Cardiff's young Muslims falling under the spell of Jihadis, warn clerics and academic experts ; Is it the internet or the influence of radical... [Western Mail (Wales)]
(Western Mail (Wales) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Cardiff's young Muslims falling under the spell of Jihadis, warn clerics and academic experts ; Is it the internet or the influence of radical preachers? After three young Cardiff men appeared in an online video calling on fellow Muslims to fight in Syria and Iraq, Darren Devine looks at claims the city has a problem with extremism
ONE dreamed of being Britain's first Asian Prime Minister, another a doctor and the third an English teacher.
Yet something happened to Reyaad Khan, 20, and brothers Nasser Muthana, 20, and Aseel Muthana, 17, all from Cardiff, that twisted them from the course they dreamed of as younger boys.
With all three now acting as recruiting agents for the radical group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which now controls much of northern Iraq and Syria, some are raising questions about whether there is an issue in Cardiff.
Young muslims raised in the city have in the past been linked to several other terror-related incidents and two Cardiff teenagers were arrested in Africa trying to link up with terror groups in Somalia.
Dr Suraj Lakhani, who recently completed his doctorate at Cardiff University - A Social Analysis of Radicalisation in the UK, said it had been an issue in Cardiff for some time.
He told BBC Radio Wales: "As far as I'm aware, there has been an issue in Cardiff for a while now.
"This is a concern that has been raised not only by the intelligence services and the Welsh Government, but also South Wales Police and local Muslim communities.
"People have been saying that something needs to be done in Cardiff, they need support. "There has been a threat for a while as there has been in other parts of the country as well.
"Yes, there has been a threat and it's still ongoing."
He said he believed the internet played a "big role" in radicalisation but there was also "face to face interaction", although not from the mosques.
A city imam, Sheikh Zane Abdo from the South Wales Islamic Centre in Cardiff, where Nasser Muthana and his brother have prayed in the past, agreed that Cardiff had a problem with extremism.
He said that vulnerable teenagers were groomed.
"It is quite obvious there is a problem here and there have been several high profile arrests.
"Cardiff is a very tolerant community but we have certain young men and women who have been groomed into feeling a certain way and they have been alienated and rejected for certain reasons and these people have been groomed.
"It would be foolish to say this is not a problem; it is a problem."
Khan, who dreamt of becoming Britain's first Asian leader, and Nasser, a brilliant student who had once planned to go to medical school, went to the same school in Cardiff - St David's Catholic Sixth Form College.
Aseel, was reportedly an A-level student at Fitzalan High School, who had ambitions to be an English teacher.
A mosque in the city where the brothers worshipped - the Al- Manar centre - distanced itself from the struggle in Syria and said it was not the source of radicalism, despite claims notorious Saudi cleric Mohammed al-Arifi, who has called for holy war, preached there in 2012.
Sheikh Zane Abdo told BBC Breakfast that Nasser and Aseel had been "normal teenagers" before they went through a "very strange period" when they started expressing "certain views".
He said: "They went through a very strange period when they said they were becoming quite serious in their faith and then began to start to expressing certain views that were quite political, particularly the older brother."
He added that Khan's mother had approached him, "crying her eyes out", after he had given a lecture on extremism.
Last week the general secretary of the Muslim Council of Wales Saleem Kidwai said he believed there were up to five Welsh Muslims in Syria.
In addition to the three Cardiff men in the ISIS video, two other men, also from the city, were arrested in March and April in the UK after returning from Syria.
The pair, aged 19 and 23, were held on suspicion of receiving terrorist training and attending a place used for terrorist training, but were later released without charge.
Mr Kidwai said he believed the men had gone for 'charitable reasons' to help refugees, but admitted they might have become involved in fighting after witnessing atrocities.
The war has left more than 162,000 dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Terrorism expert and former Cardiff University historian Michael Burleigh said even those who go intending only to fight the Assad regime will fall under the influence of Islamic extremism.
He argues that irrespective of the abuses of the Syrian regime - Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say it has routinely tortured, imprisoned, and killed opponents, the Muslim Council of Wales should be unequivocally critical of those who go to the country.
Mr Burleigh, author of Blood and Rage: A Cultural history of Terrorism, said: "EUR e Muslim Council of Britain is also part of the problem - you want large numbers of Muslims in Wales or England or wherever to stand up and say, 'We don't think it's a good idea for you to hang around with people who crucify people.
"EUR at's what you actually need and that's what we're not getting.
"I can't infiuence the mindset of people joining ISIS, but they can and I wonder why they don't.
"If the Muslim Council starts making excuses for them it's not very helpful."
Earlier this month, a Muslim student who posted a series of links to extremist videos on his Facebook and Twitter pages under the pseudonym 'Father of Terrorism' appeared in court.
CardiS man Khuram Iqbal, 21, placed articles and other material which glori'ed terrorism up for sale on six diSerent Facebook pages.
In February, the Home O"ce said it was considering including some CardiS primary schools in an extension of its Prevent counter- terrorism initiative, which already includes secondary schools.
In February 2012 CardiS brothers Gurukanth Desai, and Abdul Miah, were jailed over a terror plot.
EUR e al-Qaeda-inspired pair were among four men who admitted planning to detonate a bomb at the London Stock Exchange.
Desai got 12 years, while Miah was sent down for 16 years and 10 months. A third member of the nine-strong group Omar Sharif Latif, also from CardiS, was jailed for 10 years and four months.
In February it was reported ISIS 'ghters had been locked in deadly clashes with Syrian rebels.
Reports then suggested more than 2,300 people had been killed in the confrontations between ISIS's predominantly foreign 'ghters and rebels from both Western-backed and Islamist groups.
And reports have suggested ISIS has been behind cruci'xions in parts of eastern and northern Syria under its control for everything from stealing to murder.
EUR e violent chaos spreading through the region is fuelled by religious sectarianism between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
EUR e majority of Iraq's Muslims who dominate its government are Shia, while the ISIS militants are Sunni.
In Syria a Sunni majority is ruled by a Shia minority - the Alawites, President Assad's group are Shias.
In many of the confiicts strewn across the Middle East Sunnis are on one side of the battle lines with Shias on the other.
experts say Jihadist militants on the Sunni side and Hezbollah 'ghters on the Shia are embroiled in a bloody civil war across the borders of Iraq and Syria.
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