British jihadis: who are the first generation of violent extremists?

Source: The Guardian

Amid the bile, the hate and the prejudice, western Islamic militants fighting in Syria occasionally reveal a less brutal side. In interviews and on social media, they talk about what they miss from their homelands.

A US recruit, the commander of an armoured unit, asked friends to send himpackets of Swiss Miss hot chocolate powder. A Belgian jihadi, a baker, perhaps unsurprisingly confessed to missing good bread. And Omar Hussain, a Briton fighting with Islamic State, confessed in a Q&A session with supporters that he missed BirdsEye fish fingers and Jaffa Cakes. The 30-year-old, who said he hoped to die in a drone strike, also complained that Arabs in general do not know “where the red line is in giving another brother his space” or “how to queue”.

Hussain’s concerns and desires are of course quintessentially British – as Swiss Miss hot cocoa may be American and good galettes Belgian. They underline a key factor in the evolution of Islamic militancy today: though the ideology structuring the Islamic militant world view is supposed to transcend national concerns and characteristics, the “way of jihad” is pretty parochial in reality. Whether in Baghdad or Birmingham, Mogadishu or Manchester, Islamic militants shed much less of their previous cultural and social conditioning when they embrace “the cause” than they, or the ideologues of jihadism, would like to believe. Even the nom de guerre each one adopts indicates their national origins. Omar Hussain fights for Isis as Abu Sa’eed al-Britani, for example.

This is of crucial importance now because Isis will soon be forced out of its last major urban strongholds in the Middle East. Without Mosul or Raqqa, the group’s claim to have re-established a caliphate, which aims to unite the world’s Muslims within a single polity, will collapse. So, too, will its finances. Isis will then be reduced to what it once was: a very brutal and tenacious Iraqi militant organisation. The group’s offshoots around the world – including in Europe – will be cast loose and will henceforth evolve on their own.

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Categories: Extremism, The Muslim Times, UK, USA

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