Conel College challenges extremism in radicalisation debate

The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London hosted a panel discussion earlier this month, which focussed on the radicalisation of young people; raising their awareness about internet extremism and advising young people how to get involved in making change through the democratic means that exist within our political processes. The discussion was chaired by Reverend Nims Obunge who is a College governor as well as Pastor of the Freedom’s Ark Church. The key speakers were Javaria Saeed, Head of Muslim Engagement for New Scotland Yard, Imam and broadcaster Ajmal Masroor, Shawn Goodchild from Haringey Police Service, Leon Joseph Haringey Council’s ‘Prevent’ initiative officer and Sajda Mughal OBE, 7/7 survivor and Director of the multi award-winning women’s charity JAN Trust.

The event provided a platform for the College’s students to freely discuss their opinions and concerns about the rise in extremism which is taking place in the UK and to directly address their questions to those at the forefront of tackling the issue in the local community. Topics under discussion included UK foreign policy, the media’s portrayal of Islam and whether the disillusionment of young people in the UK is fuelling extremist groups.

Leon Joseph, Senior Policy Officer at Haringey Council and leader of Haringey Prevent, a joint initiative which aims to protect communities and to stopping terrorist acts in the borough said, “There needs to be much more discussion about extremism. People feel disillusioned and need a space to air their opinions. Events such as this at the College are exactly what we need. It’s all about discussion, dialogue and change.”

Sajda Mughal OBE said: “It was a platform for the students to ask open questions to a varied panel and it was great to be part of such an engaging discussion.”

The consensus message from the panel was that extremism is not isolated to religion and that religious extremism was a small part of a much wider problem. Tackling extremism can be very difficult. There’s a clear difference between radicalisation and extremism. Often radicals can bring about a positive change whilst extremists force change with violence, by inciting hatred and by threatening freedom.

Creative Media student, Aaron Fenton said, “I found the discussion really informative. It’s very important for the College to provide an open forum to discuss difficult issues and for us find ways in which we can get involved in our communities to make a positive difference.”

At the end of the forum Pastor Nims called on the student body to agree key principles which had come out of the forum. The College will present these shortly to its local MPs and Councillors.

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