A senior British police chief has called on the authorities to begin moving into the “private space” of British Muslims over concerns about the influence of ISIS.
Speaking in an interview with the Guardian newspaper, commander Mak Chishty warned that Muslim children as young as five-years-old were susceptible of becoming radicalised by ISIS propaganda.
He also urged the teachers, youth workers, friends and family members of young Muslims to keep and open eye for changes in their behaviour such as changes in eating, drinking and dressing habits to detect possible “anti-western” views, and to report concerns to the police.
“We need to now be less precious about the private space. 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,” Chishty said.
Elaborating on his definition of “private space,” Chisty added it is “anything from walking down the road, looking at a mobile, to someone in a bedroom surfing the net, to someone in a shisha cafe talking about things.”
Chishty also gave the example of an individual refusing to shop at the Marks & Spencer retail store due to the false belief that it is Jewish-owned, noting that there is a difference between those who are just “fed up” with the store and those who hate it for ideological reasons.
“All the ugly bits of the problem, which are uncomfortable, you have to … deal with them properly, as a state, as a nation, as a community,” Chishty said.
“We are in unchartered water … We are facing a risk, a threat which is global, which is powerfully driven by social media, reaching you on your own through your mobile phone.”
The ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq have already drawn around 700 British nationals, half of whom are believed to have returned.
Kuwaiti-born British citizen Mohamed Emwazi was identified earlier this year as the ISIS executioner who beheaded foreign journalists and aid workers in videos released by the militant group.
The war has also drawn thousands of foreign militants from all over the world fighting for groups including the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front as well as the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which is fighting in Syria on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad’s regime against opposition forces.
Likewise, British citizens have also gone abroad to fight for other illegal groups against ISIS including the Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG), the northern Syrian branch of Turkey’s PKK.
In March, former British Royal Marine, Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, was killed while fighting alongside the Syrian Kurdish Lions of Rojava militia against ISIS. The militia is believed to be led by American Jordan Matson and contain many foreign fighters.
Eight former soldiers from the British Army also formed a group called the International Volunteer Force (IVFOR), which aims to recruit English-speaking volunteers to fight against ISIS in Syria.
The men said they will join up to 100 Westerners from Britain, the US, Australia and Europe who are already believed to be in Syria and Iraq fighting for the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and YPG militias against ISIS.
Britons traveling to participate in conflicts abroad do so at the risk of being prosecuted on their return to the UK.