BY Alison Bellamy
An MP who was caught up in the recent anti-Semitism row which rocked the Labour party says that communities are being turned against each other creating a ‘them and us’ mentality, thanks to the way extremism is being handled.
Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, said parents are afraid to even talk to their children about radicalisation issues for fear of becoming targets of Government schemes like Channel or Prevent, which work to detect signs of terrorism.
The busy mum, who is awaiting the outcome of an investigation by the Labour Party, spoke at a conference on safeguarding and radicalisation in her home city of Bradford where she was a guest speaker, along with Nazir Afzal, former Chief Crown Prosecutor and the UK’s most senior Muslim lawyer.
She said: “We have turned communities against each other and created ‘them and us’
“Muslim parents are afraid to discuss things with their children in case they go back to school the next day and talk about terrorism and are then referred onto the Channel project, or onto ‘these kids are at risk’,
Government schemes, including Prevent and the Channel project, which seek to help stamp out signs of radicalisation and stop youngsters being drawn into terrorism, have come under fire from educators including the National Union of Teachers, who claim their job is to teach, not to police our children.
Jane Campbell, a partner with Keighley family law firm Makin Dixon who organised the conference said: “The conference on radicalisation and safeguarding children and young people was a huge success and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We sucessfully created an open platform to discuss sensitive issues. We will continue to work with families in the Yorkshire and Lancashire areas on these issues. We remain not afraid to tackle hard hitting issues and to help and advise those most vulnerable in the community.”
She said their solicitors have seen an increase in the number of cases involving issues around radicalisation.
She added that they had seen at first had the “devastating effect this can have on the victim’s life, as well as their greater family unit”
The event featured expert speakers including former chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal; Professor Paul Rogers of the Peace Studies department at the University of Bradford, a representative of the PREVENT department at West Yorkshire Police, imams, community nurses, family support workers and education professionals.
Mrs Campbell said: “The reason we chose radicalisation is we have had cases where it has become an issue. We have had about a dozen cases in course, which is a staggering increase.”
But she added: “It is not an epidemic. It is more that people are alive to the issue and more willing to confront it, which is a good thing. They feel more comfortable.
“It’s not about the demonisation of radicalisation. It’s about breaking down barriers and communication.”
She said that she hoped the conference would now encourage more people to come forward to discuss their issues and concerns.
It was attended by 350 people from across Yorkshire, including medical professionals, schools, nurseries, charities working with young people and other professionals working with children and young people.
The parents of 17-year old Talha Asmal from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, who died in June 2015, were devastated when
he became the youngest ever suicide bomber after allegedy fighting for Daesh in Iraq. They later said they believed he had been groomed on the internet using ‘deliberate and calculated grooming’ before he went travelling.
Two Yorkshire families are also feared to have gone to Syria to join Daesh.
Last June, sisters Khadija Dawood, 30, Sugra Dawood, 34 and Zohra Dawood, 33, all from Bradford, went missing after going on an Islamic pilgramage to Saudi Arabia with their nine children.
And last October, Imran Amee, 39, with his wife Farzana Ameen, 40, and their five children aged between five and fifteen, also from Bradford, disappeared after buying one-way tickets to Turkey.