'Radicalisation' warning over Syria

 

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The Independent Online

Young British Muslims are in danger of being radicalised by the conflict in Syria, an MP has warned.

The BBC reported that "dozens" of Britons have travelled from London and the Midlands to join the uprising against President Bashar al Assad - some linking up with militant Islamist groups.

Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, expressed concern that the situation had the potential to radicalise a new generation of jihadists.

"I am extremely concerned at the moment because I see similar things to what happened at the original stages of the Afghanistan war where we were supporting the mujahideen against the Russians," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"We wanted to get the Russians out and we armed people, we encouraged people to go out there and fight in the jihad."

Peter Neumann, professor of security studies at King's College, London, said that, having initially been caught out by the revolutions of the Arab Spring, it was clear that al Qaida was now trying to exploit the situation.

"Certainly al Qaida is trying to take advantage of the situation in Syria," he told the Today programme.

"When the Arab revolutions first happened early last year, al Qaida was quite silent, it was stunned. It was not the sort of thing that was meant to happen because al Qaida is about armed revolution and all these revolutions were peaceful.

"But now that we first had the situation in Libya, now the situation in Syria, al Qaida suddenly perceives an opportunity."

Noman Benotman, of the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation, said the numbers of foreign fighters in Syria were still relatively small.

However, he said that "activists" were exploiting the Islamic concept of umma or community to encourage young people to join jihadi groups.

"It is the issue of belonging. Some people don't believe that they belong to this society, this country," he told Today.

"It is very, very powerful, beyond the imagination, the concept of umma, especially when it comes to the extremists and the jihadists."

He added: "It is the al Qaida problem, it is the extremists problem because they try to infiltrate and hijack the democratic uprising in Syria."

PA

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