Home Grown Terror is our Greatest Threat

Daily Mail UK
By DEBORAH DAVIES 23:52pm 10th August 2006


Last week, I sat in a room full of senior police and counter-terrorism experts from countries all over the world, and listened to them discussing the likelihood of more terrorist attacks. The buzz word I heard all day long was 'home-grown'.

No longer the battle-hardened veterans of the Afghan war. No more the diaspora of Arab nationals fired up by the persecution in their native countries. It's now our own home-grown kids who are the biggest threat to their fellow countrymen. We're now witnessing Al Qaeda's third generation in action.

Three of the 7/7 London bombers were born in Britain; the fourth came here from Jamaica as a baby and converted to Islam as a teenager.

The warning signs have been there for years.

Three years ago I worked on a Dispatches documentary which clearly demonstrated how deeply affected young British Muslims were by what they saw as a concerted campaign against Muslims. We broadcast horrific propaganda videos which were in circulation throughout the UK. I bought a new batch on Oxford Street, in Central London, just recently.

These films depict horrific atrocities that the makers believe have taken place against innocent civilians in places like Bosnia, Chechnya, Palestine and Kashmir. They portray Mujahadeen warriors who have attacked "oppressive" occupying forces as heroes. Whipping up a burning sense of injustice, they channel young men into a distorted view of Islam in which suicide bombings are justified in Western countries because, they say, our governments do nothing to stop the violence against their fellow Muslims.

These emotions are churning all over the world - a home-grown generation venting its fury on the community in which it lives.

This accumulated anger exploded one bloody morning last July in London. The Government tried to downplay the effect of our foreign policy, especially the Iraq war but their spin was destroyed by the words of the suicide bombers themselves. In his farewell video Mohammed Siddique Khan says, in his soft Yorkshire accent: "I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters. Until you stop the bombing and torture of my people we will not stop this fight."

In a second film, cruelly released last month on the anniversary of the bombings, Shehzad Tanweer warned that the attacks would continue and become stronger until British troops were pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The kids drink in all this material and share their anguish in unregulated chatrooms

As well as watching videos, many Muslim youngsters, who live just down the road from all of us, sit in their bedrooms or in internet cafes, looking at pictures of mangled, burnt bodies of women and children - portrayed as casualties of "attacks" by Western forces.

In recent weeks, those inciting hatred have sent fresh images from Lebanon and even some recycled ones that have done the rounds before. I've seen one email claiming to show "pictures from Lebanon the media won't broadcast". The worst is of a baby killed in the womb. It has a gaping hole in its back after its mother was shot in the stomach.

Except it's not a picture from Lebanon - I first saw this photograph weeks ago among a grotesque gallery of pictures from Iraq. Maybe this tragic baby is even Chechen or Bosnian. In death, he's become international - an extraordinarily powerful recruiting tool to bind Muslims together in common outrage at what's happening to their brethren.

Alongside the internet images of human suffering, there are dozens of websites offering bomb-making expertise, weapons training and religious justification for attacking Western targets.

The kids drink in all this material and share their anguish in unregulated chatrooms. Al Qaeda doesn't need the training camps of Afghanistan, when the "virtual camps" of the web can reach a whole new generation - the home-grown generation.

So what about attitudes within that generation? This week's Dispatches programme, "What Muslims Want", featured a specially commissioned NOP poll of 1,000 British Muslims aged 18 and over. Some of the results were equally startling and depressing.

Overall, almost a quarter - 23 per cent - felt the London bombings were justified because of British support for the U.S. war on terror, but among younger Muslims the figure rose to 31 per cent. Almost a half of the under-25s polled said they weren't surprised the bombers were British. And over a third of all those questioned said they thought there would be another terrorist attack by British-born Muslims on the UK.

Among this home-grown generation of British Muslims the sense of injustice is growing, the feeling of kinship beyond national boundaries is growing, the frustration at the West's "slaughter" of their Muslim brothers is growing. And it takes only a tiny number of such angry young people to cause mayhem and carnage.

Deborah Davies is a Dispatches journalist who has reported on Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda for over a decade.