College London (UCL), heavily criticised the strategy adopted by Prevent, and claimed that it was “stupid” as it will only lead to the compromise of academic freedom within the education sector.
A number of senior policemen with experience in Prevent’s regional rollout have criticised the policy’s highly problematic community relationship building. Former Metropolitan chief superintendent Dal Babu described Prevent as a “toxic brand”, whilst Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, Sir Peter Fahy, accepted that Prevent was hampered from the onset due to the Iraq war.
In July, more than 280 academics and NUS members issued a strongly-worded public statement against the Prevent strategy. The signatories argued that Prevent’s statutory duty under the CTS would have a “chilling effect on free and open debate and political dissent”, adding that “it shifts attention away from grievances that drive individuals towards an ideology that legitimises political violence.”
University lecturers and heads of faculties also provided a simple solution – to replace the “failed” initiative, which has made Britain “less safe”, with a more inclusive approach based on dialogue and openness.