Combating the threat of extremism in Birmingham

Pavlo Lapshyn Pavlo Lapshyn killed grandfather Mohammed Saleem last April

In the constant struggle to keep the UK safe from what's become known as "home-grown" terrorism, Birmingham is one of Britain's most vulnerable areas.

I think back to a conversation I had a few years ago with a well-placed Home Office source.

Measuring the threat in terms of a thermal image of this country, he told me Birmingham was one of the hottest areas of all.

This made it one of those conversations you don't forget in a hurry.

And it was against this background that West Midlands Police and the city council were forced to abandon Project Champion in the summer of 2010.

They admitted they should have been more open about the £3m scheme to install CCTV cameras in two predominantly Muslim areas as a counterterrorism measure.

Community tensions

The police and council acknowledged this may have "undermined public confidence" in areas where local people clearly did not appreciate being kept under surveillance.

We can assume that the overwhelming majority of law-abiding Muslims in these areas are just as concerned as anyone else about terrorism.

With more than 200,000 Muslims, the city is home to Britain's biggest Islamic community outside London.

As well as a number of high-profile terrorist cases, the West Midlands has also seen serious attacks against local Muslims.

In October, 25 year-old Ukrainian student Pavlo Lapshyn was jailed for a minimum of 40 years for murdering a Muslim grandfather on his way home from a mosque and for planting bombs capable of killing or maiming people near three West Midlands mosques in what police called "a racist terror campaign".

People at the meeting More than 300 people attended a public meeting in Birmingham after the cameras were installed in 2010

Community tensions have come into sharp focus following the murder near Woolwich Barracks last May of soldier Lee Rigby by two British-born extremists.

'Tarnishing everyone'

The Home Secretary Theresa May promptly set up a task force, promising to "address the gaps" in the government's policies for confronting extremism.

The task force's recommendations concentrate on schools, prisons, faith institutions and universities.

But could they be construed, or misconstrued, as an attempt to establish a pretext for a drive, in effect, to "police" the mosques or even to westernise Islam?

BBC Midlands Special Correspondent Peter Wilson has taken a close interest in these questions over many years.

He tells me: "The Muslim community often feels demonised because of the actions of a tiny minority of terrorists tarnishing everyone else.

"One mosque in the centre of what has been seen in the past as Birmingham's extremist heartlands has opened its doors to discuss what the government should be doing."

This week's Sunday Politics Midlands, will show Peter's exclusive report from the Hazrat Sultan Bahu Islamijah mosque at Balsall Heath in Birmingham.

We will see how religious training programmes for Imams aim to counteract extremist ideologies. Peter will also talk to young Muslims about their thoughts on extremism and ask them just how British they feel.

Sunday Politics starts at 11:00 on BBC One Midlands on Sunday 19 January.

Patrick Burns, Political editor, Midlands Article written by Patrick Burns Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

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  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    @Barry Davies yes the 'eussr' is the cause of Islamic extremism not our occupation of Islamic countries in the Middle East. Given that no country in the EU has Islam as an Official Religion I highly doubt that the EU is to blame. If you want to blame a group of states look towards the USA they are the ones disrupting the Middle Eastern countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Islam is a violent, extremist, supremacist ideology - read the Qu'ran. Education can't fix that, but an honest discussion can bring it in to the open. Sadly that's unlikely to come from the BBC. As for Birmingham - a lot of Muslims there buy in to Islamic superiority inherent in the Qu'ran and have no interest in integration. They want Sharia, not British values. It is a hot spot for a reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Terrorism, a trend by people of criminal genius against their own people and family. Why aren't they sent to war combat in the forces instead of prison? They are the men to do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    poverty , lack of opportunities are some of the causes .extremism needs to tackle head on by all. Education , funding for job creation business start ups , for everyone when 1 in 10 are out of work , what do you expect . After 30 years of northern Ireland . You still have not learned . As for camera on the streets they are good idea . If those who have a problem can go back home

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    the article is illustrated with the white Ukrainian that attacked the ethnic muslim person. Is not the problem that there are more worries about the muslim fundamentalist extremists being sheltered /allowed to go on jihad to eg Syria and also to potentially operate here? (as they have in the past- eg the tube/bus bombings in July/ London/several years ago? + the Lee Rigby incident?

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    How come the places that say its only a few who become terrorists are the ones who can say if they get cctv. Any other community would not get the choice.
    If these people were concerned about being tarnished with the same brush, they would welcome any method of catching the terrorists in their midst just to prove the point that they are not all in it together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    So jaunty cyclist blames the Queen for everything, JessicaF decries the one bunch of immigrants that really did integrate and add to our society, and Friendleonewhocares thinks we should behave like the people of other religions in other countries do. How about just admitting that the eussr freedom of movement is the problem, and the only solution is to get out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    The pilgim fathers left these shores because of religious intolerance but now we have the situation where as it has gone so far that we pander to all religions it seems except our own Christian ones.Too much media and political exposure and importance is given to the,lets face it,foriegn religions being imported into Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Well, imagine during the time of Idi Amin's Uganda- had we refused to accept the first lot of Indian/Pakistani migrants from Uganda, we don't have to deal with this massive, politically volatile problem today... Australia has learned from our mistakes- they now process their illegal immigrants in Papua New Guinea, so they will never set foot in Australia. When are we going to learn our mistake?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Anyone that doesnt agree with the government is an extremist. fortunatly im a happy shopper and enjoy voting and consuming products. I am currently taking the opportunity to embrace all this additional culture by learning Polish, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali and Gujarati. Britians secondto fith langauges.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    "counteract extremist ideologies"

    what is extremist is subjective. Unlimited migration is extremist. Liberal interventionism is extremist. Capitalism is extremist.

    the comfy notion that 'we are the normal' and others are the extremists even thought he uk has been projecting military force sometimes based on lies [where is chilcot report? ].

    Why do we consider 'our' ideologies not extremist?

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    the white anglican monarchists are still playing 'i'm the king of the castle and you're the dirty rascal'. The monarchist mindset is confrontational not inclusive. So its easy for people to think they are in a war because the monarchist mindset is not 'big enough' to not be apartheid in nature.

    The biggest threat to the country are the bankers who have shown they can bring it to its knees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    people cannot integrate with a white anglican monarchy system. This is why we need a bill of rights and a new national oath defending it which will be accessible to all. The current oath is not to the nation or rights but to 1 person their family and their job. Which defacto makes everyone else a potential enemy. But history shows monarchists would rather the country burn than do the right thing



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