Invite in ex-jihadis to deradicalise pupils, schools told

Schools should invite former Islamic State (IS) fighters to speak to their pupils in a bid to combat the radicalisation of the UK’s young Muslims, an anti-terrorism expert has suggested.

Professor Peter Neumann, who heads the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London, argued that ex-jihadists now disillusioned with the conflict in Iraq and Syria could hold the key to preventing other young people from joining, in the same way that former gang members advise young people against repeating their mistakes.

“We should use those people who have come back from Isis (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, renamed IS) to go into schools to talk about their experiences, just as [schools] do with former gang members,” he told an event hosted by the Varkey Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the GEMS chain of private schools, and the Club de Madrid organisation of former world leaders.

His comments come at a time when schools are under increased pressure to protect pupils from radicalisation, as it emerged this week that a 17-year-old sixth-former from Dewsbury had reportedly become Britain’s youngest suicide bomber.

Talha Asmal, a pupil from Mirfield Free Grammar and Sixth Form in West Yorkshire, died after reportedly detonating a vehicle fitted with explosives while fighting for IS in Iraq.

Robert McCulloch-Graham, the head of education at Tower Hamlets in London – a local authority with one of the highest percentages of Muslim pupils in the country – gave qualified backing to Professor Neumann’s idea. Counter-terrorism thinktank the Quilliam Foundation also cautiously welcomed the proposal.

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