British Islamists in ISIS

cameron isis

L’importance grandissante de l’Etat islamique au Moyen-Orient inquiète d’autant plus les pays occidentaux, comme la France, le Royaume-Uni et les Etats-Unis, que nombre de leurs ressortissants ont rejoint les rangs de l’organisation djihadiste. Pour le gouvernement britannique, c’est également un problème politique…  

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One of the first aspects we need to put the stress on is actually the way radical islamism has penetrated the British society and the consequences of that penetration.

It seems that the role of the internet has been crucial since  most conversions happen  because of islamist and ISIS propaganda on the internet. This process generally involves a majority of young people or even teenagers who have converted this way. Britain and the world face today some kind of “islamism globalization” for anybody can become an islamist, according to ISIS propaganda.

Some Britons who had a link with Arab Spring revolutions now have a link with islamists only. For example during the civil war in Syria (which isn’t over yet), 500 Britons have left for Syria to fight the Al-Assad regime but have eventually ended up fighting other rebel groups instead.

But in the end, these islamists who went to Syria to fight the rebels seem to have become disillusioned and want to come back home, which has created a new problem in the UK: how is their case to be handled? Most MPs agree they should be sent to jail with no question asked. But one could legitimately wonder whether this is a good solution for all cases. As Peter Neumann, the director of ICSR (the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence) said, “the people we have been talking to… want to quit but feel trapped because all the government is talking about is locking them up for 30 years”. This is proving to be one huge problem to tackle for the government.

A brief review of the current situation gives us the following figures: 20 Britons have been killed in Syria, at least six of them in fighting between rebel factions. About 260 have returned, with 40 of them awaiting trial.

How did Great Britain react to this “globalization” of islamism?

The obvious first reaction has been fear and especially fear of terrorism because all the jihadists who return home represent a potential threat in people’s minds. Not only does this threat rank really high in the list of people’s fears, it is also very much taken into account by the government and security services since the latter have recently stated a terrorist attack is “almost inevitable”. This led the government to try to contain this threat with some reforms. Theresa May, the Home Secretary is to outline measures in a Counter-terrorism and Security Bill which would force internet companies to keep data that could be involved with any kind of plotting. This measure also meant taking away the jihadists’ passport and prosecuting them for treason.

This has caused growing concern over individual liberties and forced the government to move back and create a special detention and reinsertion programme for returning jihadists which is to be called Channel and aims at being a positive way of establishing an anti-radicalisation strategy on UK soil. The only possible objection would be the cost and effectiveness of this programme which would gather a large number of jihadists with little chance of reinsertion and supposedly for a high cost.

Nathan DUFOUR & Louise LAVAUD

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