Former MI6 chief accuses Muslim leaders of being ‘reluctant’ to deal with extremism

Muslim community leaders should be more pro-active in dealing with the threat of Islamic extremism, the former head of MI6 has said, as he accused them of being “reluctant” to address the issue.

Sir Richard Dearlove, who led Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service from 1999 until 2004, said that the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan means those working in counter-radicalisation will need to be more vigilant.

But he said that it is “absolutely essential” that Muslim leaders play a role in educating youngsters and ensuring that extremists are not “trying to district and mislead the thinking” of young people.

“If you are looking at Islamist extremism, the Islamic community should be dealing with it themselves and there is a reluctance for them to do so,” Sir Richard told The Telegraph. There’s a reason for that, of course.

Sir Richard said that youngsters who are at risk of radicalisation may be inspired by events in Afghanistan, adding: “We need to be very vigilant . . . It’s a danger for any country with a large indigenous Islamic community that there are very small bits of it which might be susceptible to radicalisation,” Because even a small proportion of a vast number, is a large number. 

If terrorist training camps are allowed to operate in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s rule – as they were in the 1980s and 90s – there is a “danger” that young people from the UK will travel there, he said.

“When the pandemic isn’t raging, you can freely travel to Pakistan and it is very easy to pop over the border to Afghanistan, if those activities are revived,” the former intelligence chief said. “You have to depend on the local communities to know what their young people are doing. If a kid goes off to visit relatives in Pakistan it becomes a family matter. It’s important that individuals are aware of what their young people are up to.”