Scotland Yard spent £80,000 on a roadshow to turn Muslim teenagers away from extremism – featuring the controversial American video blogger Adam Saleh, The Mail on Sunday reports.
Saleh, who has legions of hysterical female fans who fawn over him, was paid £26,000 of public money for less than two weeks’ work to prance about on stage in front of hundreds of screaming schoolgirls and sing a song written by a British counter-terror officer.
The lines of the song, written by the Met’s Javaria Saeed, included: “I’m trying to put my homies on the right track, so people ain’t scared of every Asian with a backpack.”
Saleh, 22, whose YouTube videos have a huge following, was flown to Britain from New York to record the song in a studio at taxpayers’ expense. He then appeared at the O2 arena in London, Manchester’s Old Trafford, and Birmingham Town Hall – venues that cost tens of thousands of pounds to hire at a time when police forces are suffering budget cuts.
His participation in a British police counter-terrorism programme is likely to damage his credibility given that the strategy is perceived as a veiled form of state Islamophobia.
According to The Mail on Sunday, the project – the Muslim Youth Partnership Department – was the brainchild of Sergeant Javaria Saeed. She is described on the MYPD website as “a highly talented British Muslim officer who felt compelled to join the police service after the 7/7 bombings to fight extremism, give young people a voice and make a difference to the world.”
Her role is to increase engagement with young Muslims and she decided to recruit American-Yemeni video blogger Saleh because he has an army of followers around the world who call themselves “Adoomies.”
On a previous visit to London in summer 2014, he had to be rescued by police from a crush of thousands of screaming fans desperate to take selfies with him during a “meet and greet.”
Detailed spending figures obtained by this newspaper reveal that in October this year, Saleh was flown to Britain at a cost of £571 to record the song written by Sgt Saeed to promote her campaign. He was put up for five nights at a three-star hotel in St Albans at a cost of £781.
Scotland Yard then spent £1,200 to hire a music studio to record the tune, called Survivor, along with a further £143 for a studio for a film shoot, £500 for a videographer, £65 to master the track, £50 for a radio play licence, £39 to put it on iTunes and £3,830 to plug it on radio stations. Any sales fees will go to the UN refugees fund.
The MYPD team went on the road during October half-term with a show featuring Saleh performing the song and sketches talking about Islam and peace. Officers also took to the stage to carry out a survey on attitudes to religion, terrorism, police and the media.
Saleh was paid a set fee of £26,000 for his services over ten days, and was put up in hotels along the way. The Met spent £2,331 in total on accommodation for its five-strong team and the rapper.
Saleh’s contract required him to make three appearances at the events, make three “counter-radicalisation” videos and provide “positive messaging” along the way, as well as hosting an MYPD workshop and providing “access to followers.”
In order to guarantee safety and keep control of who attended, police hired top venues for the roadshow rather than holding it at cheaper but less secure locations, such as shopping centres.
A total of 5,000 young people were estimated to have attended the O2 Indigo venue at Greenwich (at a cost of £23,772 since tickets were free), Old Trafford in Manchester (£10,995) and Birmingham town hall (£8,728).
The total bill for the tour, not including the police officers’ salaries, came to just over £79,000.
Commander Mak Chishty, the Met’s lead for community engagement and the force’s most senior Muslim officer, attended the London roadshow and joined in spreading the message online.
Scotland Yard no longer works with Saleh and sources said it could not condone his behaviour off-stage. But the force insists it was right to use him as a way to interest young people in its pioneering project.
Commander Chishty told The Mail on Sunday: “This important campaign is inspired and driven by young British Muslims, who told us they wanted their voices to count. We are delighted that in just two months we have had 2,000 young people sign up to become ambassadors in schools and communities, who are committed to spreading positive messages about Islam and its consistency with British values.
“It is only by working to change hearts and minds in local neighbourhoods that we will counter extremism and continue to build cohesive communities.”