Police at the sharp end of the Government’s counter-radicalisation strategy believe Muslim communities are vulnerable to intimidating fundraising which may be supporting criminal and terrorist activity, according to a new report.
Officers in West Yorkshire told researchers how the religious injunction to give to charity within some communities in Bradford had left them open to questionable practices.
The concerns were raised as part of a wide-ranging research project which looked at the role of community policing in combating extremism and promoting the Government’s Prevent counter-radicalisation strategy.
The report, by extremism expert Hannah Stuart for the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, is based on interviews with officers from West Yorkshire Police and the North East Counter-Terrorism Unit between October and December last year.
One contributing officer told the researchers: “The trick is, on these streets which are always really busy, was to go to some of the main arterial routes, press the button on the pelican lights, stop all the traffic and then go down the line of traffic with a bucket… and literally stop all the traffic, and we had lots and lots and lots of them. It led to an increase in tensions, because you either give or you don’t and some people said, ‘well actually I put some money in the collection in the bucket three cars back’, ‘Oh put some in, ‘No, no’, and then… not every time, but on occasions there was abuse, following, ‘well you blatantly support the Israelis’.”
Officers told the researchers how one heated incident, after a couple refused to give at the beginning of the Gaza crisis, was recorded as a hate crime.
One contributing officer told the team: “Our team are out there, handing out leaflets, reminding people and saying, ‘look there are bogus charity collectors who are just villains putting it in their pocket, but also as part of that you need to be aware that people give and the money might not go to where you think, it might end up funding terrorism’.”
The researchers were also told there was a problem with unregulated collection pots in shops and cafes.