Significant numbers of white Britons have been lured into Islamic terrorism, according to a Whitehall report.
Details of the document, which have emerged in the week before the first anniversary of the July 7 London Tube bombings, also reveal that white converts and other British Muslims are joining a “terrorist career path” after being targeted by radicalist recruiters at universities or by extremist preachers.
The report follows calls made by al-Qaeda in April last year for white converts to become suicide bombers because it was easier for them to travel and evade detection before carrying out their attacks.
The document, which was produced by officials from MI5 and the Home and Foreign Offices, also states that as many as 16,000 British Muslims—or one per cent of the Muslim population in Britain—“support” Islamist terrorist acts at home and abroad.
The document, entitled “Young Muslims and Extremism” and drawn up for the Prime Minister by officials at the Home and Foreign and Commonwealth Offices, also states that anecdotal evidence suggests that up to 13 per cent—or 208,000 of Britain’s 1.6 million Muslims—defended the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, while 26 per cent or 416,000 Muslims have admitted that they feel no loyalty towards Britain.
The paper disclosed that those Muslims drawn towards terrorism include “foreign nationals now naturalised and resident in the UK arriving mainly from North Africa and the Middle East, to second and third generation British citizens whose forebears mainly originate from Pakistan or Kashmir.
“In addition, whilst many have grown up in Muslim households, a significant number come from liberal, non-religious Muslim backgrounds or only converted to Islam in adulthood. These converts include white British nationals and those of West Indian extraction.”
The number of known white converts who have become involved in Islamist terrorism include Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, who has mixed parentage, a white mother and a Jamaican father.
In December last year it emerged that a white Belgian woman who married a Moroccan and converted to Islam took part in a suicide attack against US forces in Iraq. Given the code name Mireille to protect the identity of her wider family, the 38-year-old woman was born into a middle-class family in the southern Belgian town of Charleroi.
John Walker, an American national who converted to Islam, joined the Taliban in 2001 and was later captured by American forces and charged with terrorist crimes. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Whitehall officials confirmed there was a problem of radicalisation amongst Muslim converts but have refused to reveal exactly how many were active terrorist suspects.
The paper continues: “ A significant number of young radicalised British Muslims have been recruited through a single contact, often by chance.
“Such individuals are encouraged to maintain a low profile for operational purposes and do not develop the network of associates or political doctrines common to many other extremist Islamists.”
Under the heading “Key Conclusions”, the report states: “Parts of the Muslim community fear that the Government, the media and the wider community regard them with suspicion and hostility, and feel beleaguered as a result.
“Some Muslims currently feel anxious and angry about arrests and searches under anti-terrorist powers, which they perceive as being applied excessively and abusively.”
Patrick Mercer, the Tory shadow minister for homeland security, said: “Osama bin Laden has encouraged white people not only to convert to Islam but to become suicide bombers. We must be very wary of this threat and realise that not every terrorist is going to conform to a racial stereotype.”
Last week, The Sunday Telegraph revealed how spy chiefs fear that it is a case of “when, not if’’ Islamist terrorists launch a “dirty bomb’’ attack against London.
The warning came just three weeks after 250 police officers stormed the home of two Muslim brothers in Forest Gate, east London, in the mistaken belief that they were attempting to develop a chemical bomb.