British jihadist in Syria: ‘I’m fighting Islamic State and Assad’

Sitting in Syria, and speaking via the internet, “Abu Dujana” told me: “I’m not a big fan of the suicide attack or exploding oneself.” But after giving it careful consideration, the British Muslim convert said he was prepared to be martyred, to kill himself for his cause.

He is perhaps in his mid-20s, has been fighting in Syria with the Islamic Front for the past three years, and comes from “somewhere’ in England. He came, he says, with the intention of giving humanitarian help, but soon picked up a gun. His identity is hidden, the biographical details are scarce, because he realises that by killing in Syria, he risks arrest at home. Yet, still, he could be the British government’s ally on the battlefield against the so-called Islamic State group.

Prime Minister David Cameron believes there are 70,000 “moderate” rebels fighting in Syria – a figure that many believe is an overestimate – ready to face IS, also known as Isis, Isil or Daesh. Abu Dujana is one of those moderate rebels. He meets Britain’s “moderate” criteria on two points: first, that he’s prepared renounce terrorism, and second, that he will accept a post-conflict Syria that includes all faiths and religions.

David Cameron admits it is too much to ask for “ideal partners” in the fight in Syria, and has asked: “Do we wait for perfection?” Abu Dujana sees fighting in Syria as his religious duty – jihad – but says he’s no different from other British citizens who have gone to fight IS and that he should be treated the same.

More than 700 Britons have gone to Syria to fight, mostly with IS, but no-one knows how many have taken up arms with other groups.

Analysis over British Jihadists – moving beyond the theory of ‘bad Islam’

Theresa May’s speech to Conservative conference in Birmingham has sparked a few controversies as journalists call for deeper answers to a complex issue. The Home Secretary quoted a now familiar phrase from the Koran, “let there be no compulsion in religion”, to illustrate that the violent conversion of non-believers is not permitted in Islam. And she added an injunction of her own for good measure: “Let the message go out that we know Islam is a religion of peace and it has nothing to do with the ideology of our enemies.”
The Standard states that we have to ask ourselves why young Muslims in this country are attracted to the murderous totalitarian ideology of those who behead aid workers. Ultimately there has been a breakdown of civil society, which has failed to deal with the segregation and alienation of many of our Muslim communities. This is not the job of national government. Our schools and mosques have not been strong enough to counter the ideology that fuels extremism, our local councils have failed to engage young Muslims and too few individuals, Muslim and non-Muslim, are taking the counter-arguments to the extremists.
As a first step let’s stop talking about Islam and Muslims in such infantile terms. It is patronising for British politicians to suggest they know the difference between a good and bad Muslim. Yes, Islam is, for many of its adherents, a religion of peace but like all religions it can also be used to justify violence. This is not a perversion of the religion because all faiths are open to interpretation and jihad is central to Islam. It is not difficult to see why a young British Muslim might feel driven by his religion to take up arms against the Assad regime. But we need to ask ourselves why a young British woman would choose to leave this country to live in the Islamic State. Only when we answer that question can we begin to work on preventing others from doing the same.