Hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money earmarked to counter terrorism was instead handed to extremist groups, it emerged last night.
Radical Islamists were bankrolled with money which should have been used to combat their anti-Western ideology, a Government report concluded.
The money was spent as part of the Prevent programme which was funded with hundreds of millions of pounds to try to stop young Muslims from becoming radicalised.
The report also revealed:
- Hundreds of thousands of pounds were wasted on pointless sports clubs or ‘cohesion schemes’.
- More than 1,100 people were reported to the authorities after displaying extremist sympathies – a quarter of whom were children.
- The astonishing scale of Islamic teaching outside the mainstream school system in up to 2,000 madrassas attended by an estimated 100,000 children.
Home Secretary Theresa May launched a withering attack on the failures of Prevent, set up by Labour in the wake of the July 7 attacks in 2005. She said it was ‘flawed’ and vowed to end all funding for extremist groups.
In a statement to Parliament, she said: ‘It failed to tackle the extremist ideology that not only undermines the cohesion of our society, but also inspires would be terrorists to seek to bring death and destruction to our towns and cities.
‘And in trying to reach out to those at risk of radicalisation, funding sometimes even reached the very extremist organisations that Prevent should have been confronting. We will not make the same mistakes. Under this Government, public money will not be provided to extremist organisations.’
Mrs May also pledged not to give money to anyone who doesn’t support British values of democracy, human rights and equality before the law. ‘If they do not accept these fundamental and universal values, then we will not work with them and we will not fund them,’ she said.
Critics of the Prevent programme maintained that the way the money was handed out, through police and councils, meant there was a lack of proper checks.
The report said that audit trails for Prevent money were so bad that as yet unidentified sums of money may have reached extremists. It also found that 13 per cent of Prevent funding in a single year went to ‘sports and recreation activities’ including boxing and football clubs.
The Home Office report concluded: ‘The review found no evidence to indicate widespread, systematic or deliberate funding of extremist groups, either by the Home Office of by local authorities or police forces.
‘But there have been cases where groups whom we would now consider to support an extremist ideology have received funding.’
It added: ‘Records and audit trails for Prevent funding have not always been comprehensive. It is therefore possible that Prevent funding has reached extremist groups of which we are not yet aware.’
The report calls on councils, universities and schools to prevent terror propagandists from holding speaking events in public venues.
Ministers have also pledged to increase their efforts to reform terrorist prisoners on their release from jail, and to stop wasting money overseas on programmes with no value to UK security.
The report identified 25 priority areas in England, including Birmingham, Blackburn, Leicester and 16 London boroughs, which will be targeted with counter-terror funding.
Emma Boon, campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘The national government has had enough trouble ensuring that funding to promote cohesion doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.
‘Local councils had far less experience and ability to screen potential recipients and so were unlikely to avoid making expensive mistakes. Letting them do that without proper monitoring of where the money went was downright reckless.’
More than 300 children have been identified by the authorities as potential terrorists over the past three years, the report reveals.
The figure comprises an astonishing 55 under-12s, and another 290 aged up to 16.
They were referred to the Government’s ‘Channel’ project because they were found to hold extreme views, or be at risk of turning to radicalism.
A total of 1,120 people were referred to the programme between April 2007 and December 2010, the Home Office report says.
It also reveals the existence of 2,000 religious schools or madrassas in the UK, thought to be attended by up to 100,000 children.
These are unregulated and teach Arabic and the Koran, the Islamic holy book.
A BBC Panorama investigation last year reported madrassas using textbooks with anti-Semitic and anti-gay material.
Here are just a few of the extremist Islamist groups the Government has been funding:
Muslim Council of Britain
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and related groups were handed £550,985 over a period of three years by the Department of Communities and Local Government. In March 2009 the Government suspended links with the MCB and demanded one of its leaders should be sacked for allegedly supporting violence against Israel.
The Cordoba Foundation
The Cordoba Foundation, an independent research organisation which advises leading Muslim groups and which was founded by Anas al-Tikriti, former president of the Muslim Association of Britain, has received ‘anti-extremist’ funding.
The group, which David Cameron once described as a front for the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, was given £38,000 by Tower Hamlets council in East London in 2007 for two projects: A Muslim media project and a Muslim debating society which held a debate entitled ‘Has Political Participation Failed British Muslims?’
Dr Abdul Wahid, the leader of radical group Hizb-ut-Tahrir (an extremist group which refuses to condemn suicide bombers and has called for the destruction of Israel and which Tony Blair promised to outlaw) was invited to speak. As a result, the Foundation was required to return some of the money given to it.
The Islamic Foundation
DESCRIBED by the BBC’s Panorama as an ‘influential’ outpost of militant Islamist ideology, it was set up by members of Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islami opposition party, which campaigns for Pakistan to become an Islamic state governed by Sharia holy law. Panorama claimed the foundation promoted fundamentalist materials.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia used a body called iEngage as the group’s secretariat. iEngage is an organisation of Islamist sympathisers which has repeatedly defended extremists. It called on the Government to revoke a ban on a hardline foreign preacher who has said that ‘every Muslim should be a terrorist’.
The STREET project
Lambeth Council gave an unspecified sum to the STREET project, run by Abdul Haqq Baker, the chairman of the Brixton Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre.
The project was aimed at ‘reaching out’ to young Muslims who were susceptible to violent extremism, but Baker is an adherent of Salafism, a hard line form of Islam seen as in conflict with liberal democracy.
Green Lane and Central mosques
Government money was given to Birmingham’s Green Lane and Central mosques. They featured in an undercover Channel 4 Dispatches programme in which imams were recorded making inflammatory comments.
One preacher, Abu Usamah, called for gay people to be executed and was quoted as saying: ‘If I were to call homosexuals perverted, dirty, filthy dogs who should be murdered, that’s my freedom of speech, isn’t it?’.
Global Peace and Unity
Over four years the Met Police gave £26,500 sponsorship to the annual Muslim gathering, Global Peace and Unity. But one of the event’s main speakers had suggested the Queen’s decision to award a knighthood to Salman Rushdie was enough to justify suicide bombings by Muslims.
The Met also employed as an anti-terrorism adviser Mohamed Ali Harrath, who was wanted by Interpol and authorities in his native Tunisia because of his links to an alleged terror organisation.