Social Media Chiefs Must Do More To Fight Terror

Social media channels such as YouTube must do more to ban videos from hate preachers to stop young people being brainwashed, community groups have urged.

They have also called on parents to monitor their child’s internet habits and for the government’s Prevent scheme to tackle extremism to be beefed up following the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London Bridge.

Prime minister Theresa May vowed to crush groups such as Daesh (Islamic State) and said “safe spaces” for terror planning on the internet should be stamped out by new  “international agreements that regulate cyberspace”.

She made the comments after the attack in London Bridge on June 3 when eight people were killed and dozens were injured after three men ploughed a van into pedestrians before going on a knife rampage.

Mohammed Ashfaq is a director of the KIKIT  project in Birmingham which has tried to save around 2,000 people from becoming extremists in the past year.

It launched a community panel to mentor youngsters at risk and will roll out its programme to Cardiff Coventry and Luton this year.

Ashfaq told Eastern Eye: “YouTube has a big part to play, they need to monitor more closely. Also (there ought to be) work in the community to not go on these websites, and parents being  more vigilant.

“Prevent cannot stop lone attackers, but it is doing a good job for a long time. More resources are needed to work with communities to build on the work.

“If you take it away, you are only adding to the problem. It’s crazy to say stop Prevent when they are not offering a better solution.”

He added that from the 2,000 people it has helped, some 300 needed more support to tackle their radical views.   

“We assigned them a mentor to reduce their vulnerability and the truth about Isis (Daesh) and conspiracy theories. Also, information about employment opportunities, counselling and medication for   depression (was provided).

“One 18-year-old from the West Midlands was groomed through the internet. He wasn’t into religion before, but he told his mum and dad they weren’t proper Muslims.

“He was being radicalised by a convert online. They met and he was brainwashed.

“His parents asked us for help through the local mosque. His mentor found the theology he was taught was taken out of context, he was being lied to.

“He was saying dangerous stuff. We got him away from the person doing the grooming.”

Mohammed Shafiq, from the Ramadhan Foundation based in Manchester, is in talks with imams about producing a document to counter Daesh propaganda through online articles and Instagram videos. A   similar move was introduced by scholars in the US and Pakistan.

Shafiq told Eastern Eye that extremism is a problem online but no longer in places of worship.

“I would argue there is no radicalisation in mosques, significant work has been done since the 7/7 attacks to weed out those preachers.

“You will not find an imam on the pulpit endorsing terrorism. Most grooming is done online.

“The prime minister pointed the figure saying we are tolerant of extremism, when the  opposite is true.

“We have banished extremist preachers from mosques and reported terrorists to police, but they did not act on the information.”

He added: “I am having conversations with scholars on a piece of work to counter the extremist narrative.

“It’s not statements we want, but Snapchat or Instagram videos, blogs, driven by young people. There needs to be more involvement of young people in mosques.”

Hanif Qadir runs the Active Change Foundation in east London which was part of the Prevent programme to rescue vulnerable people from becoming extremists. Its government funding was withdrawn last year.

Qadir, who turned his back on extremism to set up the charity, said: “This is a golden opportunity for somebody like me to get involved and intervene with the individuals.

“The ones who have already been radicalised haven’t been engaged with effectively.

“If you look back at the last three attacks in the UK, these were all individuals known to the police and the  authorities. Nobody intervened.”

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