What do Daesh, One Direction, and Justin Bieber have in common? British teens can't get enough of 'em

Published April 7th, 2015 - 06:49 GMT
"The boys want to be like them and the girls want to be with them. That's what they used to say about the Beatles and more recently One Direction and Justin Bieber," says Mr. Afzal. (AFP/File)
"The boys want to be like them and the girls want to be with them. That's what they used to say about the Beatles and more recently One Direction and Justin Bieber," says Mr. Afzal. (AFP/File)

Hundreds of British teenagers see ISIS [Daesh] as 'pop idols' like One Direction and Justin Bieber, putting children in danger of being radicalised, the country's most senior Muslim prosecutor has said.

Nafir Afzal said teenagers are at risk of 'jihadimania' and warned that 'another 7/7' could happen unless Britain makes sweeping changes to the way it tackles terrorism.

Mr Afzal, former head of the Crown Prosecution Service in the north-west, said children are 'manipulated' by Islamists and that Britain needs a new approach in the way it deals with radicalisation.

He told the Guardian's Nigel Bunyan: 'The boys want to be like them and the girls want to be with them. That's what they used to say about the Beatles and more recently One Direction and Justin Bieber. The propaganda the terrorists put out is akin to marketing, and too many of our teenagers are falling for the image.

'They see their own lives as poor by comparison, and don't realise they are being used. The extremists treat them in a similar way to sexual groomers – they manipulate them, distance them from their friends and families, and then take them.'

Mr Afzal added that a community-led approach to dealing with teenagers who have been corrupted by terrorists would be more successful than the 'stale' strategy used by the police and security services.

The prosecutor warned that unless the next government recruited young Muslim role models to help mentor those who are being radicalised, the country could face 'another 7/7' terror attack.

He believes that young people are far more likely to listen to people who have gone through their experiences than authority figures. 

'At the moment, even the language is wrong. People talk about Isis as if they have some kind of religious basis or political dimension – a kind of glossy, glorious campaign,' he said. 

'The reality is that they're no more than narcissistic, murderous cowboys. We need to stand up and say that very, very clearly, rather than allow kids to be drawn to them like the equivalent of pop idols.' 

Hundreds of young Muslims are thought to have travelled to Syria to join ISIS, but Mr Afzal believes there are far more 'ticking time bombs' still in Britain.

His comments came as it emerged that the Labour councillor's son caught trying to cross from Turkey to Syria with his family may be part of an extremist group.

Waheed Ahmed, 21 – the son of councillor Shakil Ahmed – is said to be a member of the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which advocates a global Muslim caliphate, similar to the one established by ISIS. 

Ahmed, a politics student at Manchester University, was arrested by Turkish police at the border town of Reyhanli last week. He was one of a group of nine detained, all from Rochdale, including four children aged from one to 11.

They could be flown back to the UK today. 

By Ollie Gillman


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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