There are now more than twice as many British Muslims fighting for Islamic State than there are serving in the British armed forces, according to a British Member of Parliament (MP). Khalid Mahmood, the MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham, estimates that at least 1,500 young British Muslims have been recruited by extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria in the last three years.
Mahmood told Newsweek that this figure had been building since the start of the Syrian conflict: “If you look across the whole of the country, and the various communities involved, 500 going over each year would be a conservative estimate.”
According to the Ministry of Defence, there are only around 600 British Muslims currently serving in the Armed Forces, making up approximately around 0.4% of total personnel. 4.3% of the British population are Muslim.
The UK Foreign Office said that they believe over 400 individuals have travelled to Syria since the uprising began, but said that they could not give exact numbers.
However Mahmood described such low estimates as “nonsense” and said that the British government was failing to deal with the problem of home-grown extremists. “We’ve not concentrated on the prevention work, we haven’t invested enough in de-radicalisation. It’s tragic, somebody’s got to wake up to it.”
The role of British jihadists fighting in the Middle East has been brought into sharp focus after Islamic State released a video showing the apparent beheading of US journalist James Foley by a masked jihadist who spoke with a British accent.
That’s right, a British accent.
Over at the Spectator, Ed West muses:
There are now thought to be more British-born members of Isis than there are Muslims in the British Army, leading lots of people to ask how they could hate us so much. After all, we did everything right: we imported low-skilled migrants from among the most clannish and socially conservative societies on earth to do badly-paid industrial jobs that were disappearing, ensuring their children grew up in unemployment; then we taught those children that our culture was decadent and worthless and our history tarnished with the blood of their ancestors; then we encouraged them to retreat into their religion through financial subsidies to the most openly sectarian and reactionary members of their community. What did we do wrong?
Multiculturalism has consequences.
West has a few things to say about Saudi Arabia, the revolting theocracy that has done so much to poison the world, but which is now (before, well . . .) opposed to ISIS.
There’s this, for example:
The Saudi hostility to Isis could even be described in Freudian terms as the narcissism of small differences. Isis is dangerous to them because for those raised in the Saudi version of Islam the Islamic State’s even more extreme interpretation is not a huge leap.
West also links to a sharp and disturbing analysis of the successes (oh yes) of the Saudi regime by the War Nerd. I don’t agree with all that the nerd has say, but the whole piece is well worth reading:
Afghan Islam has been Wahhabized over time. The same thing happened much more dramatically in Chechnya, where Saudi volunteers showed they were serious about war and religion, a nice change from the coopted quasi-Soviet imams the Chechens had known before. Saudis like Ibn al-Khattab, Abu al-Walid, and Muhannad (all noms de guerre) provided the only real jobs a young man could get in Chechnya, and in the process did a great job of miring the Chechens in an endless war that has killed something like 160,000 people while forcing Chechen women into Saudi-style isolation, eventually leaving Chechnya under the control of Ramzan Kadyrov, a second-generation death-squad commander who does most of the Kremlin’s killing for them. This is a typical Saudi aid result: A disaster for the recipients, the Chechens, and their enemies, the Russians, but a huge win for Saudi. Same thing is going on in the rest of Russia’s North Caucasus, especially in Dagestan, where the Boston Marathon bombers’ parents live.
And one aspect of that victory is the elimination of potentially troublesome young males who might have made trouble inside Saudi. Jihad is like the princess in those fairy tales: It draws all the daring young princes to undertake quests no underwriter would insure, and in the process gets them far away from home during their most aggressive years. Better yet from the Sauds’ POV, most of them die. The three biggest Saudi jihadis in Chechnya, Khattab, Walid, and Muhannad, all died violently…
All the aggression of these young Saudi alphas goes abroad—a method that worked very well for the Europeans during the 19th century. You export your risk, your testosterone, and let someone else deal with it. That’s what Syria has become for Saudi Arabia, a dumping ground for dangerous young men who contribute to the destruction of one of the last secular regimes in the Arab world.
When you look at it the way they do in Riyadh, turning Syria into something like Central Europe during the Thirty Years War is textbook foreign policy: stoking a war on some other country’s territory….
The Saudis are not our friends.