Nazir Afzal. Photograph: Christopher Thomond
Hundreds of British teenagers are in danger of being radicalised by Islamic State (Isis) because they see the terrorists as “pop idols”, the country’s leading Muslim prosecutor has said.
Nazir Afzal believes that recent departures to Syria show that “many more children” are at risk of what he terms “jihadimania” than was previously thought.
“The boys want to be like them and the girls want to be with them,” he said. “That’s what they used to say about the Beatles and more recently One Direction and Justin Bieber. The propaganda the terrorists put out is akin to marketing, and too many of our teenagers are falling for the image.
“They see their own lives as poor by comparison, and don’t realise they are being used. The extremists treat them in a similar way to sexual groomers – they manipulate them, distance them from their friends and families, and then take them.”
Afzal, who has just stepped down as head of the Crown Prosecution Service in the north-west, said he fears that “another 7/7” could happen unless Britain introduces a community-led approach to counter-terrorism…
There is no doubt there is some kind of attraction and perhaps it does resemble teenagers and pop stars. But this is much worse — starstruck teenagers rarely pose a threat to anyone.
Furthermore, I suspect the causes vary. Some of these young people arrive and soon after realize their mistake and want to come home. Others, like infamous executioner Jihadi John are clearly evil psychopaths. The latter category don’t fit the pop star model and far more dangerous.