19-year-old Ednane Mahmood, who travelled to try and join ISIS fighters in Syria, was sentenced to four years in prison at Manchester Crown Court on Friday.
The university student from Blackburn was found guilty following a 12-day trial of disseminating a terrorist publication and engaging in conduct in preparation of acts of terrorism.
Mahmood wrote a letter to his family explaining why he left home in pursuit of joining so-called Islamic State. Sections of the letter read:
“Today I have left comfort and luxury in order to strive, struggle and fight in the cause of the almighty. My mentality is different to yours. I have understood this life is nothing and we should not be too attached to this life, the true life is in the hereafter.
“You may never understand, or you may understand why I left. I have gone to see the pleasure of Allah and no one else. I do not care what anyone will think of me, but people will realise reality when death overtakes them.”
These words relay the strong ideological message of Islamic extremism that has reached young British Muslims. While the morbid resonance these individuals experience is baffling to the majority of the Great British public, the fact remains that a small number of young British Muslims completely adhere to and believe in the Islamic extremist ideology.
This belief is so strong that large numbers have travelled to Iraq and Syria to offer their services to jihadist organisations.
British police have said that more than 700 people from the UK have travelled to support or fight for jihadist organisations in Syria and Iraq. The majority of those who have travelled to conflict zones are thought to have joined so-called Islamic State.
The BBC has established a database compiled from BBC research and open sources, which details the stories of over 100 people who have died, been convicted of offences relating to the conflict or are still in the region.
The findings on the database show that 46 British Jihadists are believed to have died fighting in Syria or Iraq. This includes the notorious Mohammed Emwazi – dubbed “Jihadi John” – who is believed to have been recently killed by a US airstrike. 26 of those killed were aged 17-25, which is over half of the total number.
In addition to this 66 British jihadists are believed to still be in Iraq and Syria and 14 British jihadists, aged 17-25, have been convicted for terrorist related offences.
While the vast majority of young British Muslims differentiate strongly between the real teachings and beliefs of Islam and Islamic extremism, a small number are still becoming saturated in Islamic extremist ideology to the point of action. Ismael Lea South, a rapper and activist who converted to Islam, says the crossover with gang culture is clear.
Speaking on BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat he said: “In gangs there is a sense of brotherhood, if you mess with one you mess with all of us.
“Many people who are isolated, going through issues, when they are in a gang they feel a sense of belonging. In Islam we are taught we are all one brotherhood, but certain extremist groups use that to exploit their poison.”
Having a sense of community, belonging and purpose are all contributing factors to the radicalisation of young British Muslims. It is clear that outreach programmes and local community schemes should be a primary tool in preventing radicalisation, similar to the way they have been used to prevent young people joining gangs or turning to crime.
Credit all images: Cavendish Press.
By James McRory