The battle of ideas – Britain is struggling to deal with a new breed of fundamentalist

BY THE time a video of a British man beheading an American journalist on behalf of Islamic State (IS) surfaced in August 2014, Britons had for three years been travelling overseas to join the terrorist group. They have gone mostly to Syria and Iraq; once there, they have not lingered on the sidelines. Instead they have become suicide-bombers, executioners and, perhaps most valuably to their handlers, propagandists. The British government estimates that around 700 Britons have gone to wage jihad as members of IS.

Britain is producing a new kind of terrorist. Those who left its shores to fight for the Taliban in Afghanistan after September 11th 2001 were overwhelmingly male, mostly 25-35 and motivated by fellow-feeling for Muslim civilians killed abroad, according to Hanif Qadir, who runs an anti-radicalisation youth programme in east London. Many did “humanitarian” work, away from the front lines.