A Muslim member of Britain’s Parliament claims that there are over twice as many young British Muslims fighting in ISIS as serving in the UK’s armed forces. Newsweek reports:
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. […]
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.”
We commend Mahmood for speaking out against the growing threat of Western-born extremists. As we’ve written before, Muslim communities in the West must publicly denounce jihadism, both to help dissuade, if possible, the few Muslims who are drawn to it and to diffuse tensions between Muslim and non-Muslims. As unfair a burden as this is on millions of average Muslims who are as horrified by ISIS as their neighbors, it would a valuable preventative against fear and misinformation.
Western jihadists in ISIS have become far more visible recently—first, with a photo of an Australian jihadist’s son holding up the severed head of a Syrian soldier, and now with the news that that James Foley’s murderer may be a British citizen. British jihadists, who played a significant role in ISIS propaganda, have recently also began directly threatening their homeland.
Other countries have already begun to examine ways to deal with the issue: Indonesia, for instance, has partnered with moderate clerics to combat radicalism in the community and clamped down on travel to the Middle East. Britain and other Western democracies would of course have to find their own way. But as Mahmood makes clear, we must begin to bring this problem into the light of day.