Ex London Police Commander Mak Chishty said in a speech today that “terrorism lurks within Muslim communities” and it’s time to have some “difficult conversations” with them to stop terror attacks happening again.
Chishty, who was the highest-ranking Muslim police officer in Britain until his retirement last Tuesday, said the recent London Bridge terror attack was a “turning point” in the public’s attitude to terrorism and now something had to be done.
Speaking at the think-tank reform in London, he said: “I think people have had enough and this is what we have to realise… The anti Muslim sentiment online has been incredible, it has been strong, it has been relentless… so communities are feeling genuinely fearful of a backlash. In London hate crime has risen to the highest levels that we have ever seen…
“When Muslim people and clerics and leaders get together… and when they stand up and denounce it (terrorism) and condemn it and they show that physical presence that this is not us… it’s not believed anymore. (People think) where are your deeds?… What have you done to change this?”
Chishty said that we have to fight extremism hard and drive out extremist ideology from people’s hearts and minds. And he said Muslims don’t speak up about extremism because they fear a backlash against them by hardline groups.
He also encouraged Muslims to send messages out on social media. “I would like to issue a call for action today for every single Muslim, from a young person all the way through to my mother-in-law who is well in her mid 60s but has got a Whatsapp or a Facebook to to get on there and start to denounce extremism as not theirs’. And almost certainly you will find that these extremist voices start to shrink…remove their dominance, starve them of oxygen. Make sure they have got a powerful lobby against them. We can do that now.”
Explaining what he thought causes radicalisation, Chishty mentioned that a combination of poor socio-economic conditions and an identity crisis among Muslim youth paved the way for the seeds of radical ideology and conspiracy theories to grow.
He also defended the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy and said it was not about spying on the community but rather aimed to safeguard vulnerable members of it.
Chishty also recommended an immediate plan of action to tackle extremism and terrorism. He said:
- Mosques should agree on a charter regarding what they say in sermons, which should include messages about good citizenship
- More women should be on mosque boards
- There should be no segregated rooms in mosques
- Madrassas should have curriculums which should be inspected
- ISOCs should stop segregation and anti-western sentiment becoming all-pervasive
- A National Centre of Excellence should be set up in partnership with government and police
- A million man Muslim march should take place to show the public that we can be both British and Muslim
Chishty also said that extremist sentiment was present in a minority of mosques, adding: “Don’t attack me for saying that dangers lie within mosques because they do. Instead use your voice and protect us and maybe avert the next terrorist attack.”
Chishty only briefly mentioned foreign policy which many Muslims believe is the main factor behind radicalisation. He encouraged Muslims to get placards and protest about foreign policy in a democratic way if they felt strongly about it. He did not mention Islamophobia at all in the context of radicalisation.