chapter  7
24 Pages

Islamism through the lens of local and global political identities

Having analysed the wider theological, historical and political concerns in relation to radicalism in the Islamic world and the demographic, economic and (multi-)cultural presence of Islam and Muslims in Britain, it is necessary to elaborate on how radicalism came to the UK. In Britain, many who have been found to be involved in Islamic political radical activities in recent periods have been South Asian Muslim, but not all – a number have been African, and also Caribbeans who subsequently converted, sometimes in prisons.1 Somali groups in Britain, now forming communities in identifiable neighbourhoods and localities, invariably concentrated in existing Muslim minority economic and social enclaves, also experience disadvantage and exclusion. They encounter a particular form of marginalisation that affects them in three distinct ways. First, English society continues to express strong dislike towards ‘foreigners’: here, xenophobia remains an important issue in white English groups as well in more established ethnic minority communities. Second, direct racism and discrimination are experienced because of visible skin colour. And, third, this group experiences hostility towards Islam in the same way as other Muslims in Britain. As the trial of the Somalis associated with the 21/7 failed attacks in London demonstrated, this body of people can also become embroiled in the act of preparing and engaging in terrorism.2 The experience of Islamic political radicalism in Britain is compounded by ethnicity, migration, social class and gender. For many, alienation and disenfranchisement are significant starting

points, but a few of the so-called ‘radical-jihadi’ leaders have emerged from communities that are not necessarily poor – with some who are graduates

and middle class, for example. However, it is important to acknowledge that most have all been born or have grown up in circumstances that have caused them to ultimately seek violent solutions to problems. These individuals and groups have experienced prejudice, racism and discrimination throughout their early lives, and sustained themselves in education in spite of its limitations in relation to Muslims or ethnic minorities in general. By hoping to find the ‘truth’, they are potentially misdirected by a radicalising Islamism that seeks to convince apparently once-decadent young Muslims, those yearning for a more literal interpretation of the religion, or young people without a firm identity foundation of their own, that the solution is in violent action. By giving the young a sense of belonging, an identity or an association with a struggle that transcends their everyday boundaries and barriers, theologically, metaphysically and spiritually, radical Islamism has moved with a perverse message of individual and group salvation.3