The concern of the UK government and media is misplaced as they should worry about those individuals fighting in Syria rather than potential threats of their coming back home, Massoud Shadjareh, Chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, told RT.
RT: How big a problem is young men leaving Britain to fight alongside extremists in Syria?
Massoud Shadjareh: I think there has been a lot of hype; I really don’t believe that the problem is as big as it has been presented by the media and by the government. Also there is a lot of confusion, if you say “Why are these people going to Syria? Why don’t they go to places like Palestine or Kashmir or anywhere else?” I think there is a lot to do with the sort of the way the media in Britain is dealing with this, and indeed the British policy.
RT: Why do you think this is happening?
MS: It is very troubling to anyone to go and join groups like ISIS; I think here there should be a lot of consent. But the concern is in some way misplaced. We are all worried about being told that these people will come back and create problems here, but the reality is that these people are creating problems in Syria, with the British government supporting the opposition. Where are these people getting their arms? Why are these people going over there? The only groups in the Muslim community promoting [going] Syria above everywhere else is an assortment of Saudi-backed institutions. The rest of the Muslim organizations and the mosques are not really involved in promoting this particular jihad above everywhere else, like in Palestine. I am really puzzled by the fact that they are going there. I think it has a lot to do with the way the British government has been one minute supporting the opposition, the next minute calling them terrorists. It is only two weeks ago that ISIS was identified and declared as a terrorist organization by the British government. This mayhem and killing and opening peoples’ hearts and eating them has been going for a very long time. There is a lot of answering by the British government over this.
RT: So are the authorities catching these jihadists before they get back to Britain, or are some slipping through?
MS: There might be some slipping through, but also [taking into consideration] the way that the British government, the British intelligence is so well-placed within the opposition of the Syrian regime and sitting government I would say that it would be almost impossible for those people to get through and not be identified. The intelligence services of the West are very much involved in the opposition organizations that are fighting the Syrian government.
RT: Do you think these young extremists are keen to strike against Britain?
MS: I really do not think there is evidence to say that these people are coming back to strike back at Britain. The individual voices that want to fly the flag of Islam at 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace, these loonies exist even within Britain; they do not need to go out there. Actually, there are really a handful of individuals and groups with this sort of ideas. The fact is that so few prove that the majority are really not going there to come back to do anything, there is no evidence for that. I think this is a huge hype. The ex-head of MI6 said exactly the same thing, that this is counter-productive and a media hype, and I believe the reality is we should be concerned with these individuals going there, causing a sort of being loaded into organization which is causing havoc in Syria rather than what they might do when they come back here.
RT: Is the Muslim community in Britain doing enough to control its more extreme members?
MS: I think the Muslim community as a whole has been very clear on this. Those within the Muslim community that might sanction that people go to Syria and fight are very few. And indeed, those are the ones who are very much pro-Saudi elements in British society, which is not the majority of Muslims in this country. The majority of Muslims in this country are concerned with many issues of Muslims around the world – Palestine, Kashmir, etc. – and their responses are either campaigning or helping with aid. This idea of getting people going over there and fighting is actually not the normal way that the British Muslim has been responding in the past regarding other areas. The only two places that people were encouraged to go were Libya and Syria which is coincidentally seems to be supportive of the British policy.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.