'Muslim Youth Wants to Stand Up to Islamic Extremism and They're Coming Up with Great Ideas for Us' London's Top Counter-Terrorism Officer Tells Martin Bentham Islamic State Must Be Beaten on Social Media to Win the Propaganda War -- and Young Muslims Are Leading the Way

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 26, 2015 | Go to article overview

'Muslim Youth Wants to Stand Up to Islamic Extremism and They're Coming Up with Great Ideas for Us' London's Top Counter-Terrorism Officer Tells Martin Bentham Islamic State Must Be Beaten on Social Media to Win the Propaganda War -- and Young Muslims Are Leading the Way


Byline: Martin Bentham

YOUNG Muslim Londoners were praised today by the Met's top counter-terrorism officer for helping to lead a new social media battle against Islamic State propaganda.

Commander Richard Walton said that "great ideas" were emerging from new "Muslim Youth forums" being held at Scotland Yard on how to combat extremist material online.

Some involve the development of new online messages to counter the appeal of the "jihadi bride" concept and "empower" women and girls to resist the "polluting" ideas of extremists He said young Muslims were also working with imams, parents and "disengaged" peers and helping police to improve their counter-extremism strategy.

The comments by Mr Walton, the head of Scotland Yard's S015 counter-terrorism unit, came as he disclosed the progress achieved through new and "very positive" engagement with Muslims in the capital.

He said this had resulted from a "shift in the mindset of the Muslim community" and had already led to tip-offs about 83 "missing persons" heading to Syria from the capital over the past year.

But he singled out the growing help of young Muslims as the most significant advance as he praised their commitment to combating extremism on- and offline.

Highlighting the work of the Muslim Youth forums -- which have been held at Scotland Yard over recent months -- and a linked "Muslim Youth Partnership Department", known as MYPD in a deliberate mimic of the New York Police Department, Mr Walton added: "We are sensing that Muslim youth wants to stand up to Islamic extremism. We believe they do and they are saying so. They are coming up with some great ideas. They are seeing stuff online, on Twitter, which is extremist. They are great kids who are used to social media and they look at it and say 'why don't you do this or why don't you do that?' If you are talking about countering Isis [Islamic State] inspired narrative on social media, the best people to counter that are going to be young people who are not radicalised and who are within the Muslim community and they are coming up with ideas for us."

Mr Walton said young Muslims were also working with "the disengaged, students, women and girls, imams and parents" and were "involved in our strategy development, helping us with counter-narrative".

He added: "If you look at women and girls, they are looking at understanding the jihadi bride concept, counter-narratives and how women and girls in the Muslim community can be empowered.

"Our engagement with Muslim youth is very positive. There's a shift in the mindset of the Muslim community in London. I'm not sure that in the past we invested enough in asking Muslim youth what they thought, but it is getting traction. We're going to get Muslim youth involved in training our officers. It's important that our officers understand the cultural and religious issues."

DESPITE such progress, the lure of Islamic State propaganda remained a severe concern and was still attracting small, but significant numbers of Londoners, Mr Walton said. "Islamic State are clearly trying to entice Muslims and Muslim families to join their so-called caliphate. …

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