Three years ago, one of the Butt brothers was working for the Government to prevent terrorism, while the other went on the jihad warpath.
How the body set up to stop Muslims turning to extremism is wasting millions on gimmicks like rap workshops while ignoring real problems for fear of being ‘racist’
The body set up to deradicalise jihadis, is run by none other than the brother of one of the UK terrorists.
“There can never be any reliable statistics on the number of people steered away from extremism, so success is hard to measure.”
- The Young Muslim Advisory Group was set up in the wake of the July 7 bombings
- It was part of the £40million-a-year Prevent counter terrorism strategy
- But there’s a belief that Prevent has become a ‘cash cow’ for Muslim groups
- Even attacker Khuram Butt’s brother was working with the Government
- The Home Office now plans to beef up the Prevent programme
London Bridge attacker Khuram Butt was shot dead by armed police in Borough Market
The initiative, launched in a blaze of publicity, was part of the taxpayer-funded £40-million-a-year Prevent counter-terrorism strategy, designed to fight radicalism’s root causes within communities; members of the group would later also receive money from the Association of Chief Police Officers.
One of the ‘personal advisers’ who regularly reported back to Blears and Balls in Whitehall was a young man called Saad Butt, now 29. ‘He was focused and very engaged in the whole concept of Prevent,’ said someone who worked alongside him.
Saad Butt was involved with the organisation up until around 2014. He even registered the Young Muslim Advisory Group to the Butt family home in East London. But how successful was it?
Perhaps that question is best answered with a simple statement of fact: Saad Butt’s 27-year-old younger brother is the infamous Khuram Butt — one of the London Bridge butchers.
Saad Butt is not implicated in any way in the massacre. But the revelation that, until as recently as three years ago, the Butt brothers — one working for the Government to prevent terrorism, the other pursuing a path to bloody jihad on the streets of the capital — were living under the same roof with their mother is almost beyond parody.
Today, even with the political uncertainty of the Election, there can be few more pressing issues facing any future government than security; the safety of its own citizens.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd had promised to strengthen the Prevent programme in the wake of an internal review which concluded that the anti-radicalisation blueprint — funding community projects and training to combat extremism — should be beefed up.
Terrorists Rachid Redouane (left) and Youssef Zaghbaï (right). There are questions about whether Prevent is an effective tool for spotting and assessing Islamic extremism
Few outside the fanatical Islamic fringe, who claim such measures amount to little more than state-sponsored spying on Muslims, would disagree, in principle, with the aims of the policy.
Risk factors (the expression of anti-Western sentiments, for example) are supposed to be spotted and assessed before action is taken by, say, the police or social services.
Yet, like so many aspects of modern life, there are many who believe Prevent is hamstrung by political correctness.
There is also the widely held view that Prevent has become a ‘cash cow’, to quote one critic, for any enterprising Muslim group to take advantage of.
The Home Office’s annual Prevent budget is not officially published, but is thought to be around £40 million a year. Today, all inquiries to the departments in question about how this money is being spent — even under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act — are rejected on the spurious grounds of ‘national security’.
Someone working in local government offered a more credible explanation for the lack of transparency: ‘The Government doesn’t want the publicity,’ the source told us.
Our own research has established that among those to receive funding over the past five years is the Birmingham-based Tapestry theatre group, including £19,000 in 2012/13 for staging sessions in secondary schools which addressed both ‘Right-wing and Al Qaeda- inspired ideology’ and compared ‘recruitment methods from both groups’.
In Cherwell, Oxfordshire, the Banbury Fair Trade Society was given £500 to deliver a ‘multi-cultural food festival’. In Bedford, a group called ‘Faith In Queens Park’ got £11,000 for ‘fusion youth singing’ and a further £10,000 and £9,000 for its cricket and basketball clubs.
In Bristol, a Muslim scout troop was handed £3,180 of Prevent cash for camping equipment. And in Barking, where two of the London Bridge terrorists lived and where there was a string of arrests in the aftermath of the atrocity, a local mosque received £50,000 in a single year (2007/8). The following year it received £5,400 for rap ‘workshops’ and lunches, £3,850 for a ‘kickball’ five-a-side tournament and £1,800 for its boxing club.
One wonders how all this prevents the type of radicalisation that leads to atrocities.
A damning report by Lord Carlile QC, then Britain’s independent reviewer of terrorism laws, said that huge sums had been wasted on questionable ‘sports and recreation activities’ in the name of anti-radicalisation.
Shockingly, he found that under Labour, scrutiny of spending was so poor that hundreds of thousands of pounds had also been funnelled to extremist groups.
David Cameron said there was also a misguided belief that those most able to influence radical youth away from domestic jihad were those closest to them in ideology; that, to coin a phrase, you should set a thief to catch a thief.
‘It’s time to turn the page on the failed policies of the past,’ David Cameron pledged at the time; ‘to drain the swamp’ of extremism. One consequence of the Carlile report was that Prevent funding was targeted at ‘priority areas’ where the risk of radicalisation was considered highest, not just places with the greatest concentration of Muslims.
The borough of Barking and Dagenham was initially among 25 such ‘priority areas’, but not, crucially, at the time of the London Bridge atrocity.
There can never be any reliable statistics on the number of people steered away from extremism, so success is hard to measure.
The Home Office said that last year around 42,000 people participated in 142 Prevent projects. More than 150 journeys to Syria had been thwarted, it said, including Family Court interventions that stopped 50 children from 20 families being taken to a conflict area.
But has the ‘swamp’ really been drained? A recent survey of 3,000 Muslims by the Policy Exchange think-tank contained some worrying findings. The study acknowledged that 93 per cent of British Muslims have a strong attachment to Britain, and their attitudes to many issues such as the NHS, unemployment, even immigration, was broadly in line with the rest of the population.
But when asked what they’d do if they became aware that someone close to them was ‘getting involved with people who support terrorism in Syria’, only 52 per cent said they would report them to the police.
Indeed, say critics, so sensitive are those behind the Prevent programme to accusations of racism that the danger posed by Islamic extremists is equated with that posed by white, Right-wing groups — despite massacres such as the Manchester Arena and London Bridge attacks being carried out by Islamic extremists.
The statistics that are available do little to allay that criticism.
Between 2015 and 2016, more than 7,500 people vulnerable to radicalisation were referred to the authorities — the majority by ‘specially trained’ council officials and schools. In some areas of the country, though, including parts of North-West England, Freedom of Information requests reveal that the number of far-Right cases outstripped the number of Islamic referrals. Overall, a quarter of all referrals involved the far-Right.
The figures seem risible after what has happened in the past tragedy-filled weeks.
You have only to browse through some of the Prevent material issued to teachers by the Home Office to understand what is behind them. Typical is a section of an instructional package headed: ‘What does terrorism look like to you?’ Next to photographs of a blown-up bus is a picture of a wall with the words ‘Heil Hitler’ scrawled on it.’
The national strategy to halt extremism is also at risk of being undermined by the powerful Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), it is claimed. The MCB is an umbrella group linked to 500 charities, mosques and schools. Over the years, its affiliates have received substantial sums in Prevent funding.
The Government cut ties with the MCB after it refused to remove deputy general secretary Daud Abdullah. Dr Abdullah was kept in place despite accusations that he had called for violence against Israelis and condoned attacks on British troops. The organisation says it plans to launch its own ‘grassroots-led response to the challenge of terrorism’. Police and security officials will be concerned that this might turn people away from the Prevent programme.
Even without such a development, making inroads into militancy in places such as Birmingham is daunting.
One in ten convicted Islamic terrorists was found to come from a tiny area in and around the Sparkbrook district of the city, according to a recent analysis of terrorism in the UK.
The name of Khalid Masood, the maniac responsible for the deadly terror attack in Westminster in March, can also be added to the statistics. Some time before Masood drove his Hyundai 4×4 over Westminster Bridge towards the gates of Parliament, Birmingham charity Islamic Help was the recipient of Prevent funding.
The process involved in distributing such grants illustrates just how easy it still is for money to end up in the wrong hands.
First, the Department of Communities And Local Government (DCLG) set up an initiative called Faith Minorities in Action (FMA) to ‘encourage integration by promoting inter-faith work’.
After consulting the government-appointed Prevent regional coordinator on the council, FMA was chosen to distribute just over £7,000 to Islamic Help, channelled through the Muslim Charities Forum.
Prevent funding has now been dramatically withdrawn from Islamic Help, a charity with 64 employees that provides emergency humanitarian aid.
But, in a statement explaining why the organisation’s ties with Prevent were being severed, the DCLG said it was ‘linked to individuals who fuel hatred, division and violence’.
In fact, Islamic Help was accused of allowing a speaker with extremist views to address one of its events. ‘The alleged extremist had been invited for talks with other organisations carrying out Prevent-related work so we were left very confused,’ said spokesman Mohammed Ilvas.
So why was Islamic Help earmarked for Prevent money to begin with? In 2010, Islamic Help was severely admonished by the Charity Commission for raising £10,000 towards building a boarding school for Muslim girls in Lancashire that was not ‘within the charitable objects’ of the group — which was ‘disaster relief’.
An Early Day Motion in the Commons, signed by eight MPs, approved the Commission’s decision ordering Islamic Help to return the £10,000 and ensure that further donations were kept in ‘a special pot which cannot be used for any other purpose without the express permission of the Charity Commission’.
Earlier this year, I wrote a number of articles about Birmingham and Islamic terrorism. Afterwards, I was contacted by a ‘whistle-blower’ who wished to remain anonymous. He said he used to work for an organisation in Sparkbrook that had received many thousands of pounds of Prevent funding.
The group had received positive coverage in the local Press and was lauded by politicians for its work combating extremism in the city.
‘Why did this group get involved in Prevent?’ the former employee asked. ‘The simple answer is money, and easy funding, and knowing the right people.’
He claimed the man who runs the organisation had used intimidation and violence against anyone who crossed him. ‘I would like to keep my identity confidential because I am fearful of his [the person who runs the group] aggressive nature.’
The question is: how many other organisations around the country receiving Prevent funding are facing similar allegations?