Explanations for why British Muslims go off to fight ‘holy wars’ are too simplistic

Those in power don’t want to know about the psychological profiles of these troubled young men

Share

So why do young Muslims become Jihadis? It’s a question I have been asked over and over again, and more urgently than ever this past week. The probing is understandable. When British-born Muslim men appear on selfie videos - dressed up as Afghans, waving weapons and beseeching their peers to join in an armed Jihad - it unnerves and alarms the entire, multiracial nation, including most Muslims.

This is not how it was meant to be. The universal immigrant story of arrival, settlement, integration and betterment has been ripped up by these rebels. State surveillance and other authoritarian measures seem to have no effect on the radicalised. The families, various communities and mosques all blame each other, or say they can’t stop those determined to follow this path.

On BBC 1 yesterday, viewers were asked to vote on whether they thought British Muslims were complacent about this peril. The response was sobering because no less than 9 per cent of those who responded answered “Yes”.

After the 7/7 bombings, anti-Muslim feelings ran high, understandably. In the years that have followed, there have been periods of relative tolerance and of heightened tensions or hostility towards all Muslims and the faith. The gruesome murder of Lee Rigby by Islamicists repelled and frightened the most liberal citizens of these isles. Self-exclusion from mainstream society by Saudi-influenced  Muslim believers has made matters worse, the rise of extreme right wing groups worse still.

My co-religionists need to understand just how much trouble we are in and stop making excuses, or use “Islamaphobia” as a fig leaf. I am not denying the dehumanisation, unfairness and hatred we are experiencing. Academics at Teesside university have analysed a helpline and concluded that there has been a 20 per cent increase in racist attacks on Muslims in the past nine months. Over 50 per cent of the victims were women who wore headscarves or gowns and veils.

Just a few days ago, Nahid Almanea,  a Saudi Arabian university student, was viciously stabbed to death in Essex.  One line of investigation is that she was picked on because of her clothes. I personally strongly oppose veils and argue against them. But only savages would assault or violate a female because of her clothes. The government must take these hate crimes seriously.

Muslims, for their part, have to fight the bigots and campaign for their rights. But at the same time, they must now start to take some responsibility for what is happening. Black Britons, British Hindus and Sikhs also face race discrimination and hatred. Why don’t they turn themselves into enemies of their state? And why do most Muslims not join Islamicist mercenaries?  

So back to the questions about Jihadis. I have assembled a pile of ITALS possible UNITALS factors and reasons: they are torn between various cultural expectations and values; some are alienated from their families; they feel terrible shame about dysfunctional Muslim nations and think they can go back to those times when Islam conquered large parts of the globe; they are sexually frustrated; they cannot accept the way the west makes and breaks rules, and its double standards; they feel the modern world has no place for them and so must destroy it; they want control, and so on and on. I am speculating, trying to work out the various strands that jumble so lethally in these young minds.

In truth, I have been thinking about these unstable young men since 1997, long before 9/11, the London bombs, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and all the misery that has flowed from those.

Seventeen years ago, I got support from the Home Office, Local Government Association and  some charities to run a seminar on young Muslim men. I said then that they faced discrimination as well as internal cultural tensions and a deep sense of displacement. One Muslim youth leader even spoke of a “British intifada movement”. Top people from government departments attended and then clean forgot about what they had heard.

After the London attacks, I tried to get the Home Office to fund a deep  psychological study of imprisoned radicals, but they weren’t interested. The Labour Government under Blair was keen instead on pointless interfaith dialogues and destabilising spy networks which, as far as I know, led to little intelligence and much aggro.

It seemed to me then and seems even more so now that those in power don’t want to know about the psychological profiles of those who are  easily turned by captains of terrorism. Out state’s macho drive to punish and only punish is irrational and, in the end, counterproductive.

We should listen to Ahmed Muthana, father of two men, Nasser and Aseel, who have gone off to join the hardline Isis army. He loves this country which he came to at the age of 13, an orphan fleeing interminable wars in Yemen. His children were born in the hospital near where they live and educated here. Ahmed doesn’t know who brainwashed them, or paid for their travel, or armed them. Most of all why they, his beloved boys  have “betrayed Great Britain”, their homeland. Nobody really knows why either. This insistence on not knowing will make an even more dangerous world in the future.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Blairites for and against a Miliband victory

John Rentoul
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in debt to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before