All-round structure required to combat IS grooming

All Muslim parents ought to be worried over the concerns raised by Detective Chief Inspector Patrick McGowan regarding the continued threat posed by Islamic State recruiters in grooming their children. Avon and Somerset police have launched a film focusing on members of Bristol’s local Muslim communities which should be welcomed. But, given that a similar film, which examined the radicalisation of Andrew Ibrahim from Bristol, was released in 2011, one wonders whether these movies are being produced because not enough is being done by the community in question. Are there any active programmes on offer that are directly addressing this problem by inoculating these youngsters from the poisonous indoctrination techniques of these groomers? Given that DCI McGowan, who heads up the South West Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit, had to say of this “rapidly growing problem” that “we need to recognise there is a threat here” is strange unless he believes said Muslim community is somehow still in denial. If that’s the case, then it begs the question as to why when our intelligence community is continuously repeating its concern over the alarming number of Britons – apparently 700 to 800 - who have already left for Syria to join this extremist rebel group over the last two years. Furthermore, how much are the schools doing also? Whatever they do decide to do, it must be done in a way that’s subtle and which doesn’t stigmatise their Muslim students. What these youngsters need is all round and emotional support so they feel inclusive of the community and not made to feel in any way shape or form excluded. Once a person does become religious then it is true that every parent should monitor their progress and make certain their children are not putting themselves at risk of being groomed, but this should again be done sensitively yet authoritatively. Security analysts have already identified that Muslim parents need more help to stop their children becoming radicalised over the internet, and have likened the online jihadist recruitment process to grooming by paedophiles. Dr Leah Farrall from the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney has told AM that Islamic State’s online recruitment program has similar techniques to a child sex abuser. “They’re being groomed by a narrative, they’re being groomed by key influences on social media,” Dr Farrall said. “And so in some way a key part of this is not treating the community as the enemy, but treating this the way we treat the problem of children being groomed online for child sexual exploitation. “It’s critically important that we reach out to the community and involve them, and as with anything make sure that parents have the technical knowledge to keep an eye on what their kids are doing online.” Obviously the internet is the first place one ought to monitor and be strict in this regard. Of course it’ll be difficult for the security services to consistently and quickly close the avenues for these groomers, especially since only last year, around 3,500 websites aimed at radicalising young people were shut down. But the fact that these were all based in Britain raises the question as to how so many are allowed to crop up and what has happened to those who are behind this problem. Whatever is done, it needs to be done well and now rather than later.