Youth work central to combating terrorism, former chief prosecutor says

By Neil Puffett

| 05 June 2017

Government needs to utilise youth organisations and involve young people in creating an effective strategy to prevent radicalisation and tackle terrorism, one of the country's top lawyers has said.

Nazir Afzal wants young Muslim people to be enlisted to help combat extremism. Picture Channel 4 News

In the wake of Saturday night's terror attack in London in which three attackers killed seven people and injured 48, Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor for North West England, said government needs to rethink how it attempts to protect young people from extremist ideology.

Afzal, who helped bring down the Rochdale grooming gang, said the government's Prevent strategy is flawed because it is "poorly communicated, and poorly understood".

"Something I would suggest is that we are engaging with the wrong people," Afzal told Channel 4 News.

"Every time something like this happens there is a meeting and we bring in the same old community leaders, talk about the same old things, and it is the same outcome.

"Walking around Manchester, I'm hearing from Muslim youth who are saying to me that they are not engaged and nobody is talking to them.

"They have phenomenal ideas about how this can be tackled.

"They are pretty keen on doing peer-to-peer stuff, but nobody is asking them, nobody is funding it, nobody is supporting it.

"My plea to the government is to listen to our young people and get them into the room."

Afzal said one organisation he believes would be keen to be involved is British Muslim Youth - which issued a statement in response to the London attack.

"They would clearly love to get their views into the room and help government come up with solutions," Afzal said.

Last week it was claimed at a televised debate ahead of the general election that the UK is more vulnerable in the face of terrorism as a result of cuts to youth services in recent years.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said the UK is "less safe" as a result of there being fewer youth workers engaging young people.

Labour's general election manifesto states that it will prevent further cuts to youth services.

The Liberal Democrats have said they would scrap the controversial Prevent strategy, which was introduced after the 2005 London bombings in order to identify those at risk of radicalisation, replacing it with community engagement programmes.

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