“Radicalisation and extremism can affect anybody.”
That’s the hard-hitting message from Sadia Hussain, who works as Calderdale’s Prevent co-ordinator.
Prevent forms part of the UK’s wider counter-terrorism strategy, which aims to stop people from supporting violent extremism and terrorism in all its forms. It’s a threat which was brought all too close to home last week, when four people were killed in a terror attack in Westminster.
Sadia was appointed in her role in October 2015, in the same year that Calderdale was named a Prevent ‘priority’ area by Government. As a priority area, alongside a number of others across the country, a co-ordinator like Sadia is funded along with a raft of projects.
In Calderdale, there are two elements to the strategy. While work is carried out with vulnerable people who have been radicalised, community-based projects provide a space for issues surrounding radicalisation and extremism to be discussed.
And those at risk of radicalisation can come from any background.
“Depending on the circumstances of your life, at that particular time, you are vulnerable to radicalisation and extremism,” Sadia said.
“That’s a really scary thought when you think about it, but it’s the truth. In Calderdale, we have an early intervention panel and we do deal with cases where people are at risk of radicalisation and extremism, or people who are already somewhere near that path.
“When we deal with these cases, we are not just dealing with the Muslim community - I would say around 40 per cent of the work I do in general is in relation to the extreme far-right,” added Sadia.
“This is not a problem which is isolated to one community, it can affect anybody.”
She added: “We’ve been identified as a priority area, so we can’t ignore the fact that we are a priority area. In terms of the risk specific to Calderdale, what I would say is the risk is everywhere.
“We need to look at it in more generic terms. We’ve got the rise in the far-right, we had the murder, a terrorist act, of an MP not a million miles from here.
“We can’t ignore that fact. We can’t ignore the fact that, not a million miles from here, we’ve had people travel to Syria to live or fight with Daesh. If we look at the bigger picture and if we look at what is going on in the UK, the terror threat has been severe for a very long time, so we can’t ignore these issues and we have to take them seriously.”
Prevent has faced criticism in recent years for being a ‘big brother’ operation, but Sadia says the strategy has changed since it was first launched.
She said: “It has evolved because people has got involved with it.
“To anybody in Calderdale, my message is if you are worried about Prevent, if you are worried about what we do, please come and talk to us.
“I don’t want anybody to be worried about us and I don’t want anybody to feel threatened or scared by us.”