More British Muslims are fighting for the Islamic State than the Army

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This British newspaper will give you all kinds of twisted, mental gymnastics for it — but there is only one. They’re Muslims, that’s why. For centuries, immigrants have come to the West seeking a better life, etc. — only Muslims come with a ready-made model of society and governance that they consider superior to that of the country they’re coming to.

This young Muslim who penned this piece says it is a “failure of integration in society that is causing young Muslims to wage jihad.” But what is causing that failure to integrate? Islam.

The young man who wrote this piece is not the problem. There is a problem in Islam — and we can’t talk about the problem.

“Why more British Muslims are fighting for ISIL than the Army,” By Zeeshan Hashmi, Telegraph, February 28, 2015

A former soldier whose brother was the first British Muslim killed in the war in Afghanistan says a failure of integration in society is causing young men to follow in the footsteps of Jihadi John

When my brother was killed I was staying at our family home in Birmingham. It was 2.15am when we got the knock at the door. I was asleep in the room Jabron and I had always shared. Neither of us had beds; we preferred to sleep on cushions on the floor. There was a huge map of the world on the wall, alongside Jabron’s poster of his favourite rapper, Tupac, bearing the words: “Only God can Judge Me”. And there were hundreds upon hundreds of books. We both loved to read.

I had recently left the Army after two tours of Afghanistan and one of Kosovo and was studying Arabic as part of an Oriental Studies degree at Cambridge University. I knew straight away when my sister came to wake me that Jabron was dead.

My mother, however, didn’t even know he was in Afghanistan. She was so proud of both of us being in the British Army and had watched Jabron’s passing out parade in Winchester. But when we were on tour, we made a pact to tell her we were just away in Germany. After the men left, I had to tell her her son was dead.

Jabron was just 24 when he was killed in a rocket attack on July 1, 2006. He was the first British Muslim soldier killed fighting in Afghanistan and it instantly became world news. His funeral, at our local mosque in Birmingham, was attended by about 400 mourners.

We received support from far and wide, but we also started receiving threats from the local community. Some said my brother was a traitor. People would drive by, slowly pointing out where we lived and saying: “That is where the British soldier came from.” Friends warned us to be careful.

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The timeline is important. Jabron was killed almost exactly a year after the 7/7 bombings in London, which had increased fear of home-grown fanatics in Britain. Only seven months after he died, the police managed to foil an attempt by predominantly British Pakistanis to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier. Some of the men convicted lived a few metres down the road from my mother’s house. If anything, Jabron’s death inspired them. Everything became more polarised.

This week Mohammed Emwazi, a British Muslim adopted by this country as a young man, just like Jabron and I were, has been unmasked as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executioner “Jihadi John”. Someone who kills non-combatants, humanitarians and journalists in the name of religion is not only delusional but a curse to humanity. The history of Islam is tainted with false prophets and caliphs so there is nothing new with the self-proclamation of ISIL and its corrupt leaders. However, in Islam, the right to judge another human belongs strictly to God. Anyone taking it upon themselves to pass that judgement can only be blasphemous. A troublesome past can never be used as justification for such heinous crimes.

The roots of this were already apparent when my family moved to the Small Heath area of Birmingham from Peshawar in Pakistan in November 1994. Our father, Ishtiaq, had spent 13 years working in England in the 1950s and 60s but then moved home for an arranged marriage. He remained a British citizen though, which meant Jabron and I and our three sisters were British citizens too. Where we grew up, that was like winning the lottery. Our father moved us to Britain to give us every chance in life, but at great sacrifice: my mother wasn’t allowed to join us until seven years later.

When we moved here, however, we were amazed at the relationship between the British Pakistani community and other segments of British society: it seemed to be very much us and them. It was bizarre. Every Saturday I went to Birmingham Central Library, where followers of the radical preacher Anjem Choudary and the (now banned) organisation Al-Muhajiroun were pointing at people, calling them “kaffirs” and saying they would go to hell.

We moved into what was essentially a Pakistani ghetto. Frankly, we spoke better English than a lot of our neighbours. Having attended private schools in Pakistan and knowing how hard our parents had to work to send us there, it came as a huge shock to see in Birmingham that although these children had access to a first-rate education, they seemed somehow ungrateful. Jabron was bullied for being the new boy and for coming from a different culture. He was the type who would take one or two hits but then stand up for himself.

We had both always dreamed of being in the military and I swore my allegiance to the Queen on December 19, 2000 when I joined the Royal Artillery. The political landscape was very different then – or maybe I was more naive. When I was undergoing my basic training, a couple of guys who didn’t like the colour of my skin would try to trip me up on assault courses. But I told them to back off and they did. Either you take it lying down and become a victim, or you stand up for yourself.

I was recommended on to a course for potential officers, but just nine months into my training, 9/11 happened and I was put on 24-hour standby for Afghanistan. I was the only full-time British serving soldier who spoke Pashto and was immediately seconded to military intelligence and deployed to Afghanistan soon after.

It was never black and white there. My work was counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics; religion didn’t come into it. I justified what I was doing as a Muslim because we were saving lives.

But there are definitely extra challenges for someone joining the Armed Forces from a minority faith or ethnicity, and not just for British Muslims. Doing so is a highly personal decision, but one you have to explain to everybody. Jabron and I discussed it at length. Both of us thought we were building bridges.

The new Ministry of Defence campaign to attract more ethnic minorities is welcome. But raising a Sikh regiment, as suggested this week, is a terrible idea. Likewise a Muslim regiment. It may look good on a PowerPoint slide but that is it. In reality, I fear it would only highlight differences, not promote unity. Joining the Armed Forces is not about religion. You join a unit as a soldier and when you deploy you trust your comrades with your life. You fight for the man next to you, not for anything else.

Yet confront this thorny topic we must. In my experience, the system has not only failed people but people have failed the system too.

Catchment areas dominated by Pakistani families create schools filled with Pakistani pupils. You can’t expect a child attending one to suddenly, at the age of 16, realise Britain is actually a pretty diverse place. By that point they have already become brainwashed. Integration needs to happen right from the start; it needs to happen in communities.

But minorities groups must also bear some responsibility. Within them are some who, despite being born here, inhabit a fantasy world where an Islamic state is the ideal and sharia law the answer. They don’t appreciate what they have in Britain. What zealots like Jihadi John preach is a huge hypocrisy.

For my family, however, embracing British society and its values has always been easy. The UK is a just and tolerant place, we have equal rights and we protect our elderly. These are Islamic principles too, which my brother and I were deeply proud of.

This is what my brother fought for; not his colour, his creed or religion. Men of words are quite different from men of action. Jabron was always one of the latter. He wanted to make a change in his own way.

—Courtesy of Pamela Gellar

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