Imran AwanBy Imran Awan, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Birmingham City University

The case of the would be suicide bombers in Birmingham who were willing to commit mass murder and violence highlights the problematic relationship between many young British Muslims, their faith and what they deem as ‘Western values’. I was recently invited to a talk show to discuss the nature of British identity and what is sad about this case is that these three men Irfan Naseer, Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali, had so much hatred for the UK that they were willing to cause mass murder and carnage in order to get their message across. The area where the men lived has a high level of unemployment, deprivation and indeed poverty. Whilst many media commentators have been focusing on the condemnation of the terrorist plot we must as a society try to understand why and how are people being radicalised? And how can the community work with the police in helping them identify would be ‘extremists’.

So what we need is a cure for the disease of terrorism spreading. The Prevent Agenda (the governments counter-terrorism initiative) had aimed to be that cure yet in practice it has alienated Muslim communities because they feel it is a project that ‘spies’ upon them and so communities do not trust Prevent and the police. Indeed, Project Champion (an initiative which involved secret covert and overt cameras in predominately Muslim areas in Birmingham and paid for a Terrorism Allied Fund) did more damage to community-police relations as the Muslim community were not consulted about the CCTV cameras.

Therefore the best form of intelligence for the police is from the community itself, however if there is a deep mistrust of the police then unfortunately there is a fear more cases like this will arise. The police must help rebuild trust and to do that they must engage in a meaningful way with Muslim communities as the issue of terrorism is so sensitive. The police should be holding workshops and working groups in Birmingham that help get the views of young British Muslims about terrorism-related issues and their views about policing. This can be one way to help rebuild trust and empower communities.

Author Biography:

Imran Awan is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Birmingham City University and has previously held academic posts at the Centre for Police Sciences (University of Glamorgan) and Wolverhampton University. He has taught on a variety of modules, such as international policing, policing cyber crime, terrorism theory and violent extremism and terrorism. He has published widely in the area of counterterrorism, human rights, and policing and recently co-edited the book Policing Cyber Hate, Cyber Threats and Cyber Terrorism (Ashgate 2012).

In 2010, he was invited as a keynote speaker in the ‘Combating Cyber terrorism, Online Crime and Law’ series, by the School of Law at the University of Derby where he discussed counter-terrorism policy in relation to cyber terrorism. And in March 2010 he was invited by the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism to a Prevent Seminar held in London to discuss government policy on how best to prevent violent extremism.

In 2011 Imran was invited by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to take part in a review of UK Government Counter-terrorism legislation and the impact it had upon the Human Rights Act. He is currently involved in a research project that examines the impact of counterterrorism legislation upon Muslim families in Cardiff. He is an ambassador for the Make Justice Work Campaign and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

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