IF SOMEONE were to ask you what was the meaning of the word ‘al Qaida’, chances are you would associate it with terrorism.

But the word has a far more innocent meaning, that of an Arabic alphabet book widely used by young children. It has no link whatsoever with the militant group al-Qaeda.

The interpretation - in some cases misinterpretation - of language in this way forms a major part of the valuable work carried out by a team of people across the UK.

Abdul Ahad is among them. He acts as an Intervention Provider (IP), helping address concerns which may indicate that an individual is falling prey to radicalisation. His role forms part of Prevent, the Government’s strategy, to safeguard people and communities from the threat of terrorism.

Abdul has on many occasions visited Bradford and other cities and towns in West Yorkshire to speak to individuals who may have raised concerns in others.

If a person is considered in any way to be at risk of radicalisation, Abdul is available to speak to them by way of a Prevent referral.

“A teacher may pick up on a student using the word ‘Jihad’, religious language or rhetoric, or may detect a change of mood or behaviour,” he explains. “The teacher could then pass the information to a colleague, the police or, in some areas, the local council.”

If that officer believes that further investigation is needed an informal assessment is carried out and in all cases involving children aged under 18 parents are informed.

A series of questions is put to them. The responses are then considered by a multi-agency panel of people that could include local mental health services, the school, fire service and youth service. They decide whether further investigation by an IP is necessary.

“The police do a good job of filtering out the individuals that are of no concern,” adds Abdul, who acts independently of other agencies.

The individual takes part voluntarily. Most are willing. Meetings generally take place in an area away from the person’s home town. They can, with family consent, take place at a person’s home, or school after hours. The person being mentored is risk-assessed and if deemed to be violent a Prevent police officer would be present.

With a background as a mosque leader and motivational speaker, Adbul, who is based in the North East of England, was for a short time when younger politically radicalised himself. He is extremely astute as to whether there is cause for concern.

“You get to know what is worrying and what isn’t,” he says. “In one case a teacher referred me to a student who said he was going to a madrassa when he was 11, to study al Qaeda. The teacher may see this as an early sign of radicalisation.”

But the child is most likely referring to Noorani Qaidah which translates as ‘the illuminated foundation’ and is the first Arabic alphabet book for children, commonly used worldwide in mosques and madrassas.

Operating across the UK, Prevent is a key element of Channel, a multi-agency programme which provides support across the country to those who may be vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. The overall aim of the programme is early intervention and diverting people away from the risks they may face.

While Abdul works with those being drawn into Islamic extremism, Prevent addresses all forms of extremism including the threat posed by the far right and extreme right wing. Almost a third of all people supported through Channel in 2016/17 were the result of such concerns.

Abdul is called to help with cases across the country. “One may need a theological intervention, or an individual may need nurturing. It could be West Yorkshire, Wales, Birmingham, anywhere.”

Information leading to a referral can come from schools, colleges, someone in the community or family members.

“Family members are sometimes reluctant to refer as they think it will give the person a criminal record, but Channel is set up to offer that person support - there are no criminal sanctions,” says Abdul.

Often, he builds up strong relationships with those referred to him, who can be any age, but are generally aged over 12, and are mostly male.

“They enjoy the meetings, which can last several sessions,” says Abdul, who has managed to change the “mindset” of a number of individuals through enlightening them as to the true meaning behind passages in the holy books of the Quran and Hadith.

“You could take passages from any book, such as the Harry Potter novels, and interpret it incorrectly,” says Abdul. “I never tell anyone they are wrong, I take time and reason with them.”

If someone refuses an intervention but there remain grounds for suspicion, appropriate agencies will continue to monitor the situation.

It is, says Abdul, vital to differentiate between a keen interest in religion and extremism. “Some people may start looking into their religion a bit more, looking online, for example, or a woman may start wearing a headscarf, but that is just religiosity.”

Language that could spark concern includes use of the word ‘kafir’ meaning disbeliever, or Jihad, meaning a struggle against yourself, often mistranslated as ‘holy war’.

Abdul also gives presentations on anti-extremism at schools across the UK.