Rushanara Ali, from Bangladesh, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow since 2010, has been speaking about Kadiza Sultana, who left London last year, aged sixteen, with two girl friends, to become an ISIS bride in Syria and is now believed to have died in a Russian airstrike.
Like many commentators on the young girl’s death, including a leading member of the police, Ali believes we all – that is the wider Christian/secular society – have a lot to learn from this sad event, and the fact that at least 800 other young British Muslims have chosen to go and fight for the Caliphate. She recently said that the behaviour of these Jihadi warriors and Caliphettes should at least force the British government to ‘listen to the Muslim community.’
On the BBC Today programme last week, Ali emphasised that girls like Kadiza had been radicalised online, and she said they hold, ‘an extreme view of religion and lack critical thinking skills,’ and are somehow not, ‘learning about an Islam that promotes pluralism, human rights and democracy.’
She didn’t say who was to blame for that, but it’s probably British schools. Perhaps without realising it she then accidentally highlighted the main problem we now have with young radicals:
‘There is a big challenge across the country,’ she says, ‘to teach Islam in a Western society, and young people how to negotiate their faith within a Western democracy.’
She had just told us that there is an Islam which ‘promotes pluralism, human rights and democracy,’ so it was puzzling to hear her acknowledge an obvious contradiction if there is such tension between Islam and ideas inherent in Western political thought.
If there is ‘an Islam’ busy promoting pluralism, where is it? It doesn’t seem to be coming out of the London mosques, nor does it seem to be found in the homes of young Muslims such as the three girls who were groomed on line and went to Syria. The Syrian city of Manbij, recently cleared of Jihadists by Western-backed rebels was known as ‘Little London,’ because of the number of UK Muslim fighters there. Now mostly dead.
Most of us can remember passionate political allegiances in our teenage years, which usually remained in the imagination or were talked, or perhaps screamed and shouted out with parents and friends.
Despite the prevalence of young Muslims leaving the UK for Syria, Ali called Kadiza’s death ‘a shocking case,’ and keen to normalise the idea of school kids longing to fight for a vicious tyranny, said she could have been, ‘anyone’s child,’ adding that ‘something,’ presumably in our body politic, had ‘gone badly wrong.’
The failure of anyone to teach children what was termed in the programme, ‘Normative Islam’ led us to ‘Prevent’ the government’s strategy to stop young Muslims being radicalised. First published in 2011, taking over similar measures codified by the previous government, it is a rather cumbersome attempt to respond to ‘the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat from those who promote it.’
Like an inept headmaster it tries to be friendly while at the same time thwarting all its young charges chief aims. It tries to tackle the challenge of radicalisation on the internet, with increased monitoring of traffic here and abroad. There are now thousands of extremist websites pouring their words and images into thousands of bedrooms all over the UK. Only heavy-handed countermeasures can stop this, but they are seen as undemocratic.
The Government’s website says that ‘Prevent’ aims to ‘prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure that they are given appropriate advice and support.’ So it’s a benevolent, kindly system, hoping to work ‘with education and healthcare providers, faith groups, charities and the wider criminal justice system.’
That brings to mind the government strategy for tackling FGM, which hasn’t worked either, because the Muslim community is closed and doesn’t welcome advice and support from outsiders. Ali immediately pitched in with her ‘concerns about how it’s being implemented,’ suggesting that ‘young Muslims are being stigmatised.’
She was then asked pointedly whether she supported the ‘Prevent’ strategy herself. She said she had, ‘desperate concerns about its impact on communities.’
Instead of Muslims dealing with radicalisation in their own tightly sealed communities, she insisted that it was a matter for, ‘National learning,’ that means us again, still failing to get our attitude to Islam right.
Of course, there are Muslims, such as those in the ‘Inspire’ anti-radical, feminist movement, led by Sara Khan who do see the awful truth and openly support ‘Prevent’ as much as they can. Khan pointed out on the Today Programme that it is Islamists who want to close down the ‘Prevent’ initiative. Her small voice was quickly drowned out by Ali MP who with insuperable arrogance rejected ‘Prevent’ for a second time before declaring that: ‘The government needs to listen to the Muslim community.’
Was that a threat? What will happen if they don’t listen and presumably agree to Muslim demands for greater power; more of the same, bombings, knifings, bus attacks? And again she put her finger on a profound illogicality; the Muslim community in the UK is mostly still trapped in poverty, failing in education and employment. They are in turmoil as their children sign up to a death cult – but they are demanding that we in the prosperous, free society which they freely chose to embrace, should listen and learn from them.