Fears for Yorkshire's children as risk of radicalisation rises - but local support group targeting mother's across the region is key to preventing extremist behaviour

A Yorkshire-based charity which works with mothers across the county to prevent extremism among children has been classed as the key to tackling radicalisation, as worrying figures have revealed a 58 per cent rise in the number of young people under the age of 18 being arrested for terrorism offences.

Sofia Mahmood, founder of Empowering Minds.

Mothers Against Radicalisation workshops, run by the consultancy Empowering Minds, were set up to help women to spot the signs of radicalisation. The renowned programme, which has trained more than 450 mothers, aims to educate and empower to challenge intolerance and the dangers of extremist behaviour. It also focuses on creating an open dialogue with mothers to instil confidence in having difficult conversations with their loved ones.

With the risk of extremism increasing as the Covid-19 pandemic drives more young people online and statistics showing an eight per cent increase in hate crime between 2019 and 2020, the workshops are now taking place virtually to ensure lockdown does not stop the vital support on offer.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Sofia Mahmood, founder of Empowering Minds, said: "Mothers know their children better than anyone and so they are essential in helping to spot the signs of radicalisation.

A Mothers Against Radicalisation workshop.

"This is why we are determined to reach out and invest in mothers to equip them with the right tools and skills.

"As a community we need to provide a strong sense of belonging to prevent anyone becoming a victim of radicalisation, especially during lockdown where online extremism has been at its worst.”

Read More

Read More
Read more: The changing face of terror

Of those arrested in the latest year, 81 per cent considered themselves to be of British or British dual nationality, up ten percentage on the previous year and the highest proportion in a calendar year since the data collection began. .

Nigel Bromage, the head of Exit UK.

Of the 209 terrorists in custody, the vast majority (75 per cent) were categorised as holding Islamist-extremist views. A further 20 per cent were classed as holding far right-wing ideologies.

The Yorkshire region has been classed as an "area of concern" for far right extremism by Nigel Bromage, the head of Exit UK, an organisation who helps people leave the far right and integrate into society.

Mr Bromage said: "Yorkshire is an area of concern. British Movement has a hub in Heckmondwike, and branches of groups such as For Britain and Patriotic Alternative have convened in areas such as Bradford. Making roots in areas is a key operational task for far-right groups to gain influence and ensure it has an offline presence."

He said: "People are in more danger now of encountering extremist content than ever before because most of us are all at home and spending more time online. Boredom is a great friend of extremism and often if people become bored, they will view content they never would have looked at before and this can lead people into an abyss of hate.

"To reduce extremists’ influence we need as many people as possible to understand the dangers of involvement in extremism, signs to look out for and what to do about it to protect people.

"If anyone notices their loved one spending more time online than unusual, mentioning people that you’ve never heard of, or is beginning to share new, hateful opinions that seem to come out of nowhere, we always encourage people to approach us."

A 37-year-old mother from Yorkshire has taken part in the online workshops throughout lockdown.

She said: "I've met people who had barriers and reservations about Muslims. I was worried we would be seen as the perpetrators of why radicalisation is so rife in Yorkshire. I was taught to try and understand why those preconceptions were there.

"Challenging information you see, hear, or read is how I am now friends with those who once judged me. We are all mothers, raising our children in the same city. We are more alike than different.”