Terrorism prevention programme defended

Birmingham’s head of equalities Dr Mashuq Ally launched a spirited defence of the Pathfinder terrorism prevention programme last night, insisting that many young Muslims simply want to “go to pubs and clubs, take a spliff here and there and enjoy themselves”.

He told a council scrutiny committee that young people were “behaving normally” but found themselves under pressure from radical groups who made them feel guilty about their western lifestyle.

They were in danger of being “seduced” into a life of terrorist activity, he added.

Dr Ally said the 10 Pathfinder programmes were developed after close consultation with the Muslim community. Two projects aimed at preventing infiltration of mosques by potential terrorists had proved particularly successful, he insisted.

The Green Lane Mosque, subject of a notorious Channel 4 Despatches programme allegedly exposing hate-preaching Imams, had now re-written its constitution and standing orders and embarked on a “proper recruitment process” when seeking new Imans.

The Mosque has begun working with a local synagogue and churches and has set up an inter-faith group, he said. Dr Ally added that Birmingham’s Central Mosque, once regarded as one of the most radical in the city, was working to “de-politicise itself”.

He added: “The programme is having an impact and we are expanding it to another 30 mosques.”

The Journey of the Soul project, offering lessons in spiritual well-being, was aimed at helping young Muslims who were struggling to translate their faith in a British context, he said.

Dr Ally added “They learn from Imams who give them a different cultural context and they become susceptible to different groups who subject them to a theology which is extremist. This is an opportunity for young Muslims to explore their faith in a different context.”

A development project for women was needed to help the “95 per cent of Muslim women in this city who don’t have a clue about what is going on in Muslim society or in wider society.”