Letter to New Scientist 
I wrote a letter to New Scientist in response to an article published by ICSR's head, Prof Peter Neumann. They were kind enough to publish it, but inevitably edited it down and lost some vital meaning. Here is the full text:

Reference - Spotting the Threat, 5 July 2014, Issue 2976 Page 24

Dear Sir

Peter Neumann (Spotting the Threat, 5 July 2014) is right to qualify the threat posed by jihadis returning from Syria: their motives are quite distinct from those who attempt terrorist activity within the UK. However all such returnees do have one very significant impact on return: their kudos, their credibility among their peers, is massively increased due to their presumed self-sacrifice. The effect of this is two-fold - it encourages like-minded persons to pick the same path unless they can be discouraged as Peter suggested, but more significantly, it induces individuals jealous of their new status, to outdo them in impact. In short, stay-at-home militant rivals become more inclined to commit domestic terrorism due to the catalyst effect of the returnee.

The evidence for this is the strong parallel in what we have seen over the last decade, that almost all UK Muslims involved in domestic terrorist cases include one or two converts to Islam. Not only are some converts overtaken with their own zeal, but they have a distinct raised status among their born-Muslim peers as well. Muslim communities and mosques throughout the UK, totally fail to address the needs of those entering Islam because they are hidebound by the desire to preserve each one's own doctrinal and ethnic exclusivity. This fails to meet converts' needs, nor the needs of their own youth, so both become entangled in marginal and often attractively militant alternatives that persist below the narrow gaze of factional mosque and community leaders. Occasionally one such alternative spawns a terrorist plot, usually right under the noses of their elders. Furthermore, government policy, legislation and populist media's hyperbolic outrage all make it impossible to have reasoned dialogue with returnees or other militant dissenters without dire consequences for participants. So, sadly, Peter's hope that community leaders can rise to the challenge, is misplaced. Just as the UK's Muslim 'establishment' fails to address the needs of disaffected converts, so it will fail to bring returning jihadis back into the fold.

Instead, the vicious circle of exclusive mosque management, intolerance of rival factions, dissenters driven underground, and fear of open debate all conspire to push would-be jihadis and domestic terrorists alike, out of sight. All four spokes of this circle must be broken before the domestic or returnee threat can be countered successfully.


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