Muslims who suddenly stop shopping at Marks & Spencer could be victims of radicalisation, Britain’s most senior Muslim policeman has warned.
Scotland Yard commander Mak Chishty said that teenagers who unexpectedly stop drinking, socialising with friends or wearing western clothes could also be becoming extremists.
Mr Chishty said the danger of radicalisation in Britain today is so steep that he fears even his own children could be influenced by propaganda from terror groups.
He said extremist messages posted via social media were becoming so effective that some British children as young as five believe celebrating Christmas is forbidden by Islam. The stark warning came as the Mr Chishty used a Guardian interview to justify more intrusion into Muslims’s “private space” to counter extremism.
It comes with hundreds of Britain’s having fled to the Middle East to join Isis, also known as Islamic State, amid fears they could return to commit terrorist atrocities in the UK.
Britain’s security services have recently foiled a number of well-developed terrorist plots to kill policemen in central London. The current terror threat issued by the Home Office is “severe”.
“We need to now be less precious about the private space,” Mr Chishty told the paper.
“This is not about us invading private thoughts, but acknowledging that it is in these private spaces where this [extremism] first germinates. The purpose of private-space intervention is to engage, explore, explain, educate or eradicate.
“Hate and extremism is not acceptable in our society, and if people cannot be educated, then hate and harmful extremism must be eradicated through all lawful means.”Discussing his concerns, Mr Chishty said one sign of radicalisation was if a Muslim stopped shopping at or begun criticising Marks & Spencer, which is sometimes mistakenly perceived to be Jewish-owned.
Mr Chishty said “I am not immune” as he voiced fears that his own children could be radicalised, adding: “If I feel the need to be extra vigilant, then I think you need to feel the need to be extra vigilant.”He warned Britain was in “uncharted water” when it came to online radicalism and warned the process is “powerfully driven by social media, reaching you on your own through your mobile phone”.
It comes ahead of a major tightening in Britain’s counter-extremism powers due to be announced in the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday.
Theresa May’s series of anti-terror proposals revealed before the election will now be implemented after the Tories won an unexpected majority.
The proposals included allowing authorities to shut extremist mosques, creating new “extremism officer” roles in prisons to stop radicalism spreading and promoting British values “more assertively”.“To those people who do not want to join this new partnership, to those who choose consciously to reject our values and the basic principles of our society, the message is equally clear,” Mrs May said in March.
“The game is up. We will no longer tolerate your behaviour. We will expose your hateful beliefs for what they are. Where you seek to spread hate, we will disrupt you.
“Where you break the law, we will prosecute you. Where you seek to divide us, we will stand united. And together, we will defeat you.”
Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary who opposed Mrs May’s suggestion to let the government pre-screen broadcasts for extremist content, has backed the Home Secretary’s plans.