UK: British Muslims right to fight in Syria backed by ex-adviser on radicalisation

A very different view from a former regional manager of the Prevent strategy (former anti-radicalization and extremism strategy):

A former senior government adviser on tackling radicalisation and extremism has defended the right of British Muslims to travel to Syria and fight.

Farooq Siddiqui, a former regional manager for the governments controversial Prevent strategy, said it was acceptable for Britons to “walk the walk” and travel to Syria to fight the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

As part of a Facebook conversation Siddiqui, 45, defended the right of an individual to be called a martyr if he took up arms against Assad, and questioned whether those who fought against the Syrian president should face arrest upon return to the UK.

Former senior intelligence officials consider jihadists battling Assads government forces in Syria to be a potential threat. They estimate that up to 300 fighters have already returned to the UK from Syria. Scotland Yard has warned that Britain will live with the terror legacy of the Syrian conflict for years to come.

The foreign secretary, William Hague, believes as many as 400 British citizens may be fighting in Syria, recently confirming that security measures are in place such as the option of withdrawing leave to remain, cancelling passports and arresting UK jihadists who have been fighting in Syria or for terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which has seized control of swaths of northern Iraq.

Siddiqui, who ran Prevent in the south-west until 2012, pointed out that Britons were free to join the Israeli Defence Force and return to the UK without censure, while those taking up arms against what they viewed as a tyrannical dictator, Assad, faced arrest. He says he knew “nothing about” Isis at the time of the online conversation in February. He does not support the group.

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ as the cliché goes, but one has to look at the nature, activities and goals of the organization and affiliation, not to mention potential longer-term implications (e.g., supporting the Mujahideen in Afghanistan which led to Taliban control and a base for Bin Laden).

But the worries regarding returning jihadists are legitimate. Their extreme views are incompatible with living in a diverse, open and democratic society.

British Muslims right to fight in Syria backed by ex-adviser on radicalisation | UK news | The Observer.