Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary
The Liberal Democrats have challenged Theresa May to publish a report looking into foreign funding of extremism in the UK that she sat on as Home Secretary, and continues to do so as Prime Minister.
In December 2015, David Cameron announced there would be a comprehensive review of foreign funding of extremism due to be published the following spring. However, the review is yet to be published.
Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary, has written to Theresa May reminding her that Saudi Arabia in particular provides funding to hundreds of mosques in the UK, often espousing a hard-line version of Islam.
It comes following comments from Amber Rudd in last night's BBC debate in which she defended UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia by claiming they are good for industry.
Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary Tom Brake said: "The Conservatives have broken their pledge to investigate funding of violent Islamist groups in the UK, seemingly because they were worried about upsetting their dodgy allies in the Middle East.
"This short-sighted approach needs to change. It is critical that these extreme, hardline views are confronted head on, and that those who fund them are called out publicly.
"If the Conservatives are serious about stopping terrorism on our shores, they must stop stalling and reopen investigations into foreign funding of violent extremism in the UK."
QUESTIONING: MP Keith Vaz wanted to know ‘where it was going wrong’
Extremism is now Bradford’s ‘Big Conversation’
A roundtable discussion - involving MPs, local people from Bradford, young people aged 16-25, social workers, police and youth workers – took place at the Bradford Hotel on Thursday, as part of Bradford’s ‘Big Conversation’.
The Home Affairs Select Committee’s aim was to gather direct evidence from young people about ‘extremism’ so that further research can be conducted for the government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy.
The ‘Prevent’ policy has previously been described as a ‘toxic brand’ by civic leaders and communities, receiving much condemnation for allegedly ‘targeting’ Muslims.
PARLIMENTARY PRESENCE: MPs Naz Shah and Keith Vaz introduced the Big Conversation as an inclusive chat which will help the government with their ‘Prevent’ strategy
Earlier this month, Bradford Council for Mosques secretary, Zulfiqar Karim, and Imam at the local Abu Bakr Masjid, Fazal Dad, addressed the issue at a Home Affairs Committee meeting in London.
Their sentiments were reiterated this week by Ms Shah and many of her constituency’s delegates during the Big Conversation.
Ms Shah said: “Clearly Muslim young people’s sense of feeling British is being put to the test by policies like ‘Prevent’. I came into politics for two reasons, one – to get rid of my predecessor and secondly, to take [the publics’] voice to Westminster.”
MP Keith Vaz said: “I think this is the first time MPs from the HASC have come to Bradford en masse. We are here to listen to what you have to say. We want to know what is going wrong.”
ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION: The venue was packed to capacity with both MPs and members of the local community alike in deep rumination on the topic of ‘extremism’
Speakers at the roundtable discussion talked about media reports and portrayals of Islam and how the media is often not helpful in integrating people.
One member of the public said: “Educated people are going to Syria. This shows that something is wrong.”
Another said: “Muslims feel like they can't speak to police because they feel they are the ones targeting them.”
17 year-old Ibrahim Yunis, whose teacher had told him to go to the Big Conversation, spoke with the Asian Express.
He said: “I thought it was a really good opportunity and something like this doesn’t come around very often.
DEFENCE: Bradford Council for Mosques secretary, Zulfiqar Karim, attended a Home Office meeting in London earlier this month
“Extremism is a delicate topic to talk about, especially when Muslims are targeted in the media. I do see the positive aspects in some papers but at the same time, many things are highlighted in certain ways and media stations might not always portray Asians in a positive light.
“I don’t think you can categorize values as either British or Asian. I think values should be as black and white as ‘humane’ and ‘inhumane’. There is no ‘British or Asian’...if it’s wrong, it’s wrong and if it’s right, it’s right.”
Some people mentioned how the hatred of black people in the 1950s and 60s has seemingly shifted to Muslims.
One of the participants said Muslim students are scared to admit mental health problems for fear of being labelled potential terrorists.
Many guests also talked about how frightened they were to speak their minds for fear of being labelled as ‘radicalised’ during what was a near three-hour discussion.
RELIGION: Mr Karim was joined at the Home Affairs Committee by Imam Fazal Dad, of the Abu Bakar Masjid
‘No radicalisation in British mosques’
Young Brits travelling to fight with extremist groups such as Daesh are not being radicalised in madrassas and mosques in the UK, Bradford Council for Mosques secretary, Zulfiqar Karim, said this week.
Speaking to the Home Affairs Committee, Mr Karim was joined by local imam, Fazal Dad, to discuss government plans that aim to closely monitor the faith institutions following Prime Minister David Cameron’s comments about ending ‘passive tolerance’ of extremist preachers.
Neither man said they had ever come across a single person with a sympathetic mentality towards Daesh, and instead suggested radicalisation was taking place elsewhere, in family or community settings.
Accepting the Prime Minister’s reiteration of the importance of promoting British values, Mr Karim added that ‘targeting certain religions or groups’ was counter to such ideology.
“We can’t influence foreign policy, but what happens on our shores is different to what goes on in wars,” he said.
“Mosques aren’t places where people are being groomed, but police are going into mosques too heavy-handedly and something needs to be done about that. Muslims are getting too many mixed messages.
“The issue lies with the home office, police and counter terrorist groups. We have to work together, target the right people with the right channels so we don’t feel tired, targeted and isolated by the government.
DEFENCE: Zulfiqar Karim, secretary of the Bradford Council for Mosques, said Muslim communities feel targeted by government with plans for mosques and madrassa surveillance
“There’s a breakdown in society. Once you’re in prison, there’s a reason you’re there. We need to reinforce British values, the idea of the network of family and there should be no religion that endorses hate or crime.
“Before 9/11, there were no ‘Muslim targets’.”
Representatives from the Home Affairs Committee will be visiting Bradford later this month to see for themselves what regulations are in place.
Both Mr Karim and Mr Dad slammed the current government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy when questioned on the topic, saying it is ‘simply not working’.
Explaining more about what they are doing in Bradford at the moment, Mr Karim added: “We took a stance because we feel like the organisations in place don’t represent mainstream Muslim communities.
“We make sure that in mosques we spread peaceful messages via sermons,” he said. “A key topic is how to distance yourself from Daesh. Some pockets of the community feel isolated. That’s where the challenges are.
“I think the team of advisors working with the government don’t represent us. The Muslim community is very complex and fragmented. Can London-based advisors represent national Muslims? We need that grass-roots level of involvement and the government aren’t doing that.”
“MISTAKES MADE”: CAGE research director Asim Qureshi talks during a press conference
The campaign group Cage has admitted it made mistakes in the case of the man unmasked as Islamic State (IS) terrorist Jihadi John. A furore erupted earlier this year after the organisation's research director Asim Qureshi claimed at a press conference that Mohammed Emwazi was an ‘extremely kind’ and ‘extremely gentle’ man who had been driven to extremism after harassment from MI5.
Mr Qureshi, a former confidant of Emwazi, had said he had come to know the ‘beautiful young man’ before he fled for Syria.
Cage, which says it works to empower communities affected by the war on terror, faced suggestions that it was an ‘apologist for terror’.
An external review of its handling of the Emwazi case has concluded that ‘mistakes were made’ by the organisation.
The report concluded: "The Emwazi affair has been a steep learning curve for this young civil society organisation. Mistakes were made but these were due to inexperience and poor planning and communication. This allowed a hostile media to easily label and misrepresent Cage in the way they did."
But it added: "By and large Cage did an extraordinary job with limited resources. They managed an exceptional situation which posed high risks. Without Cage's input and released information, the public would have been denied a key part of Emwazi's story."
Dr Adnan Siddiqui, director of Cage, said: "This review was difficult to undertake, however it was important to help us learn and develop.
"We are a relatively young organisation with a small team and a huge challenge but we strive for the highest professional standards. On this occasion we made mistakes and we recognise this. We will be studying the report carefully and looking to implement the recommendations.
"Despite the mistakes made, we feel our intervention still made an important contribution to the debates around security services' accountability, and abuses of the rule of law in the War on Terror."
Cage said an organisation called Communica was appointed to undertake the review, and it was provided with material including confidential internal paperwork, interviews with key people, including an independent focus group and analysis of media reporting.
Jihadi John rose to notoriety after he first appeared in a video posted online in August 2014, in which he appeared to kill the American journalist James Foley.
Dressed all in black with a balaclava covering all but his eyes and the ridge of his nose and a holster under his left arm, he reappeared in videos of the beheadings of US journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, and American aid worker Peter Kassig.
After months of speculation over his identity, Jihadi John was unmasked as Kuwaiti-born British citizen Emwazi.