Radicalisation of young Muslims is child abuse, says Boris

Where children risk being turned into suicide bombers, the law must intervene, says mayor

Column LAST UPDATED AT 09:50 ON Mon 3 Mar 2014

BORIS JOHNSON, the Conservative Mayor of London, has tossed a political hand-grenade into the national debate about how Britain should stop jihadi terrorism at home by saying the radicalisation of Muslim children should be treated as child abuse.

Calling for such children to be taken into care, Boris has compared Britain’s approach to the children of jihadists today to the “mushy” attitude towards the Paedophile Information Exchange of the National Council for Civil Liberties 30 years ago when, as we all know, Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman was an officer there.

The London Mayor says in his column in the Daily Telegraph there is a fatal squeamishness about intervening in the culture of a minority “protected group” whether it is Islamist extremists or Africans engaged in female genital mutilation.

"I have been told of at least one case where the younger siblings of a convicted terrorist are well on the road to radicalisation – and it is simply not clear that the law would support intervention. This is absurd," says Boris.

"The law should obviously treat radicalisation as a form of child abuse. It is the strong view of many of those involved in counter-terrorism that there should be a clearer legal position, so that those children who are being turned into potential killers or suicide bombers can be removed into care – for their own safety and for the safety of the public."

What has got Boris going on this issue is the recent sentencing of the two men guilty of hacking to death the soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich and recent warnings by the security authorities that British Muslims who have gone to Syria could return to Britain radicalised as Islamic terrorists.

The BBC studiously ignored Boris’s views this morning when it aired an interview on Radio 4's Today programme with an ex-member of al-Qaeda who claimed to be a former ally of Osama Bin Laden. 

He said OBL once cut up his boiled egg for him, a human gesture which the man said showed that despite his misguided ideology, he was not the monster as portrayed by the West. The al-Qaeda man, a Saudi Arabian now living in the UK, said he had been radicalised by the war in Bosnia. Nato had intervened, he said, but it had not done enough.

He warned that a similar mistake was being made today by the West in its failure to intervene more directly in Syria to stop Muslims being killed. He criticised the Home Office's so-called "prevent strategy" for not providing a sufficiently strong "counter narrative" to stop young British Muslims from joining the jihadists in Syria.

Spy watchdog Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which keeps a check on MI6, MI5 and GCHQ, told the same programme that more had to be done by the imams in Britain.

But Sir Malcolm said the intelligence services should not be stopped by anti-snooping campaigners from intercepting internet messages between would-be Islamic terrorists.

Sir Malcolm told Today: "I think it’s important there should be a counter narrative… But you have to have intervention on the internet by our authorities. It is difficult - but do remember in each of the last eight years since the London bombing in 2005 at least one or two serious plots have been prevented and intervention on the internet was crucial."

Sadly, he was not asked for his view on Boris’s radical solution to the threat of jihadists at home.  ·