Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab spent 2005-08 living in a 3-bedroom apartment in London’s West End as an engineering and business finance student at University College London. Experts wonder whether those years, characterized by anger over the Iraq War and the 2005 London subway/bus bombing, could have played a role in radicalizing Abdulmutallab.
While London is an exciting city for Muslims from other countries with its higher education options, jobs, and distance from family home, it is also described by Mamoun Fandy, International Institute for Strategic Studies as “a mecca of jihad.” The years Abdulmutallab spent there saw a spike in the spread of radical Islamic ideas.
Today, Muslims still have access to many different interpretations of Islam in London, including “intense Koranic views.”
“I’ve felt for a long time that if radical Sharia law comes to the rest of the world it will start on the streets of London,” says a Pakistani expert on militant Islam. “Too many clerics today, even moderate ones, don’t talk on Muslim life in a secular state. Young Muslims are smart, raised as British citizens. If they come from abroad, many have great hope and are often disillusioned. They live between worlds, in the cracks. When they go home to their families they are often more radical than their friends.”
“There remains in London a problem of assimilation for outsiders. The society is closed. The city is open, but the people are not,” Fandy said.
At this point in the investigation, his background and path to violent jihad is still unclear. One source claims he was recruited to militant Islam while living in London. Another claims he was already espousing radical views while still in boarding school in West Africa, before he ever went to college. But the US is now questioning whether Britain is posing a major threat to national security.