THREE Coventry teenagers who are believed to have left the country to fight with ISIS militants in Syria were likely to have been influenced by social media not a local leader, according to a leading Muslim figure in the city.
Ali Kalantar and Kurdish Mohammed Hadi, both 18, along with Rashed Amani, 19, are believed to have joined over 500 Brits who have gone to fight alongside the violent, terrorist rebels.
The trio are said to have vanished back in March with many believing they were groomed and radicalised by the leader of a local mosque.
Ali, who was planning to study computer science at Coventry University, had been reportedly attending his local mosque for a month before leaving.
His father Rahim told BBC’s Newsnight programme on Tuesday he believed his son had been ‘sent them down this road’ by an imam.
But Mohammed Shabir, executive director of the Coventry Muslim Resource Centre, told The Observer it was more likely that online influences were to blame.
He told us: “I would be more worried about the influence of the internet because you’re not always aware of what is being accessed.
“If there was a local influence then it can be addressed and we could bring that particular individual to task.
“That is more manageable and controllable compared to what is available to these young teenagers on the internet on websites such as Facebook and Twitter.”
It is understood Rashed had been studying business at Coventry University before leaving to join ISIS with close friend Ali.
There are concerns that those Brits who have left to join up with ISIS could be urged to return and spread the violence back in the UK.
And Mr Shabir said it did emphasise the need to educate young people in the city.
He added: “It’s very easy to say there are extremists and people who are radicalised, but we need to look more deeper than that or else these people will end up in a war zone in the Middle East.
“This has happened throughout the age and there are extreme views in all faiths.
“We will do everything to make sure things like this are contained, and where there is a need for education, we will do our best to provide that.
“A lot of youngsters now have grown up with computer games but they need to be realistic.
“In a computer game you get five or six lives whereas the reality is you get just one – and all it takes is a single bullet to end someone’s life.”