Once upon time in the 1990s there lived a young Muslim man in London whom I once knew. Let’s call him Faisal.

Faisal lived in east London and he ran a shop, the family business, in Essex, further east on the outskirts of London.

Out of the blue, a young man began to frequent Faisal’s local mosque. After prayers he would come to Faisal and chat.

Faisal had never seen him in the community before and no-one else seemed to know him.

The young man was pleasant and well-mannered. After small talk he always wanted to speak to Faisal about the war in a certain foreign country and how he could help, financially or otherwise.

He was a fit man in his 20s, an Afro-Caribbean Muslim convert who said that he was from Southall, west London, and that he worked as an electrician.

Faisal found it strange why an electrician from west London was attending daily prayers at a mosque in east London.

One day Faisal met him after Friday prayers at the hall near his shop. Faisal was surprised to see him there.

Faisal’s shop was situated in an area where not many Muslims lived so there was no mosque. The local shopkeepers would hire out a hall every Friday for Friday prayers.

“Let me show you something,” he said. Faisal followed him to his van. He opened the van and it was neatly stacked full of electrician’s tools. He then said to Faisal,

“The thing that I am interested in is explosives. I want to learn how to make explosives so I can help Islam and the Jihad with this knowledge.”

An alarm bell began to ring in Faisal’s head. Why was this stranger discussing incriminating things such as explosives with him? Was it a trap?

Faisal replied to him, “Brother, don’t ever mention this word in this country again. Britain is not a battlefield. You are not going to help Islam by playing with explosives, you are only going to hurt Islam.”

The electrician nodded his head as if to say that he understood and then he was gone from there in a flash.

A couple of months later Faisal was waiting on the train platform in Essex waiting for a train to take him home from work. There were other commuters on the platform too. Out of nowhere, the electrician appeared.

He greeted Faisal. After exchanging pleasantries, Faisal asked the electrician how he happened to be on a platform waiting for a train in Essex going towards central London.

“Oh I’m working at Downing Street [the residence of the British Prime Minister],” the electrician replied. “I’m doing some work with the electrical fittings there.”

Another alarm bell began to ring in Faisal’s head. Something was not quite right.

“Trust your gut instinct,” Faisal’s father had always taught him. “Sometimes something just doesn’t feel right but you don’t know why it doesn’t feel right.”

Firstly, why was the electrician going to work by train, without any tools. Why wasn’t he going in his van?

Secondly, if he lived in west London, why was he going to work in central London via Essex, which was in the opposite direction?

Thirdly, why was he telling this information to Faisal when he hardly knew Faisal? Employees and contractors working in sensitive government departments have to undergo thorough vetting and sign non-disclosure confidentiality agreements.

The story was just not adding up.

Faisal wished the electrician good luck and then moved to another part of the platform.

Faisal never saw the electrician again.

During the 11 years that I spent in prison I cannot keep count of the number of Muslim prisoners that I met who are serving long sentences for terrorism related offences despite not having done a thing.

They allowed themselves to be “entrapped” or “enticed” into agreeing to do something by an undercover agent secretly working for the authorities.

I use the words “allowed themselves” because they alone, not the authorities, are responsible for their naivety.

With time I will share some more of these stories on my blog.

“If someone repeatedly tries to enter your life without you seeking them out, be careful of them.”

A former diplomat of western country told me that this is the golden principle that diplomats are taught in order to protect themselves from being recruited or infiltrated by foreign intelligence services.

In other words, if someone is part of your life and you cannot remember exactly how they became a part of your life, be careful of them.

If someone appears at different points of your daily life, be careful of them. For example, you happen to “bump in” to someone on the high street. Then again at the gym. Then again at an event.

Once is probably a coincidence. Twice maybe? Three times? Perhaps it is not a coincidence.

It is odd how people lock the doors and windows of their home at night to protect themselves and their families from intruders.

Yet these same people allow every Tom, Dick and Harry off the street to enter into their lives. Surely, the doors and windows of one’s life are more worthy of being locked than the doors and windows of one’s home?

The same principle applies to online “friends” and “chats.”

And the same principle applies to love and romance. Women are especially vulnerable to men who suddenly appear in their lives out of the blue. They are only after one thing. Once they have got that, they disappear.

Faisal was lucky. He was alert and trusted his inner instinct about the electrician.

But today, hundreds, if not more, of young Muslim men and women are languishing in prison because they allowed themselves to trust a stranger who entered their lives.

And millions of single women are struggling through life because they once allowed a sweet-talking stranger to enter their lives against their better instincts.

Do you have a story to share of a spy who tried to entrap someone in your community? How was he uncovered? Or a woman who fell for the charms of a sweet-talking man only to regret it later.  Share your experiences below.

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