Muslim communities in Britain are guilty of ‘complacency and passivity’ over the threat from home-grown jihadists, the UK’s top counter-terrorism officer warned last night.
The Metropolitan Police’s Assistant Commissioner, Cressida Dick, said there were many cases where ‘warning signs’ about extremists were not brought to the attention of authorities.
She also indicated some Muslims were too accepting of radical views, saying it was the police’s ‘greatest challenge’ to make them ‘wholly hostile to violent extremism’.
Her comments came as the Government was confronted with a damning assessment by a former head of the military of Britain’s capacity to confront terrorism.
Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, chief of the defence staff until last year, said the military was ‘not good enough’ to deal with the global threat from jihadis.
The crossbench peer, formerly General Sir David Richards, called for a rise in defence spending and warned that without it, the effectiveness of the Armed Forces would inevitably deteriorate further.
He told the Lords that militant jihadism was the biggest threat to the ‘free world today’, adding: ‘Are our Armed Forces in a fit state to play their role in dealing with these and other risks to our way of life? … The answer must be that it’s not good enough but it’s some consolation that it’s better than any other allied nation except the US.’
Another senior police officer backed Miss Dick’s remarks. Sir Peter Fahy, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, said a lot of extremists were radicalised ‘in their own community’.
He said propaganda videos of Syria made the conflict look like a ‘Boy Scout camp’ when the reality was ‘very brutal, very callous’.
‘We mustn’t over-emphasise the power of the internet,’ he said. ‘We know that a lot of people have been radicalised in their own community by people who themselves have given this very perverted message.’
He added that police needed the ‘whole of the community to counter this narrative’.
The Government’s former counter-terror adviser Lord Carlile called for ministers to bring back powers used to control terror suspects, which were watered down after pressure from Nick Clegg. He said it was impossible for police and security services to follow jihadis returning to Britain from Syria or Iraq and said ministers were wrong to ‘abandon’ control orders which had protected the public.
Miss Dick, who leaves her role tomorrow, made her comments in an address to the Royal United Services Institute think-tank.
She said there is less ‘alertness’ among British Muslims about extremism compared with those in other countries. But she said violent images from Syria and Iraq were forcing them to confront the problem.
Police were using the conflicts to try to convince families and friends to turn in loved ones if they suspect them of extremist activities
She said: ‘In the UK we want to depend more on families, schools, friends, health professionals, employers, observing changes in behaviour and having the confidence to come forward. We do have frequent examples of this, but also many examples of warning signs being missed, ignored or not being brought to the attention of the authorities.’
Miss Dick added: ‘In the UK, it will be communities that defeat terrorism and it remains our greatest challenge to support the development of communities that are wholly hostile to violent extremism and to identify, support and protect those who are vulnerable to radicalisation.’
But she said that communities also need to ‘stand up to them and reject them’, adding: ‘The daily awful news stories underline the scale of the challenge and are, I believe, reducing complacency and passivity.’