“If I can stop people from killing themselves - and others - I have achieved my goal.”
That’s the mission of Saleha Jaffer, who is holding anti-extremism workshops in Lancashire in a bid to stamp out radicalisation around the country.
The Muslim councillor, from London, is holding the information classes to provide support to people who have fears a loved one may be at risk of being radicalised by terrorists.
The classes are held by her organisation, Families Against Stress and Trauma (FAST), which was founded more than a decade ago in 2007.
“As parents, friends and community members we must all do our bit to stop terrorism in its tracks,” Saleha said. “Family members know their loved ones better than anyone, and are often best positioned to intervene if they have concerns a loved one is at risk of radicalisation.
“I am very passionate because if I can stop some young people from killing themselves – and others – I have achieved my goal.”
As parents, friends and community members we must all do our bit to stop terrorism in its tracks
Saleha, who is a councillor at Lambeth Council, has held workshops throughout the country in places the Home Office classes as ‘priority areas’.
Last week, the organisation came to Preston to offer help to anyone with concerns about radicalisation across the county.
Held at County Hall in Preston last Wednesday, the workshop saw around 25 people turn up despite the county’s transport routes suffering from extreme snow, wind and ice during last week’s storms.
Saleha added: “We had people of all ages, both women and men, police officers, teachers, Prevent officers, parents, people of multi-faith.”
The workshop itself shows those who attend signs of what happens to their loved ones when they start to become radicalised.
“These signs might not be anything on their own,” said Saleha. “But when put together they can raise the alarm bells. My message is to re-establish or strengthen relationships with loved ones you have worries over. Parents should re-establish communication with their children; some don’t speak to their families at all.”
Plans are already being put in place to come back to Lancashire for similar events due to demand from people who couldn’t make the event, Saleha said.
If you are worried about loved ones at risk of radicalisation, you can contact FAST at www.familiesmatter.org.uk.
Terrorism is never far from the spotlight
The latest radicalisation workshops come in the wake of some of Britain’s worst terrorist atrocities in recent memory.
Last year the Manchester Arena terror attack killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert, including eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos from Leyland and 18-year-old Georgina Callander, a student at Runshaw College in Euxton.
It also comes after a 31-year-old man was arrested last November in Nelson on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
And last December, tough security measures were taken to protect Preston’s main shopping street from potential terrorist attacks, with heavy wood and metal planters installed along Fishergate.
As a practising Muslim, Saleha is calling on local community figures, including Imams, to educate their communities on the dangers of extremism and how to spot it and stop it.
She said: “Our research shows that 90 per cent of parents don’t know that their children are involved with extremism.
“Community leaders like Imams need to make it clear that this is not part of religion, it’s something much different. We should not be connecting religion to these ideas.”
Saleha said “I’ve worked in my community for 20 years now and I saw the radicalisation and extremism in young people. It’s my personal motivation to stop these young people from going to these war zones.
“They don’t what they are getting in to. The idea is sold to them that it’s so nice and you are helping the Muslim family but it’s a lie. The Quran does not say that you should go and kill other people.”
Chief Constable Simon Cole is the national policing lead for Prevent, a government led programme safeguarding vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism.
Chf Con Cole said: “The consequences of radicalisation can be devastating for families.
“We have seen mums, dads, brothers and sisters shocked and heartbroken by the actions of a loved one who has been drawn into extremism.
“Lives can be ruined or even lost unless someone intervenes. Knowing what to look out for and who to turn to for support is vital. These workshops provide invaluable help and advice.”
Spot the signs
There are many paths to radicalisation, and spotting the signs is not an exact science.
But, according to FAST, there are some factors and behaviours that are commonly found in those who may have been exposed to extremist ideas.
• Have they become more argumentative and domineering?
• Are they quick to condemn those who don’t agree, and do they ignore viewpoints which contradict their own?
• Do they express themselves in a divisive ‘them and us’ manner about others who do not share their religion or beliefs?
• Has their circle of friends changed, including on social media?
• Do their friends express radical or extremist views?
• Have they lost interest in activities they used to enjoy?
• Are they spending increasing amounts of time online, and are they overly secretive about what they are doing?
• Have they expressed sympathy with violent extremist groups condoning their actions and ideology?