Most teenagers are stroppy and awkward but parents – and particularly mothers – should be acutely aware of behavioural changes in their offspring to avoid them being radicalised – like former British university graduate Jihadi John.
That’s the message from Dr Nazia Khanum OBE who founded Luton Women Against Violence and Extremism in 2013 and who joined forces with Sarah Khan of the Inspire orgaisation to launch the #MakingAStand campaign in the town last week.
Dr Khanum said: “Charismatic preachers exploit legitimate grievances and young people don’t have the critical powers or skill sets to look at other options.
“We have to develop those skills. And schools, colleges and universities have a huge role to play although it is basically a parenting issue.
“I don’t believe families can see change in their children and not become alarmed or do anything about it.
“They have to look at challenging behaviour and learn how to engage young people in conversation.
“Of course teenagers can be dismissive but parents have to be very careful or they could lose their sons and daughters.
“If they go to Syria they will not find their way back.
“Who will accept them? That’s why it’s important for parents to stop them.”
The softly spoken mother-of-one who lives off Barnfield Road said: “When we see three young British girls seduced online to become underage brides of jihadi fighters, this has all the characteristics of grooming by paedophile rings.
“Women can do a lot more to counteract the threat posed by those, including gangs, who woo and groom young people into doing things they don’t want to do.
“We have to look at how prevention can kick in before they become criminalised or radicalised. And we have to teach vulnerable youngsters the responsible use of social media and warn them about the false identities perpetrators may adopt.
“Everyone has a part to play in drawing them back to reality, including teachers, the police, siblings, school friends and the wider community.”
The woman who’s won countless awards for her community work is proud to be a British Bangladeshi and a Muslim.
“I don’t feel there’s a contradiction,” she said. “It makes me a whole person and I can relate to everyone around me, I’m enriched by their different values. I could never feel as free in another country.
“I believe God has created diversity so shouldn’t we value that diversity? We have only one planet to live on so it’s important we all live in peace.”