• Thursday, February 22, 2024


Nazir Afzal: UK can learn how to tackle extremism from other countries

The British Library is sending a copy of the Magna Carta to the Jaipur Literary Festival and Shakespeare’s First Folio to a museum in Mumbai as part of the UK-India Year of Culture 2017. The year of culture was agreed between Narendra Modi and David Cameron when the Indian prime minister visited the UK in November last year. The British Library announced last week that it “will be partnering with the Jaipur Literature Festival to host a series of events in Jaipur and London during 2017. In January the Library will be part of the programme in Jaipur that looks at the legacy of Magna Carta, including the loan of a facsimile of the 1215 Magna Carta to be displayed on site during the Festival; and in May, the London leg of the Jaipur Literature Festival will be hosted by the British Library for the first time.” The British Library also revealed “plans to loan George III’s own copy of one of the world’s most famous books, Shakespeare’s First Folio, for public display at the CSMVS museum in Mumbai in January. The loan is supported by the British Council as part of the GREAT campaign, and builds on the Library’s wider programme of working more closely with sister institutions in India and digitising our extensive collections relating to South Asia, such as the Two Centuries of Indian Print project.” Magna Carta Libertatum (Medieval Latin for “the Great Charter of the Liberties”), commonly called Magna Carta, is a charter agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on June 15, 1215. It still forms an important symbol of liberty today, often cited by politicians and campaigners, and is held in great respect by the British and American legal communities. The late Lord Denning once described it as “the greatest constitutional document of all time – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot”. It is seen as especially significant that a copy is being sent to India, “the biggest democracy in the world”, but where often human rights and liberties are abused by those in power. In an interview with Eastern Eye, Jamie Andrews, head of culture and learning at the British Library, said what was being sent to India was not the original but a high quality photographic copy “created to look as close as possible to the original and framed as the original is framed – we are going to have it at the heart of the Jaipur Literary Festival (from Jan 19-23)”. The British Library is currently putting together a panel – “and we have got a really interesting mix”. Andrews said: “The Magna Carta dates from 1215 – it is often seen as the guarantor of justice and of rights but, of course, in 1215 that was a very different context from today. “The richness of the Magna Carta is that it allowed us to have the debates around what those concepts mean today. It is also seen as being at the heart of questions about rights of citizens. So the hundreds of thousands of festival goers will be hearing from panels around that.” Andrews added: “We will be having events here in the main building (and) the theatre, and that is the way for us to make a really strong connection with JLF both there and here.” Shakespeare’s First Folio, dating from 1623, will be displayed at the Prince of Wales Museum (now renamed the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya). Again, “there will be interpretations and we will be working both with the British Council and the CSMVS (to debate) what Shakespeare means today and the importance of Shakespeare”. William Shakespeare, born in 1564, died in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 23, 1616. His friends and admirers put together the First Folio of his collected works in 1623. He wrote around 37 plays, 36 of which are contained in the First Folio.

By: Eastern Eye Staff

Britain should learn from countries like Pakistan and Nigeria on how to deradicalise people groomed by extremist groups, according to one of the country’s leading prosecutors.

Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor who led some of the most high-profiles cases, said special schools to treat brainwashed youths and a programme to change their views should be considered.

He gave a talk earlier this month on tackling far-right extremism and groups like Daesh (Islamic State) at the Trust Women conference in London.

The event, organised by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, included speakers from Pakistan and Nigeria who work with boys and girls radicalised by the Taliban and the Boko Haram terrorist group.

In an interview with Eastern Eye, Afzal spoke about an upcoming BBC film based on him prosecuting members of the Rochdale child grooming gang and the toughest cases he has handled in his career.

On the issue of extremism, the former chief crown prosecutor for North West England said international expertise will be vital, with hundreds of Britons suspected to have joined Daesh in the past two years.

Afzal, now chief executive of the country’s police and crime commissioners, said: “For example, Feriha Peracha is director of a Pakistani charity that sets up schools for those who have been radicalised or about to be, and works to take them back into normality and away from harming themselves and others.

“Fatima Ekilu does the same thing in Nigeria with Boko Haram. We have potentially hundreds of people coming back from the Middle East.

“Most will be prosecuted if there’s enough evidence to show they’ve been involved in criminal activity. You can learn from how it’s operating in countries which have more extremists than we have in order to put that learning into practise.

“What better than learning from people who are dealing with it at the sharp end? Rehabilitation and integration of child soldiers, and asking questions about religion and interrogate the concepts they have been taught – you can’t put a price on that knowledge.”

Afzal joined the Crown Prosecution Service in 1991 and was the operational and policy lead for tackling child abuse and hate crime, including disability, violence against women and honour-based violence.

The lawyer revealed former EastEnders actor Ace Bhatti will play him in a film called Three Girls about how he brought members of the grooming gang in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, to justice.

“It was a tough call because it’s a tough case. I worked with them on the script, Ace spent a bit of time with me to understand how I worked on the case and my motivations,” Afzal said.

“I continue to speak on child abuse and work with groups protecting young people from abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice.

“Police investigated 70,000 abuse cases last year nationally. Most abuse, two thirds, takes place in families; the next largest group is online, then in institutions including places of worship, sports clubs, schools.

“The smallest in number but perhaps most high-profile are the street groomers as in Rochdale, Rotherham. The issue needs to continually get our attention.”

As one of the 13 chief crown prosecutors in England and Wales, Afzal was responsible for more than 100,000 prosecutions a year and managed 800 lawyers and paralegals.

He said the most difficult case he took on was the jailing of couple Ilyas and Tallat Ashar in Manchester in 2013 for trafficking a disabled woman from Pakistan and treating her as a slave.

Afzal explained: “They held captive a young Asian woman for a decade from the age of 10, forcing her to work for nothing and also being sexually abused by the father of the family.

“The victim had severe learning difficulties, was deaf and had major communication issues.

“We did everything we could to enable her to give evidence at the trial, including teaching her to communicate, and the convictions were hard fought.

He added: “I then pursued the family for their assets, and for the first time in a UK slavery case we got a court to order them to pay £100,000 to her to help her rebuild her life.”


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