UK gangs threaten youths with death unless they convert to Islam
November 28, 2005
AM - Saturday, 13 August , 2005 08:17:17
Reporter: Kirsten AikenELIZABETH JACKSON: There's growing concern that armed street gangs in south London are using the banner of Islam to target disaffected youth.
Some are accused of forcing boys to convert to Islam at gunpoint before coercing them into robbing local drug dealers and taking part in other criminal activities.
The allegations come as Britain prepares to deport 10 foreign nationals that the Home Office says pose a threat to national security.
Our London Reporter Kirsten Aiken.
KIRSTEN AIKEN: The London bombings brought the plight of some young British Muslims into sharp focus. Their anger over the Iraq war and their detachment from family means the British Muslim community as a whole is asking itself where it went wrong.
But now it's emerged the fragmentation of that community is being used by teenage street gangs who have more in common with American ghetto culture than Islam.
They're using the religion to recruit angry young men on poor housing estates in south London.
UANU SESHMI: We know that a lot of these young people have been approached by outside organisations. We know that they're quite active within Peckham, we know that they're targeting young people, vulnerable young people. And once they join the organisation, their anger can be manipulated.
KIRSTEN AIKEN: Uanu Seshmi is the Director of the Boyhood to Manhood Foundation.
UANU SESHMI: There is young people, misguided people, within the community who are following Islam who are using the religion to articulate their anger and grievance. Unfortunately you will have young people from all different ethnic minority groups who are receptive to this message, because they themselves are empty. They need something. They need something to belong to.
WOMAN (name withheld): On the estate, this estate and other estates, they do go around bullying, trying to pressure people into becoming Muslims. But I think they do it mostly to boys that they think are vulnerable.
KIRSTEN AIKEN: For legal reasons, this woman, from the south London estate of Peckham, can't be identified. Her son resisted one of the gangs, and she says paid for it with his life.
WOMAN (name withheld): They told him on the Sunday prior to his death that if he didn't become a Muslim by the Wednesday that they would kill him.
KIRSTEN AIKEN: It's not being suggested that there are any links between the teenage criminal gangs and the terrorist threat now facing the UK. But Toaha Qureshi, from the Lambeth Muslim Forum, fears the gangs could in turn be pressured to conform by terrorists.
TOAHA QURESHI: As far as police is concerned, they do not have any intelligence that these gangs, who are carrying guns or portraying themselves as Muslims, they have any link with the terrorist groups. But what we are trying to say is that when these terrorists are going to recruit people, the first preference for them would be to recruit criminals who already have some sort of record in crime.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Toaha Qureshi from the Lambeth Muslim Forum in London, ending that report from Kirsten Aiken.