Senior police officers have drawn up a radical strategy to stop British Muslims turning to violence which will see every area of the country mapped for its potential to produce extremists and supporters for al-Qaida. The 40-page document, marked restricted, was approved by a top-level police counter-terrorism committee on Monday, and is expected to be formally adopted within weeks.
The Association of Chief Police Officers hopes it will help to stop al-Qaida's ideas gaining hold in primary schools, colleges, the internet and prisons. Other initiatives in the strategy include:
· guidance to parents on how to stop children searching for extremist websites
· an anti-extremism agenda to be included in "all state-maintained educational establishments from primary schooling through to universities" by 2008/9
· intervening to stop convicted al-Qaida terrorists and supporters from spreading extremist ideology in prison.
Acpo's plans have been prompted by a realisation that new recruits are being attracted to violent extremism despite scores of convictions, arrests and the disruption of plots. The country's most senior counter-terrorism officials believe the level of threat has remained severe and sustained since the July 2005 attacks on London killed 52 people.
More effort and new approaches will be made "to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism and violent extremism", the document says.
Though the document does not mention the Iraq war, it accepts that foreign policy can trigger a sense of grievance that can lead to violence. It urges officers across England and Wales to "effectively address grievances", and says: "This objective is not for the police alone. Some grievances will be international in dimension."
It includes a stark assessment about how far police have to go in building trust with Muslim communities. "Research last year revealed that the police service would be very low on the list of agencies that the Muslim community would turn to if they had concerns about a member of their community who embraced violent extremism ... the police service has a long way to go in building a relationship of trust around these issues..."
It cites the example of drug use, saying that in the 1980s people would not tell the police about those close to them who were using illegal substances. Now that reticence has lessened through intensive work by officers.
The new strategy will be rooted in "neighbourhood profiling". "This will allow us to connect with all groups and to understand what is normal and what is unusual," it says. "We need to continually improve our knowledge about communities and how they function both in a social and religious context."
A senior source with knowledge of the discussions leading up to the writing of the document said mapping was important: "You have to assess where the need is greatest. Just relying on the census data for the number of Muslims in an area is not detailed or sophisticated enough."
The plan also calls for guidance for parents about how to manage the use of the web by their children. "The internet is a potential area where a tendency towards violent extremism can be exploited ... Parents and carers have a need for advice on how to control access for their children and to understand what defines the legal/potentially illegal divide."
The document says there is a "pressing need to develop the growing relationships between the police and the education sector at every level with regard to preventing violent extremism".
With more terrorists and supporters being jailed, the document says those convicted must also be stopped from indoctrinating other inmates.
The senior source added that the plans were a radical change for the police: "It's a recognition that it is a major and important new area of work and the police should see it as a mainstream area of work."
Source: Guardian (English)