Page last updated at 07:08 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

UK to shift anti-terror strategy

Omar Bakri Mohammed
Until now efforts have been focused on those who advocate violence

The UK government is preparing a major shift in its counter-terrorism strategy to combat radicalisation, the BBC's Panorama programme has learned.

Conservative Muslims who teach that Islam is incompatible with Western democracy will be challenged as part of a new approach, Panorama has been told.

A senior Whitehall source said that Muslim leaders who urge separation will be isolated and publicly rejected.

He also said this would occur even if their comments fell within the law.

This will include those who argue that Muslims should not vote and that homosexuals should be condemned on religious grounds.

Panorama's source said that Britain "needs to identify and back shared values" and that this new thinking will be central to a new counter-terrorism policy called Contest 2 due to be launched this Spring.

Intelligence gathering

Panorama has been looking at the issue of Islamic extremism for its programme Muslim First, British Second, which will be broadcast on 16 February.

Panorama has also been told by a separate counter-terrorism source that more emphasis will be placed on gathering intelligence about extremism from inside the Muslim community.

The Home Office is currently spending £80m on community projects designed to stop young Muslims from being radicalised and the source said that some of these projects are being targeted by intelligence analysts.


We want to move away from just challenging violent extremism. We now believe that we should challenge people who are against democracy and state institutions

Panorama's Whitehall source

However, this was denied by the police.

Sir Norman Bettison from the Association of Chief Police Officers, who, when asked if community projects are being used as "Trojan horses" to gather information, told the programme there was "no dedicated intelligence gathering" as part of the Prevent community work.

The government's counter-terrorism strategy is based on what officials call the "Four Ps" - prevent, pursue, protect and prepare.

The "prevent" element of the strategy aims to block radicalisation and reduce the supply of terror recruits by working with local communities.

But Sir Norman accepted that as part of the "pursue" element of the strategy, police and other officials would use "any means available to get the information that is required to prosecute people committing criminal acts".

Labour peer Lord Ahmed said he would welcome a tougher approach.

"Those who preach hate, those who preach divisions, those who create hatred within societies, I think they need to be isolated," he said.

"We need to empower the mainstream Muslim leadership and the scholars so they can actually hold the arguments and debates within the Muslim society."

Influence on the young

Up until now Britain's counter-terrorism policy has only targeted those who preach support for violent extremism. But according to Panorama's Whitehall source this will now change:

"We want to move away from just challenging violent extremism. We now believe that we should challenge people who are against democracy and state institutions", he said.

The shift in position will be welcomed by those who believe that Islamic extremism feeds off religious separatism and intolerance.

Panorama reporter Richard Watson talks about Muslim First, British Second

There are some well-known preachers, many of them especially popular amongst the young, who condemn terrorism, yet also emphasise Islam's incompatibility with the West.

Sheikh Khalid Yassin, one of the stars of the preaching circuit, has lectured about his contempt for homosexuals saying:

"If you prefer the clothing of the Kaffirs [non-believers] other than the clothing of the Muslims - most of those names on most of that clothing is faggots, homosexuals and lesbians."

Another influential preacher, Abdurraheem Green, whose internet lectures receive hundreds of thousands of hits, preaches that "Islam is not compatible with democracy" and that to prevent a wife committing "evil" a husband has the right to "apply some type of physical force... a very light beating" - though he says this should not leave any marks.

Problem or solution

Despite these conservative views the Metropolitan Police has sought Abdurraheem Green's advice recently.


One thing I have been very consistent on is terrorism, participating in terrorist activities, violent revolution - is not something that I have ever thought was part of the religion of Islam

Abdurraheem Green

And the preacher himself insists that in spite of his conservative views about life in Britain he is "part of the solution" to extremism because young people listen to him.

"I surely have said some pretty radical things and maybe even written some radical things in the past," he told Panorama. "But one thing I have been very consistent on is terrorism, participating in terrorist activities, violent revolution - is not something that I have ever thought was part of the religion of Islam."

Some senior police officers argue it is vital to work with radicals because they have credibility amongst young British Muslims.

But some moderate scholars warn this is a dangerous road.

Sheikh Musa Admani, imam at London Metropolitan University, says if advice is sought from the radicals, or if they are funded with public money, then "Muslims are going to endorse them as a whole and so there's the danger".

Panorama: Muslim First, British Second is on BBC One on Monday, 16 February at 2030 GMT.

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