Yesterdays Telegraph had a piece on east London's Abu Basir al-Tartusi, formerly of the al-Ansar Institute in Poplar, who is currently fighting the Assad regime in Syria. You can view his website here.
Duncan Gardham's Telegraph article closed with a quote from a Scotland Yard spokesman:
"Public safety is our priority and we will seek to prosecute individuals who travel overseas in support of terrorist activity in any country. We also recognise the risk that violent extremism poses for vulnerable young people in the UK and we actively engage with communities to tackle this issue".
It is never a good idea to make threats you cannot keep. Duncan Gardham states 'security sources' believe up to 50 Britons could be fighting in Syria. Does anyone believe the Crown Prosecution Service are going to prosecute 50 British Jihadis? Secondly consider the term 'terrorist activity' in that quote. It assumes that the Assad government is legitmate and that armed resistance to it is terrorism. Yet a succession of British allies appear to be directly supporting that armed resistance. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem has named, to the United Nations, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya. He also complained about other nations assisting this rebellion - including the United States and France. We could easily add Britain to this list - £5 million was given by Foreign Secretary William Hague to Syrian rebels in August. Given the 'non-lethal assistance' the British government is giving the rebels, can we really prosecute British Jihadists for going a stage further?
Secondly, it is amusing, although slightly disconcerting, when police officers adopt the language of social workers. The description of 'vulnerable young people' has always been one of the oddest, and most patronising parts of the Prevent counter-radicalisation strategy. Here, young British Muslims are treated literally like children, at risk from sinister older men who groom them for terrorism. Oddly enough in forty years of conflict in Northern Ireland, no one, on either the Republican or Loyalist side, ever seems to have been 'vulnerable'. We could say a lot of things about the people who were attending Abu Basir al-Tartusi's classes at Poplar's al-Ansar Institute. Vulnerable is not one of them.