A British student has thrown in his lot with hundreds of UK citizens fighting with the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), bragging of joining the “golden era of jihad” in a new online video.
In the video, 21-year-old Londoner Hamzah Parvez called on fellow Muslim Britons to “come to the land of jihad and shout Allah,” while claiming he has been fighting with the IS for five months.
“This is the golden era of jihad,” says Parvez in a thick London accent, his face hidden behind a black scarf. “What are we doing sitting in the UK? Sitting in the land which kills Muslims every day. What are we doing in their lands? It is not the lands for us.”
This is the latest video to emerge since James Foley, a US freelance journalist captured by militants in Syria in 2012, was beheaded on film by another British jihadist.
In it, Parvez urges other British Muslims to join the foreign fighters, where there are “jobs for doctors, nurses, architects, builders, even for street cleaners in the Islamic State.” The footage is thought to be the first of a British citizen fighting in Iraq rather than Syria.
It is alleged that Parvez, who came from a stable West London background, convinced his family to pay for a study trip to Germany. He then slipped out of Europe and traveled to the Middle East to join the estimated 2,000 foreign fighters in the region.
His family is speaking out to warn against the dangers of radicalization among young British Muslims. A member of the Parvez family told ITV News of their devastation at his decision to abandon his home and join the IS, and that the ‘swaggering militant’ bore little resemblance to the brother and best friend they remembered.
“That's not my brother. My brother doesn't act like that,” one family member said. “My brother doesn't call people to do violence against others. I don't recognize him. That’s just the same body, it’s not the characteristic of my brother. It’s not the way he speaks. It’s not the way he acts. It’s not the way he addresses people. That’s not my brother.”
The family says Parvez called them this week and admitted he was fighting with ISIS, but laughed when confronted about his lies. One brother says he asked, “Can you admit that you lied to us? Can you say it to us that you are sorry? And he said I’m sorry and the way he said it, he laughed. I felt like he didn't mean it.
“He said, ‘I have no plans to come home.’ My sister asked the question ‘What if your mum or dad died?’ He said ‘I would pray for them.’
“That's when I lost it. I started shouting at him, I started swearing at him, ‘These are your parents! These are the people since day one have been there for you, and you say you wouldn’t attend their funeral and why? Because you want to serve this stupid leader, this self-proclaimed leader, over my parents,’” the brother said.
Around 30 UK citizens every month are now traveling to Syria and Iraq across the frontier, in a journey dubbed the ‘Jihad Express’. About 500 British citizens are believed to have traveled to Syria to join militant groups, though some have estimated that figure could be up to three times higher.
The issue of preventing extremism in the UK and how to stop British citizens traveling to the Middle East to join extremist militant groups has generated controversy. As UK Special Forces seek the British-born Islamic State jihadist suspected of murdering Foley, the government is redoubling efforts to stop Brits from joining militants and to prosecute those who return.
‘Prevent’, part of the government's broader counter-terrorism strategy, aims to "stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism,” by mentoring people that are at the risk of “being drawn into terrorist activity.”
Home Secretary Theresa May has proposed changes to the law to target extremists and radicalization in the UK. She said she was "looking again at the case for new banning orders for extremist groups." She has also publicly reiterated her office’s ability to strip Brits fighting abroad of their citizenship.