A large number of the United Kingdom’s Muslim clerics signed and released an open letter on Friday imploring young Muslim men and women not to allow themselves to be recruited by Islamists to travel to Syria or Iraq to offer their services to groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or other terrorist groups.
In their open letter, more than 100 clerics from various mosques in Great Britain — serving either Shiite or Sunni Muslims — have cautioned British Muslims not to become part of sectarian divisions or violence occurring in Syria and Iraq and to turn away offers to travel to those embattled countries to fight on behalf of the jihadists.
Concerns in Britain continue over the large number of young British citizens going to Syria to help Islamist groups in the rebellion against government forces and who are expected to return home more radicalized and more of a threat to carry out terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom.
In June, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron lamented the fact that the foreign fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria pose “the biggest threat” to Britain’s national security.
TheBritish intelligence agency MI5 estimates that about 500 British extremists are already fighting in the Middle East, but many of them are expected to return home, possibly with assignments to commit terrorist acts.
Officials at MI5 claim that “[t]he majority of terrorist attack plots in the UK have been planned by UK residents. A recent example of a plot to cause mass-casualties with multiple improvised explosive devices was disrupted under Operation EXAMINE, which was planned by Birmingham based extremists. Eleven of these individuals were convicted in March 2013 for a variety of terrorist offences. There are several thousand individuals in the UK who support violent extremism or are engaged in Islamist extremist activity.”
According to an Examiner news story last May, “British Islamists are the largest group of foreign fighters in Syria helping al-Qaida and other terrorist groups to battle the Syrian military and helping to overthrow the brutal and oppressive regime of President Bashir al-Assad. They are also considered the most violent and murderous terrorists fighting against the Syrian military, according to one of the rebel commanders for a Western-sponsored rebel army in a letter to a London newspaper.”