Lee Rigby murder: UK’s street gangs ' are the next breeding ground for new brand of extremist'

 

Young urban gang members have been targeted by charismatic preachers for conversion to a radical form of Islam, in a development not being properly addressed by the Government's security programme, community leaders claimed in the wake of the Woolwich trial.

The case of two black Muslim converts, both from criminal backgrounds and with a highly tuned sense of grievance, has highlighted concerns that efforts to prevent radicals are focused too much on universities and so-called middle-class converts.

Gang members inside and out of prison had been "groomed" - but MPs warned in a report last year that the main government anti-terrorism strategy makes no mention of the threat from this group of vulnerable and marginalised young men, many of whom have grown up in a culture of violence.

"There hasn't been enough focus on people like gang members, people from deprived areas or [those with] an anti-establishment mindset... this is one of the ungoverned spaces," said Ghaffar Hussain, head of research at Quilliam, the anti-extremist organisation.

Michael Adebowale was a member of a gang at the time of his conversion at the age of 17, police confirmed, but his path to radicalisation remained unclear.

MPs found that converts to Islam were at particular risk of radicalisation. In April, Richard Dart, a white security guard converted by Anjem Choudary - former leader of the now-banned al-Muhajiroun group - was jailed for six years for plotting to attack soldiers at Royal Wootton Bassett.

One in five terror-linked prosecutions are connected to al-Muhajiroun, according to the Henry Jackson Society, and the group is said to have had links with dozens of young Muslims travelling to Syria.

The Government said this month that it was considering new orders to try to ban groups that spread extremist views. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said: "We have some of the toughest counter-terrorism laws in the democratic world and we are resolute in our determination to counter the threats to our way of life posed by extremist behaviour and ideologies."

But security officials have warned of a more complex threat emerging from lone-wolf attackers and smaller groups. For teenagers in trouble with the police, failing at school and alienated from society, political Islam can appear a noble cause, said community workers.

Michael Adebolajo (L), one of the two found guilty of murdering British soldier Lee Rigby Michael Adebolajo (L), one of the two found guilty of murdering British soldier Lee Rigby(EPA) Alyas Karmani, the director of Street UK, which ran a de-radicalisation programme focused on young black recruits of Islamist extremists, said the recruits were approached by "sophisticated individuals".

"In the urban environment, being Muslim carries a bit of street cred. It's the urban religion of choice," he said. "It's about religion sticking two fingers up at the establishment. It's an attractive mix. It validates criminality."

MPs were told last year that  Abdullah al-Faisal, an Islamic preacher and black convert jailed and later deported for soliciting the murder of Hindus and Jews, convinced a man three cells from his own to undertake a martyrdom mission within three days of his arrival at Belmarsh prison.

The man left prison and went to Yemen, seeking a training camp, but was diverted to an Islamic school and returned to Britain.

"These kids' constant experiences are of being victims, and then the radicalised movement comes along and offers them the opportunity to be heroic," said Camilla Batmanghelidjh, the founder of Kids Company, which works with vulnerable children in the capital. "The radicalisers are identifying the most vulnerable kids...  They're showing them videos that are getting progressively worse, alleged atrocities by the British. Then they're sending them to training camps abroad."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor