Profile of a British Islamist As a Terrorist

By Matthew Harwood

The typical jihadist who has either attacked or plotted to attack the United Kingdom is a young man with a better than average education. He is British but traces his ancestry back to South Asia. He generally has not attended a terrorist training camp and has no links to organizations banned by the British government.

This is the common portrait of a British jihadist who tries to terrorize his fellow citizens, according to a new report from the nonpartisan British think tank, The Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC). Inside its mammoth 500-page report, Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections (.pdf), CSC Research Fellows Robin Simcox, Hannah Stuart, and Houriya Ahmed analyzed the 124 individuals who committed suicide attacks or were convicted of Islamist-related terrorism offenses in the United Kingdom between 1999 and 2009.

The report coincides with the fifth anniversary of the 7-7 London transit bombings, a day when Britons remember the 52 people murdered by the first suicide bombers to strike the United Kingdom: Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain, and Germaine Lidsay.

According to Islamist Terrorism, two-thirds of the individuals who have committed "Islamism related offences," or IROs, are men under the age of 30. Nearly seven out of ten individuals who committed IROs hold British nationality. Almost half of these individuals come from South Asia, with the number one ethnic origin of perpetrators being Pakistani—80 percent of whom hold British citizenship. The next most representative nationality held by IRO offenders is Somali, according to the report.

While most IRO perpetrators have no links to international terrorism, those who operated in cells did. These men had more contacts with known terror organizations, and had a greater tendency to travel to terrorist training camps, mainly in Pakistan. Twelve individuals had ties to al Qaeda, including the 7-7 cell, the report states.


View Recent News (by day)


Beyond Print

SM Online

See all the latest links and resources that supplement the current issue of Security Management magazine.