Islamic Jihadists Recruiting in Welsh Schools

Counter-terror experts are targeting schools feared to have been ­infiltrated by Islamic fundamentalists using Wales as a base for recruitment.

A leaked "restricted report," called the Wales Contest Plan, that deals with the specific terror threats to Wales, exposes ­growing radicalization in Cardiff and proposes extra training in how to spot extremism for staff at schools "identified as having increased risks" of radicalism.

Early signs of radicalization need to be spotted by professionals, says counter-terrorism expert Professor Michael Levi.

Professor Levi said that in addition to educating teachers to spot the early signs of radicalization, teachers need to engage in an "active debate on legitimacy" on what shapes the beliefs of extremists. Education officials must ensure that the school curriculum fully addresses reasons why people become extremists, the counter-terrorism expert said.

Levi said that while the measures detailed in the Wales Contest Plan are real, the country should not assume that the task of tackling the issues of radicalization and extremism would be easy.

"We have to think about what attracts people into blowing things or people up, as they are essentially announcing, 'We are here, now pay attention to our grievances' " said Levi.

"We have to ask how much attention do we give to debates of legitimacy in society and in our schools? How does this feature in our curriculum? There needs to be an active discussion, as well as providing teachers with the knowledge of what to look out for," he continued

Prof. Levi’s comments also come as Wales’ most senior counter-terrorism officer said specialists are engaging with youngsters in schools in order to protect them from the dangers of embracing terrorism.

In December 2010, two brothers Abdul Miah, 25, and Gurukanth Desai, 30, from Cardiff, together with Omar Sharif Latif, were arrested after planning a Mumbai-style attack on the London Stock Exchange. They were eventually sentenced to a total of 40 years in jail.

In another incident, Idris Faridi, 32, of Roath, Cardiff, was jailed for nine months after a "terrorist’s manual" called 39 Ways To Serve And Proceed In Jihad was discovered on his computer’s hard drive. He had applied to work at the Millennium Stadium during the Olympic Games.

Assistant Chief Constable Matt Jukes, head of the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit said "At the heart of this, there’s a question of safeguarding children. If young people are being exploited, and I’m not suggesting that is the case, if they put themselves on a path of some of these ideals, not only will they take lives, they are at risk themselves and we are concerned about saving lives."

A recent report by European Police Office (Europol) found that the number of terrorist acts and related arrests across Europe rose in 2012, bucking a downward trend in previous years. The report revealed there were 219 terrorist attacks across Europe in 2012, compared with 174 in 2011. The number of people arrested for terror-related offences also rose to 537, from 484 in the previous year.

Meanwhile Europol director Rob Wainwright revealed that increasing numbers of EU citizens who have become radicalized have travelled to regions of conflict to take part in terrorist activities.  "There is growing concern about the threat posed by these people, given the possibility of their returning to the European Union intent on committing acts of terrorism," he said.

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said, "Clearly schools have an important role to play in helping our children and young people understand the reasons why a small minority of people are drawn into becoming violent extremists."

That is the reason that the Welsh Government produced the  “Respect and Resilience” book which is a guide and good practice document for schools to help support schools in their role in developing and supporting strategic approaches to promoting community cohesion and preventing violent extremism.

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