Funding for community projects to tackle local extremism

Community projects are getting thousands of pounds each from a police fund to encourage locals to engage with the authorities in parts of Yorkshire which are feared to be potential breeding grounds for extremists.

Swarms of emergency services at Manchesters MEN Arena and Piccadilly Station after an explosion on March 23 2017.
Swarms of emergency services at Manchesters MEN Arena and Piccadilly Station after an explosion on March 23 2017.

A senior counter-terrorism official in the region has described the risk posed by areas whose culture is out-of-step with life in modern Britain in creating opportunities for its vulnerable members to be radicalised.

To tackle this issue, 15 projects around West Yorkshire have been given funding of up to £5,000 each by the county’s crime commissioner to tackle the threat of radicalisation and improve understanding of the work done by the anti-extremism Prevent scheme.

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Among the schemes given funding was the Leeds-based Together Women Project, which received £5,000 in August and works with women offenders as well as women at risk of offending.

In the aftermath of the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London, the number of referrals made to Prevent about people at risk of being radicalised has risen sharply at a regional and national level.

But Detective Superintendent Nik Adams, regional coordinator for Prevent in Yorkshire and the North East, said there was still “some way to go” in making sure concerns were reported because of lingering mistrust in some sections of society.

The lack of referrals to Prevent from some communities has allowed officials to establish which ones are reluctant to engage.

Det Supt Adams told The Yorkshire Post: “What we see within some communities quite often is a set of cultural norms or political values that, while not extreme, and we would not be saying to the communities you are not allowed to do that or behave in a certain way, some of that day-to-day practice creates an environment where extremists can come in on the back of that.

“If you have a community group where there is not a sense of equality and homophobia might be accepted, women’s rights are devalued, there is not equality of opportunity, you have already got a baseline culture and narrative for extremists to come on and try and push that even further.

“If people, because of the culture they live in, are not willing to stand up for some of the stuff you would say isn’t compatible with living in Great Britain in the 21st century, if they are not willing to challenge that, they are definitely not going to be willing to challenge the more extremist stuff.

“It is really important, not because the police say it is, but because communities tell us it is, that they are supported in doing some of that work themselves.

“What we are interested in is those individuals who are being drawn into terrorism, and those individuals who are extremists who are seeking to draw people into terrorism, and what we are asking communities to do is identify those people and to work with us, then in partnership to tackle them.”

The officer said community groups applied for funding because they “recognise the vulnerability in their own area”. They include groups working with women who have recently arrived in the country and those trying to engage young people with sport.

This week a report by the University of Huddersfield said greater levels of sensitivity and understanding must be shown towards people who are considering telling the authorities their fears that a family member has been radicalised.

In 2015, Talha Asmal, from Dewsbury, described as an “ordinary Yorkshire lad”, became the youngest Briton to die in a suicide bombing in an attack which killed 11 Iraqis.

His family said his “tender years and naivety” were exploited by extremists linked to so-called Islamic State who “engaged in a process of deliberate and calculated grooming of him”.

Just a few days later, three sisters from Bradford and their young children disappeared following a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and were feared to have travelled to war-torn Syria.