90% of UK children on-the-run in Syria come from West Yorkshire

Members of the Dawood family from Bradford, who have been taken to live in Syria by their mothers.
Members of the Dawood family from Bradford, who have been taken to live in Syria by their mothers.

Leading figures in Bradford's Muslim community have been challenged today over their knowledge of the families fleeing to Syria.

Of the 17 British children living in war-torn Syria, 14 come from Bradford, a Commons committee heard today, and these so-called 'cubs of Caliphate' are living in dangerous territory ruled by Isis.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee

Labour MP Keith Vaz, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee

The figures discussed during a meeting of MPs on counter extremism come as two representatives from Bradford's Islamic community were grilled over their knowledge of the fleeing families, including three sisters Zohra, Khadija and Sugra Dawood who left the country with their nine children.

Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz MP said he was puzzled the pair knew so little about radicalisation in their community, even though they told the committee they deal with a lot of British Muslims.

The Labour MP said: "The last group went in August 2015 and before that in June 2015, but you don't know any of these families and they've had no contact with you? Even though 90% of the British children in Syria are actually from Bradford."

Zulfiqar Karim, Senior Vice President, Bradford Council for Mosques, said: "We found that both of them families, and this is what we are hearing, is these were breakdowns in families.

"There was no Islamic ideology, they did not belong to any one radical imam that's convinced them. Our understanding is there was a breakdown of marriage and these families were looking for an alternative, and they found an alternative overseas."

Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, asked directly if they knew the Dawood sister or if their extended family worshipped at local mosques.

Fazal Dad, Senior Imam of the Abu Bakr Mosque in Bradford and a deputy head teacher, said: "Not at all. We've heard about them on the news, read about them in the papers, previously we had no affiliation, we didn't know where they came from.

"As a imam who has extensive contacts, I didn't know about them, but neither did our security services who have much better resources and a much greater grip on these things."

Mr Dad added that their lack of contact with the families was evidence that mosques and madrassas are not centres that enable radicalised views to flourish, and extremism exists on the fringes of society, and online.

Therefore the Government's message that they want to regulate madrassas and mosques isn't necessarily the most appropriate place to focus resources.

When Mr Karim was asked if he thought women and those under 35 were at risk of radicalisation, he said: "We don't. What we see is an issue of isolation. "When we were growing up and look at places like Leicester and that flagship of multi-multiculturalism - we grew up in that era.

"Britain has always been multi-cultural and inclusive, where we are now with the younger generation is they do not feel inclusive, they feel isolated."

The pair also criticised the Government's counter-extremism strategy Prevent for not consulting with them or taking on board the majority of mainstream Muslim views, and the Channel programme to help vulnerable people makes them feel like they're being 'spied on'.

Conservative MP James Berry, said the Government would rather not be spending vast amounts of money Prevent, and would rather their police officers were doing other things, but they are having to run the programme because tackling extremism is not being dealt with by anybody else.

Mr Karim, who manages 18 mosques in Bradford, said their imams are told to preach a message that distances themselves from radicalisation and anything related to terror group Isis.