Britain’s head of counter-terror policing has said homegrown terrorism is fuelled by a lack of social mobility and inclusion.
Neil Basu, the Metropolitan police assistant commissioner, said better education and opportunities for young people would do more to fight terrorism than ‘the policing and state security apparatus put together’.
He also said British Muslims should not be forced to ‘assimilate’, adding: ‘Assimilation implies that I have to hide myself in order to get on. We should not be a society that accepts that.’
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Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said police and security services are no longer enough to win the fight against extremism and called on wider society to play a role
Mr Basu told The Guardian: ‘Nothing I am saying remotely excuses these heinous acts of criminal violence.
‘But the deeper causes need examining. My teams are world class at stopping attacks and locking terrorists up. But we need to stop the flow of recruits into terrorism.
‘Don’t forget that 70%-80% of the people we arrest, disrupt or commit an attack here, are born and raised here. Born or at least raised here. That has got to tell us something about our society.
‘I want good academics, good sociologists, good criminologists … to be telling us exactly why that is.’
The potential next head of the Metropolitan Police said there were common themes in the lives of people considered more ‘malleable’ to terrorist recruitment, from ‘high anxiety’ to a ‘lack of confidence’.
He urged that the government must grapple with ‘education, access to health, not disproportionate outcomes in criminal justice, feeling like you’ve got an opportunity to get on in life’.
Mr Basu admitted that the Government’s Prevent counter-terrorism strategy had been ‘badly handled’ and argued it needed to be more community-led to be successful.
He also revealed number of counter terrorism operations rose by 50 per cent from 2015 to 2017 and have since stayed at a high level.
Despite Isis losing territory in Iraq and Syria, the terror threat in the UK is still severe, meaning an attack is ‘highly likely’.
Mr Basu has previously been known to make controversial comments, including threatening to prosecute journalists for publishing leaked cables written by British ambassador Sir Kim Darroch.
The senior officer admitted that the Government’s Prevent counter-terrorism strategy had been ‘badly handled’ and argued it needed to be more community-led to be successful. Pictured is the aftermath of the London Bridge attack
The leaked documents revealed how Sir Kim, the UK’s man in Washington, called US president Donald Trump ‘inept’, ‘insecure’ and ‘incompetent’.
But Mr Basu provoked anger by suggesting he could prosecute publications that print more information from the documents.
His comments that publication could be a ‘criminal matter’ triggered an extraordinary row over the freedom of the press, with Mr Johnson and Jeremy Hunt leading the outrage.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock called on the police to withdraw Mr Basu’s statement while former Chancellor George Osborne branded the comments ‘very stupid and ill-advised.’ Former - editor Alan Rusbridger said ‘the police do not tell newspaper editors what to write’.
In response to the growing furore, Mr Basu released a further statement in which he doubled down on his threat.
While he admitted that the police ‘respect the rights of the media and has no intention of seeking to prevent editors from publishing stories in the public interest in a liberal democracy.’
He also insisted that a prosecution of a publisher could still be launched because ‘publication of these specific documents, now knowing they may be a breach of the Act, could also constitute a criminal offence and one that carries no public interest defence.’
Who is Neil Basu? Britain’s top Asian officer who leads national anti-terror operations and is tipped to be the next Met Commissioner
Mr Basu oversees terrorism investigations at the Met. He is pictured on July 9 last year giving a statement after the Salisbury poisonings
By Abul Taher, Security Correspondent for the Mail On Sunday
He is the Scotland Yard high-flyer with what many regard as the toughest job in policing.
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, Britain’s top Asian police officer, oversees terrorism investigations at the Metropolitan Police and is the so-called ‘national lead’ officer for counter-terror operations across the UK.
Colleagues say he is well-liked within the force and by intelligence officials at MI5 and is likely to be a contender to be the next Met Commissioner.
Yet his 27-year police career has not been without controversy, most notably as head of Operations Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta.
The three inquiries into phone hacking, computer hacking and alleged payments to police officers by newspapers cost around £19.5 million and were criticised for criminalising journalists.
Critics at the time said the Met could have spent the money going after terrorists, murderers and drug dealers.
Mr Basu also raised eyebrows when he criticised the Prevent programme – which tries to detect and deradicalise Muslim extremists – as ‘toxic’.
‘Government will not thank me for saying this, but an independent reviewer of Prevent… would be a healthy thing,’ he said.
A Hindu, born to an Indian doctor father and a white British mother, he has said he has encountered racism over most of his life.
He grew up in Stafford, where he studied at Walton High School before reading economics at Nottingham University.
He became a Met police officer in 1992, serving first as a beat bobby in Battersea, South London, then swiftly moving through the ranks as a borough commander in Barnet, North London, and a Commander of South London in 2012.
His first major high-profile Met post came in 2014, when he was appointed Commander – Organised Crime and Gangs.
Three years later, as a Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Mr Basu was tested as Britain was hit by an unprecedented five terrorist attacks in one year, including the Manchester bombing that killed 22 people and the Westminster attack, which killed four, including a police officer.
The most-high profile counter-terrorism investigation overseen by Mr Basu in his current role was the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury last year, which the Met says was directed by the Kremlin.
A father with three sons, Mr Basu is married to Dr Nina Cope, a senior official at the National Crime Agency, often described as Britain’s FBI.