27 March 2013
The annual United Kingdom counter-terrorism strategy report (CONTEST) released this month reveals that hundreds of Europeans are fighting in Syria and warns of the domestic threat posed by the UK nationals taking part in the conflict. Charles Farr, a former MI6 officer, claimed that an estimate of between 70-100 UK nationals fighting in Syria is not unrealistic and that many of these individuals are fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra, a group associated with al-Qaeda. Mr. Farr’s comments come amid a growing concern that fighters returning to the UK may employ their skills to commit acts of domestic terrorism.
The British Ministry of Defence plans to train moderate Muslim groups on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) so that their websites appear higher in search results on the Internet. Government-approved groups will be taught techniques to improve their online profile. The aim is to “flood the internet” with “positive” interpretations of Islam and to make extremist sites less easily accessible.
The project, which is still in its early stages, is part of the Home Office’s anti-radicalisation strategy CONTEST 2. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced in December: “We will host a core network of people who will put forward positive messages from the British Muslim community on the internet, directly challenging the extremists that set out to groom vulnerable individuals.” Academics however doubt the effect of SEO, as it is more likely for young Muslims to encounter extremist material in web forums and offline associates than through search engines, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) has found.