Paris Gourtsoyannis: Radicalisation tale makes policy stakes clear
When Javid’s father Abdul landed at Heathrow in 1961 with £1 in his pocket, he came as a British subject with equal rights in law. The country he arrived in was still notionally a willing participant in the bargain that saw Commonwealth workers invited to the UK to fill a post-war labour gap. Those circumstances must have had a bearing on his son Sajid’s sense of belonging in the UK. It clearly did for members of the Windrush generation whose sense of belonging has been so badly shaken in recent years.
For the second generation born of arrivals in more recent years, the same narrative can’t be assumed as easily. Riots fuelled by racial inequality have provided ample evidence of that.
Across the West, that disaffection among second generation immigrants with Muslim heritage has been ruthlessly exploited by extremists, with thousands seduced by the message from online recruiters working on behalf of the so-called Islamic State.
A new podcast offers a unique insight into how that was achieved. For ‘Caliphate’, the New York Times correspondent Rukmini Callimachi has trawled intimate material left behind by retreating IS fighters – diaries, letters, private messages – but the most revealing account comes from a Canadian former jihadi now back living in the country of his birth, interviewed in secret under a pseudonym. His account of his own transformation from a ordinary teenager, hanging out at parties and working at his dad’s restaurant, to being groomed into a trained killer, makes for wide-eyed listening, and contains stark lessons for policymakers.