Why are so many educated Brits joining ISIS?

Former Islamic radical Sohail Ahmed paints a deeply troubling picture of extremism on campus at Queen Mary University of London.

On arrival at Queen Mary in 2010 to study medicine he found little evidence of his extremism being mirrored at the Whitechapel campus.

“I was the most radical guy there in probably the entire medical school,” he said.

But when he transferred to study physics at the university’s main campus in Mile End in 2012 he experienced a sea-change.

“That’s where the proper radicalism was,” he says, “I wasn’t alone anymore. There were lots of people like myself who agreed with my mode of thinking.”

This thinking included discussion about jihad, fighting the ‘kuffar’, and establishing a caliphate.

Mr Ahmed, who has since left Islam and come out as being gay, has grave concerns about the influence of Queen Mary’s Islamic Society, of which he was a member.

“If I were in charge I would most definitely break up the Islamic Society,” he said.

“Right now, everyone that runs the Islamic Society, they’re all Salafis, radicals, that’s not in question. I’d either completely get rid of the society or put people that are less radical in charge.”

But he says the problem has grown from a wider failure to engage with and tackle the threat from radical Islamism.

“When I was in school no one was radical,” he said. “People used to look down on me, I was ostracised. But over the years that I’ve been at university everyone was radicalised like me.

“That didn’t happen in a vacuum. That happened slowly with the innovation of Saudi Wahhabi literature backed by the influx of Saudi preachers. All of that stuff hasn’t happened by itself.”

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About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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