We must unite to rebuild the town’s image – MP's plea

DEWSBURY has to pick itself up off the mat after last Sunday’s suicide bomb outrage, MP Paula Sherriff has said.

The town was left reeling by claims that missing 17-year-old Talha Asmal killed himself and 10 others with a car bomb in Iraq.

Worldwide media reports also made reference to other terrorists with links to the town, including Mohammed Siddique Khan and Haroon Aswat.

Dewsbury was branded a “hotbed for Muslim extremism” and a “breeding ground for jihadis”, with a particular focus on Savile Town.

It was pointed out that the area has some of the most segregated streets in Britain.

The vast majority of residents, 98.7 per cent, are of South Asian descent and there are only 14 white British people living there, according to the 2011 national census.

Most mosques follow the ultra-conservative Deobandi tradition, including the Zakaria mosque near Talha’s home.

Some media noted resentment from residents at how Savile Town is being linked to terrorism.

Miss Sherriff, who received death threats this week, appealed for people to unite in an effort to rebuild the town’s shattered image.

She said: “There is so much good about Dewsbury, yet once again our town has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

“I want our community to demonstrate all that is positive about Dewsbury by remaining united.

“We must also work together to come up with strategies to ensure that no other boys or girls follow this path.”

She met Talha’s devastated family last Sunday night, just hours after news first broke.

Thought not confirmed, he is believed to have detonated a vehicle packed with explosives in the town of Baiji in Iraq’s northern Salahuddin province.

Coun Mumtaz Hussain (Lab, Dewsbury West) said: “We’ve had so many issues – with Shannon Matthews and the 7/7 guy.

“But the community is very, very strong and we have come out of things like that.

“It’s unfortunate it’s happened again in Dewsbury – it shouldn’t have – but we will pull through.”

It is believed Talha, studying for A-Levels in ICT and business at Mirfield Free Grammar School, was groomed online.

Pupils have been offered counselling while principal Lorraine Barker previously described Talha as “quiet and hard-working”.

Miss Sherriff said: “We must do all we can to ensure no more impressionable young people are brainwashed by those behind Isis.

“These evil people use the internet and social media to target impressionable young people.

“They paint a very different picture to the reality of what is really happening in Isis-controlled areas.”

She added: “We need to ensure that we have a robust plan to work with the community.

"We need to work with schools, mosques, churches, community groups and parents to try to ensure young people are aware of the reality of what is actually happening in Syria and Iraq.”

Former Foreign Office diplomat David Pinder, a Mirfield town councillor and a Falklands War veteran, said previous generations of youths also went off to fight in conflicts such as the Spanish Civil War.

He added: “Young people have always been idealistic and the internet offers perfect opportunities for them to be groomed.

“What’s interesting is that they’re not going to fight Crusaders, they’re going to kill fellow Muslims.

He added of the situation in Dewsbury: “It's a condemnation of how we’ve allowed separate communities within communities.

“We need to do more to integrate. Minority and majority communities need to come to together.”

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