Coffee House

Syria is the first real war of cyber-jihad

25 April 2014

2:23 PM

25 April 2014

2:23 PM

Some 400 Brits have been to Syria to fight, an estimated 20 have been killed – yet the draw is growing stronger. Last year, the number of arrests relating to Brits joining the jihadi-dominated Syrian was one a fortnight. So far this year, it’s been one every two days. The police’s appeal yesterday for Muslim women to inform on their men who are considering signing up was a sign of desperation – but they’re not sure what else to do. This is the era of cyber-jihad where social media is a massive recruiting sergeant for jihadis, and I look at this in my Telegraph column today.

The idea of indoctrinating young people so they go to fight in a foreign war is not new. It happened during the Spanish civil war – as depicted in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She moulded her girls in her image, and sent one to fight for Franco in Spain – she died (clip from the film above). In the book, one of the girls is asked what happened: was it religion? Calvanism? Politics? No, came the reply, it was ‘a Miss Jean Brodie in her prime.’

A charismatic, strong leader can bend even the more intelligent minds – if they can find an audience. Once, this happened in certain mosques. Now, today’s Islamist equivalents of Miss Jean Brodie are everywhere. A brilliant study by Shiraz Maher, one of our bloggers, and his colleagues at King’s College London documents the extent to which social media is helping to recruit some 11,000 foreign fighters in Syria and an estimated 3,000 of them are Western. These guys are given to keeping their Facebook and Twitter followers posted. The King College’s analysis shows there are two main Islamists that they follow.


But another major factor is peer-to-peer indoctrination. YouTube is currently hosting a few videos from British jihadis, inviting people to come and join them. Look at the below: a Brit showing people around his home in Syria and inviting more to join them.

Just five years ago, we worried about terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Somalia. Now, social media is being seen by our security services as one big terrorist training ground – and the peer-to-peer effect diminishes the need for chief brainwashers.

The war on terror isn’t mentioned much, but it’s still ongoing – there have been 385 terrorism-related convictions in Britain since 9/11. The Syria foreign fighters gives it a new twist: the security services believe they have already seen the start of UK terror plots hatched by veterans of the Syria conflict. And so the war on terror has mutated, yet again.

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Show comments
  • cartimandua

    A 16 year old took his passport and went. I feel for the parents. On the other hand didn’t the same parent think they had “gone to Libya”? That’s a nice holiday destination as well.

  • paulus

    Well thats got to be a winner, inviting people around his home in Syria, no doubt he was a North London estate agent at some point. Skirting over the fact that the City is bombed out, there is no health, educational, or social services to be obtained.

  • Raw England

    “Some 400 Brits have been to Syria to fight…”

    They’re not Brits. They’re Muslims.

  • cartimandua

    Any man who “wants to go” must feel rather undervalued here.
    Muslim youth are rather underemployed and of course the more “religious” they are the more unemployable they are.

  • zanzamander

    Just like what they managed to do in Ukraine, our government and US want to do in Syria — topple the government, precisely what these men are going there to do.

    So, they’re doing our government a favour, basically they’re our army. We also have a proud history of supporting Islamists worldwide and instigating civil wars to live up to. So if anything our government should encourage these men to fulfill their religious duty, not deny them the opportunity of martyrdom.

    So please lets stop being hypocrites and lets furnish these men with all the necessary travel arrangements (no doubt via Turkey, that other bastion of liberal and tolerant Islamism and a hopeful EU state), guns, bomb vests and various other accoutrements for waging jihad. We may have some spare left over from the time we helped Jihadis in Afghanistan to topple their government. If not, I’m sure Pakistan can help, or maybe not, as they may be busy with their freedom fighters next door in India where I hear a small matter of election is taking place. I’d give our allies the Saudis a call in that case.

    • Tom Tom

      The Pakistan Navy is on joint exercises with Iran in the Straits of Hormuz…….meanwhile Al Qaeda is besieging Baghdad

    • roger

      They may go but they mustn’t be allowed to return (alive).

  • Bonkim

    British young men had gone to foreign wars as mercenaries or for a cause they believed in for centuries. All through the 20th century they had participated in various civil wars. Now the cause may be Islamic Jihad. The challenge for Britain is how to contain any adverse after effects in Britain. Otherwise if a few misguided young men and women wish to go and be killed in Syria or Central Africa or Somaliland – who cares?

    • cartimandua

      They might come back? But also of course loss creates damage in the whole extended family.

      • Bonkim

        I suppose people have to face the consequences of their irresponsible actions. This is a free country and you pay the price.

      • JubileeL

        Revoke their passports and declare that, by participating in the foreign war, they are no longer citizens of your country. End of issue – as long as you bother to enforce the law.

    • Porphyrogenitos

      Except that these people are not British. An identity is a cultural construct, and Muslims living in Britain are largely people who have chosen to reject our culture and not to be assimilated into it. Calling them British is insulting and deeply offensive as Islam is deeply opposed to so many of cultural values.

      • Bonkim

        The point was about people going off to foreign wars – not a new feature in British society. Many went to ight the fascists in the Spanish civil war, Rhodesia, and other African and Asian locations – regards identity – that is a personal thing and in many layers – you will be surprised many British (not necessarily Muslim) have various affiliations and loyalties not much different from your assumptions which may or may not be correct.

  • Tom Tom

    Brit =

    1. The young of herring and similar fish.
    2. Minute marine organisms, such as crustaceans of the genus Calanus, that are a major source of food for right whales.

    Now Fraser, what is that word used to describe those coming from that area “Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghania Province), Kashmir, Sindh, and Baluchistan” it has four letters also and starts with ‘P’ and ends with ‘i’ ?

    You don’t use that word, nor do you talk about people as “N” like Huck Finn did, so why do you insult “Britons” which is frankly the only thing Scotsmen like yourself have binding you to England………and you don’t talk of “Y*ds” either or “K”kes” so I find you to be focused on insulting Britons.

    Then you go on about a few hotheads who rush off to syria to fight in a war the British Government supports, and where the CIA is shipping weapons from Libya through Turkey to Syria….and where SAS men are training these hotheads in Jordan.

    So what is the problem ? Maybe Jack Jones did come back from the Spanish Civil War a fervent Communist, maybe he was one when he went ?

  • Colonel Mustard

    There may be trouble ahead . . .

  • swatnan

    Young men are going to fight for the adventure and the camararderie and a sense of purpose and activity, and they are willing to sacrifice their lives for jihad. Intelligence is no bar; even graduates and professional can be turned into suicide bombers. Thats why we have to wage a concerted War on Terror; at the moment its Islamofacism; the last time it was Nazism. Thats why we should quarantine those returning from Syria, and ask mothers to be vigilant for any signs of deviation in their sons towards extremism.

    • FrenchNewsonlin

      “quarantine”? If it’s war” then surely you mean intern for the duration (of the WoT)?