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Passion Islam I September 2008 LOCAL & NATIONAL NEWS I 11
MI5 report challenges
views on terrorism in Britain
MI5 has concluded that there is no large number of those involved in terrorism their educational achievement ranges
easy way to identify those who become do not practise their faith regularly. Many from total lack of qualifications to degree-
involved in terrorism in Britain, according lack religious literacy and could actually level education. However, they are almost
to a classified internal research document be regarded as religious novices. Very few all employed in low-grade jobs.
on radicalisation seen by the Guardian. have been brought up in strongly religious The researchers conclude that the
The sophisticated analysis, based on households, and there is a higher than results of their work “challenge many of
hundreds of case studies by the security average proportion of converts. Some are the stereotypes that are held about who
service, says there is no single pathway to involved in drug-taking, drinking alcohol becomes a terrorist and why”.
violent extremism. and visiting prostitutes. MI5 says there is Crucially, the research has revealed
It concludes that it is not possible to evidence that a well-established religious that those who become terrorists “are a
draw up a typical profile of the “British identity actually protects against violent diverse collection of individuals, fitting
terrorist” as most are “demographically radicalisation. no single demographic profile, nor do
unremarkable” and simply reflect the • The “mad and bad” theory to explain they all follow a typical pathway to violent
communities in which they live. why people turn to terrorism does not extremism”.
The “restricted” MI5 report takes apart stand up, with no more evidence of The security service believes the
many of the common stereotypes about mental illness or pathological personality terrorist groups operating in Britain today
those involved in British terrorism. traits found among British terrorists than are different in many important respects
They are mostly British nationals, is found in the general population. both from Islamist extremist activity in
not illegal immigrants and, far from • British-based terrorists are as other parts of the world and from historical
being Islamist fundamentalists, most are ethnically diverse as the UK Muslim terrorist movements such as the IRA or
religious novices. Nor, the analysis says, population, with individuals from the Red Army Faction.
are they “mad and bad”. Pakistani, Middle Eastern and Caucasian The “UK restricted” MI5 “operational
Those over 30 are just as likely to backgrounds. MI5 says assumptions briefing note”, circulated within the security
have a wife and children as to be loners cannot be made about suspects based on services in June, warns that, unless they
with no ties, the research shows. skin colour, ethnic heritage or nationality. understand the varied backgrounds of
The security service also plays down • Most UK terrorists are male, but those drawn to terrorism in Britain, the
the importance of radical extremist clerics, women also play an important role. security services will fail to counter their
saying their influence in radicalising British Sometimes they are aware of their activities in the short term and fail to
terrorists has moved into the background husbands’, brothers’ or sons’ activities, prevent violent radicalisation continuing in
in recent years. but do not object or try to stop them. the long term.
The research, carried out by MI5’s • While the majority are in their early to It also concludes that the research
behavioural science unit, is based on in- mid-20s when they become radicalised, results have important lessons for the
depth case studies on “several hundred a small but not insignificant minority first government’s programme to tackle the
individuals known to be involved in, or become involved in violent extremism at spread of violent extremism, underlining
closely associated with, violent extremist over the age of 30. the need for “attractive alternatives” to
activity” ranging from fundraising to • Far from being lone individuals terrorist involvement but also warning that
planning suicide bombings in Britain. with no ties, the majority of those over traditional law enforcement tactics could
The main findings include: 30 have steady relationships, and most backfire if handled badly or used against
• The majority are British nationals and have children. MI5 says this challenges people who are not seen as legitimate
the remainder, with a few exceptions, are the idea that terrorists are young men targets. The MI5 authors stress that
here legally. Around half were born in the driven by sexual frustration and lured to the most pressing current threat is from
UK, with others migrating here later in life. “martyrdom” by the promise of beautiful Islamist extremist groups who justify the
Some of these fled traumatic experiences virgins waiting for them in paradise. It is use of violence “in defence of Islam”,
and oppressive regimes and claimed wrong to assume that someone with a but that there are also violent extremists
UK asylum, but more came to Britain to wife and children is less likely to commit involved in non-Islamist movements.
study or for family or economic reasons acts of terrorism. They say that they are concerned with
and became radicalised many years after • Those involved in British terrorism those who use violence or actively support
arriving. are not unintelligent or gullible, and nor the use of violence and not those who
• Far from being religious zealots, a are they more likely to be well-educated; simply hold politically extreme views.
Agency warning about
drinking Zam Zam water
As Muslims observe Ramadan, the Agency The possible risksTests carried out any water on sale
is reminding consumers to avoid drinking on water labelled as Zam Zam water on labelled as Zam Zam
Zam Zam water of uncertain origin, as it sale in the UK over the past few years water.
may contain high levels of arsenic. has indicated the presence of arsenic at If consumers find
Zam Zam water is sacred to Muslims. almost three times the legal limit, which any water on sale
Genuine Zam Zam water comes from a could contribute to increasing people’s that is labelled as
specific source in Saudi Arabia and, under risk of cancer. Zam Zam, they should
Saudi law, cannot legally be exported Although, in practice, the occasional contact the local
from that country for commercial sale. Any drinking of small amounts of water would authority enforcement
water on commercial sale that is labelled be a very low risk to health, based on office at their local
as Zam Zam in the UK is therefore of the levels found previously, the Agency council so they can take
uncertain origin. is again advising consumers not to drink appropriate action.
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