A HIGH-profile Dudley politician is calling for an urgent summit of borough leaders to save young people from radical Islam.
Afzal Amin, the Conservative general election candidate for Dudley North, says British society is partly to blame for creating a “jihad generation” where young Muslims journey to the middle-east to fight for the Islamic State (IS) group.
It is estimated around 500 British people have been fighting for IS in Syria and Iraq and around half that number may have already returned to the UK and could be planning attacks on home soil.
Mr Amin, a Muslim and former army captain who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan, says young people in Dudley could be in danger of being drawn to IS and politicians plus community and religious leaders must get together and find ways to stop them becoming disconnected from mainstream society.
He said: “I do not blame all of British society, merely that if we have our young people turning to terrorism we must ask ourselves what have we taught them after 12 years of full time education, living their whole lives in our societies and rejecting the opportunities we offer them. Only by understanding the problem can we hope to find a solution.
“Dudley has seen terrorism related arrests and some of our young people are presently in custody.
“I call on local political figures to come together in a public meeting and discuss these issues properly.”
Mr Amin says the Islamic community also needs to do more to turn young people away from terrorism while Muslim families need to talk about traditionally difficult subjects.
He said: “Almost all the mosques I know and know of have foreign imams who cannot even communicate with young people, let alone convince them of anything.
“Older generations are not going to discuss issues like terrorism, they are taboo subjects.”
Mr Afzal’s comments have drawn criticism from Dudley Council cabinet member Dave Branwood who said: "I do not agree that Britain should be blamed for people travelling abroad and becoming terrorists.
"I do not think it is the fault of British society if some young people turn their back on Britain. What about personal responsibility? They chose to do it, and they are to blame.
"And I am concerned about it because it suggests that if we change policy in Britain, we can protect ourselves from terrorism.”
Mr Amin dismissed Cllr Branwood’s assertions as “ludicrous” and argues because there are up to 20,000 IS fighters, compared to 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, the cause of radicalisation has to be a social issue rather than religion.
Dudley North MP Ian Austin said: “I don’t accept that it is Britain’s fault that young people are getting involved in extremism or becoming terrorists abroad. I think there is never any excuse for getting involved in extremism and terrorism.
“As for a summit, I meet residents every single week to discuss anything they want. I’m holding eight meetings on immigration over the next few weeks and I’ve organised a series of meetings on education and skills which I think we need to make our number one priority to attract new investment and jobs for people in Dudley.”