Here are three real-life stories of young people on the road to radicalisation who have turned their lives round due to help and support from the Channel programme and Prevent.
Intervention in cases of radicalisation varies on a case by case basis but these real-life stories show how the right support can make a real difference to young people:
- Kamran: a 14-year-old who expressed admiration for Daesh
- Yusuf: a 24-year-old student handing out leaflets for a dubious charity
- Callum: a teenager from Luton whose online activity was concerning
Kamran is 14 and from the West Midlands. Social workers picked up on comments he made in support of Osama Bin Laden, joining Daesh and killing Americans. His school were aware of wider communication and behavioural difficulties, including autism. His mother was also very ill, and he had unsupervised access to the internet.
The local authority referred Kamran to the Channel programme and with the consent of his parents he was taken on as a case and given a mentor, Daud, who was a youth worker.
Daud, as well as encouraging Kamran’s passion for football, talked with him about Islamic teachings and accompanied him to the mosque. He helped Kamran see the positive aspects of being the only Muslim pupil at the school, and explored the possibility of holding an Islamic awareness day. Daud worked with Kamran’s parents to build family relationships and manage internet usage, while the Channel programme organised for local Prevent officers to raise awareness of extremism and radicalisation at Kamran’s school.
Over a period of time, there was a steady improvement in Kamran’s behaviour at school and at home. Kamran no longer made extremist statements and learned to speak to his father if he saw something that he did not understand. Kamran’s school even decided to make him a school ambassador so he can act as a role model and advocate for other students.
School staff and management have said: “He is a different student now to the troubled boy we knew six months ago. He has matured and transformed into the young man our school hoped he could be and we are very grateful for the success the mentor has achieved.”
Yusuf is 24 and a postgraduate student at university. A university staff member, Claire, saw Yusuf in the town centre handing out leaflets for an education charity. She took a leaflet although he was initially reluctant to hand one over.
Later at home, Claire looked at the organisation online – it had a very well-constructed site but their aims and objectives seemed a little vague. After following several links, Claire was directed to an extremist website which promoted violence and homophobia. She reported this to the Prevent coordinator at the university, who contacted the police.
Previous concerns had been highlighted about Yusuf’s behaviour in the university as he had become reclusive and on occasion very argumentative. The Student Services and Channel police officers determined, after interviewing him, that he was at risk of radicalisation. He was open about the fact that over the past six months he had been ‘befriended’ by older men at his mosque who were known to have extremist beliefs.
His mainstream religious views were gradually eroded and he had started to identify with an extremist ideology. Yusuf accepted support from Channel and Student Services, including chaplaincy and psychological provision. This support was provided for a year, until it was decided that Yusuf was no longer at risk. He went on to successfully complete his studies and has started a PhD.
Callum is a teenager from Luton. His teacher, Ruth, was told by another student that Callum had been promoting a Facebook page for a group called the Young Patriots. Ruth saw that the site contained violent language and links to extreme right-wing sites. When asked about the site, Callum said that he didn’t have a problem with other races in general, just Muslims because they were not like “us”.
He added that when he attended football matches, he’d walk to the ground through a predominantly Muslim area and see them “doing their Sharia law”. Ruth asked him what that meant and Callum gave a confused answer about no-go areas.
Callum had met people at football matches who involved him in the Young Patriots Facebook page. He liked the attention and told his teachers excitedly about being invited to “secret” group meetings in pubs before and after games, without his parents. The school safeguarding lead reported the concern to a police liaison officer who confirmed that the Young Patriots site contained highly racist material and would need to be closed down.
Although Callum had distanced himself from his family and friends, they were able to convince him to talk to a social care worker recommended by the police liaison officer. It was quickly evident that Callum didn’t understand the ideology of the group he’d linked himself to but he did have other personal worries, including finding work when he left school. The school’s careers manager looked at future career options with Callum, including working for and with the Muslim community.
Outside of school, Callum agreed to attend an ethnically diverse youth group that gave him confidence in socialising with his own age group. An uncle and cousin started taking him to football matches so he had routine, role models, and the family bond that was so important to him.
It was later discovered that Callum had a flare which he’d intended to take on a march. The action taken by Ruth meant he was able to move forward positively and that others were protected from any violence he may have committed.