Just weeks before Scotland’s independence referendum, the country joins the rest of the UK with the growing crisis of disenfranchised, and subsequently radicalized, Muslim youth. After disappearing from her Glasgow home in November 2013, 20 year-old schoolgirl Aqsa Mahmood, now known as “Umm Layth,” resurfaced in Syria apparently married to an ISIS fighter and living with other British Nationals. During a press conference on Tuesday, Mahmood’s father Muzaffar said, “[Aqsa] may believe that the jihadists of Isis are her new family, but they are not, they are simply using her.” He called her change the result of “bedroom radicalization,” referring to the influence of internet forums, blogs, and even Facebook as the source of his daughter’s metamorphosis from schoolgirl at the private Craigholme School to ISIS bride. Friends describe her as an average, fun-loving girl who enjoyed clothes, make-up and gossip. This description of a fully Western adolescent is now a common refrain among Muslim families and communities left stunned by the radicalization and subsequent departure of their youth to join ISIS.
Until this last week, Mahmood frequently communicated with other Muslims and potential converts to ISIS’s cause through social media, especially through Twitter. Her tweets include references to life as an ISIS bride, but also references to recent terror attacks: “Follow the example of your Brothers from Woolwich, Texas and Boston etc. Have no fear as Allah swt is always with the Believers.” (@ummLayth), June 27th, 2014. Her chilling 140 character call to arms was deleted with her account around September 3rd when her name and story gained national attention.
Mahmood represents a growing number of young British nationals leaving their homes to join ISIS, with an estimated 500 British-born Muslims now active in Iraq and Syria. Concerns over UK Muslims joining ISIS escalated after the murderer of James Foley in August appeared to be British.
12th May 2014
The head of the prison and probation service has said there is a significant threat of Islamic radicalisation behind bars. Michael Spurr, the chief executive of the National Offender Management Service of England and Wales (Noms), told BBC1’s Panorama: “There is a significant risk, given the fact that we manage some very dangerous people. Our job is to minimise that risk becoming a reality – that somebody in prison becomes radicalised and commits a terrorist offence.”
Over the past 10 years, the number of Muslims in prisons in England and Wales has doubled, reaching 11,729 in 2013. There are about 100 al-Qaida-inspired Islamist terrorists behind bars.
Jordan Horner, who has taken the Islamic name Jamaal Uddin, claims in the programme that he has converted other prisoners during his time in prison. Speaking for the first time since his release from prison for trying to bring sharia law to the streets of London, he said: “The prison officers witnessed people become Muslim and in front of them I was giving them what we call shahada, an invitation and acceptance of Islam. They said I was trying to divide Muslims from non-Muslims, trying to get them to follow an extreme version of Islam.” He said he was transferred between three different jails in less than a year in an effort to disrupt his activities.
In December 2012, Horner was filmed at a protest alongside Michael Adebowale who, five months later, murdered soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich.
12th May 2014
We were disappointed to read about the apparent decision to refuse a request for a public memorial to Fusilier Lee Rigby, and hope this can be reconsidered. Lee Rigby’s murder shocked our country. In its wake, we saw Britons from every faith and none come together, both locally and nationally, to mourn his death, to commemorate his service, and to reject the hatred of his killers.
Extreme groups such as the BNP and EDL did try to exploit the tragedy, but found very little public support, being widely seen as part of the problem too. The Rigby family, in their grief, were consistently strong voices in challenging the tiny, unrepresentative minority who sought to use his name to stir up hatred.
If the family’s desire is to have a memorial, neither they, nor the British public as a whole, should be denied the chance to commemorate Lee Rigby’s service and sacrifice in a proper way.
President, Islamic Society of Britain
Deputy Chairman, Conservative Muslim Forum
New Horizons in British Islam
Hope Not Hate
Imam Ajmal Masoor
Editor, Jewish Chronicle
Director, Three Faiths Forum
The Big Iftar