British Muslims should use their Facebook and WhatsApp accounts to denounce extremism and drive it from their communities, a former police chief has said.
Mak Chishty, who retired last week as Britain’s most senior Muslim police officer, said the public was no longer listening to community leaders when they said they condemned terrorist atrocities.
Issuing a “call to action”, he said it was time for all Muslims, young and old, to take on the “menace” of extremism that was lurking within their communities.
He said British Muslims should launch a social media blitz to let the rest of the country know how strongly they felt about extremism.
Speaking to an audience at the think tank, Reform in central London, he said: “I would like to issue a call for action today for every single Muslim, from a young person all the way through to my mother-in-law who is well in her mid 60s but has got a Whatsapp or a Facebook, to to get on there and start to denounce extremism as not theirs
“And almost certainly you will find that these extremist voices start to shrink…remove their dominance, starve them of oxygen. Make sure they have got a powerful lobby against them. We can do that now.”
Mr Chishty said the London Bridge attack had marked a turning point in public attitudes and had sparked a significant backlash against Muslims in Britain.
Mr Chishty said: “It has been a turning point because people have had enough. I don’t agree with that but I understand it.
“The anti-muslim sentiment online has been incredible it has been strong and relentless and it is there. Muslim communities are genuinely fearful of the backlash.”
But he said the response had to come from beyond just condemnation from community leaders.
He said: “When leaders stand up and say we condemn this, the change has been, ‘we do not believe you, you always do this, where are your deeds, we hear your words, but what have you done to change this?'”
He told his audience that it was time for some “very difficult conversations” adding that it was time to stop “skirting around the issue”.
Outlining his ideas for tackling the root causes of extremism the ex Met Police commander also recommended a “mapping” exercise to identify areas of vulnerability and more leadership roles for women.
He explained: “It’s difficult to map extremism … but you might be able to map areas of the country where (there is) vulnerability, amenability, propensity – the drivers, the factors that might lead people to becoming more radical, more fundamental, even more extreme and more violent with extremism.”
In addition he suggested that mosques should introduce fundamental changes to the way they are run, with women making up 50 per cent of their boards.
He added: “Why don’t we stop having segregation and have integrated rooms? Why can’t we do that if our intentions are noble and they are.
Mr Chishty went on: “I’ve said this menace lurks within Muslim communities. I mean that – it does. I’m a Muslim, I’m proud of that. But it doesn’t change the fact that actually it’s within our own communities.”
“The first thing that needs to change is we need to be comfortable with difficult conversations.
“We are not trying to defame Islam – that’s the last thing that British people want to do. Let’s stop being so sensitive about the language.”