PREVENTING the radicalisation of young people is a “generational task” that will take years to achieve, George Osborne admitted today.
The Chancellor also challenged Labour to back the Government’s Counter-Extremism Bill in the wake of the revelation that Dewsbury teenager Talha Asmal had blown himself up in a suicide bombing in Iraq.
He told the Commons: “Of course we want to work together to try and prevent other tragic cases like this one and of course let’s not forget the victims of the suicide bomb as well as the suicide bomber.
“And that is going to be a great generational task for us. Clearly, Islamic extremism and the radicalisation of our young people is not going to be something we solve in the space of a week, a month or even potentially in this Parliament.
“So we need to work across party divides, we also need to work with all the different public services to make sure we prevent these young people thinking somehow their life, or death, is better off on the other side of the world.”
Mr Osborne, standing in for David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions today, was pressed on the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy by Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff and Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn.
Mr Benn, the Leeds Central MP standing in for acting Labour leader Harriet Harman, called on the Government to do more to reach agreement with airlines and the Turkish authorities to make it harder for people to travel to Syria.
The Chancellor said everyone was “shocked” that a 17-year-old could be radicalised and become a suicide bomber and described reports that up to 12 members of the same Bradford family might have travelled to Syria as “distressing”.
Insisting the Government was confronting radicalisation and working to restrict travel, the Chancellor added: “We also need to make sure our security and intelligence services have the powers they need to track people who are trying to get back into this country and I look forward to cross-party support on that issue.”
Earlier in the day, Manzoor Moghal, chairman of the Muslim Forum, had accused families of those who had travelled to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State (IS), or Isis, of “endlessly pointing the finger at others” and said communities should take responsibility.
His comments come after husbands of two of the three Bradford sisters feared to have taken their nine children to Syria made an emotional plea for their return.
Khadija Dawood, 30, Sugra Dawood, 34, and Zohra Dawood, 33, whose children are aged between three and 15, disappeared after going on an Islamic pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia from their homes in Bradford.
Family solicitor Balaal Khan has said he believed a police investigation into the women’s brother, who is thought to be in Syria, had begun before the family went missing, although West Yorkshire Police have refused to confirm or deny the family were under surveillance.
Mr Moghal, writing in the Daily Mail, claimed the women were “misguided” and that their families had “complained bitterly” that the police had failed to protect them from radicalisation.
He said: “Of course, it must be extremely distressing for any parent to lose a child into the clutches of Isis. But I worry that all too often we are told the same story by the families of those who run off to Syria: that it is always someone else’s fault.”
Foreign policy, Islamophobia and online propaganda were being used as “scapegoats”, he added.
“The eagerness to pass the buck is not just wrong-headed and hypocritical, it also allows extremism to flourish. Instead of endlessly pointing the finger at others, Muslim communities should face up to their own responsibilities,” Mr Moghal, whose organisation represents a group of mosques, wrote.
“Meanwhile, for misguided mothers like the Dawood sisters, the Isis drive for a caliphate seems to hold out the prospect of raising children in a pure Muslim society, untainted by any western influences. This is the kind of nonsense that other Muslims have to confront. It is no use blaming the police or the Government or foreign policies.
“This is a Muslim problem - and British Muslims have to address it rather than abdicating their responsibilities.”
Communities had become “insular” in places, leading to a “climate of division”, according to Mr Moghal, who added IS’s brand of the religion was “perverting true Islam”.
Meanwhile, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson called for a review of the Government’s counter-radicalisation Prevent strategy.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that more work needed to be done to tackle “online grooming”, adding: “I am certainly taking steps in developing something called Community Voices which is an online platform to help put a different narrative to what’s happening.
“Clearly there is a different dimension to this one, with mothers of young children apparently or potentially taking them out to a war-torn area such as Syria.”
Mr Burns-Williamson refused to comment on reports that the Dawoods were under surveillance, saying: “It’s not for me at this point to get into the operational questions around this.”
Following the disappearance of the Dawood sisters and the death of 17-year-old Talha Asmal, from Dewsbury, who is reported to have taken part in a suicide bombing in Iraq, Mr Burns-Williamson said: “In West Yorkshire we have had two very unfortunate incidents. What I do know is that there are some very strong communities in West Yorkshire and I am sure they will pull together.
“In terms of the Prevent strategy there is clearly a need to review that, to revisit it and to work with Government and other authorities to make sure that some of these very difficult discussions do take place in our communities and I will be seeking meetings with ministers to do that.”