As if to additional punctuate the connection, the police introduced Sunday that that they had arrested an unidentified man in Birmingham as a part of the investigation of Mr. Masood.
Members of Birmingham’s Muslim communities acknowledged the linkage between their metropolis and Islamist extremism, which many attribute to poverty and drug abuse that make youths weak to jihadist recruiters who function like gangs. However, Muslims in Birmingham additionally deeply resent what they see as a grossly unfair popularity, countering that the majority residents are proud and regulation-abiding.
Many additionally see their neighborhoods as reassuring refuges from the backlash of anti-Islam bigotry roiling Europe and elsewhere.
The bigotry has typically targeted on Birmingham. A number of years in the past, a Fox Information terrorism commentator needed to apologize for describing Birmingham as a “Muslim-solely metropolis” the place non-Muslims “don’t go.”
Nonetheless, Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest metropolis behind London, has produced a disproportionate variety of convicted Islamist militants, together with some linked to the Sept. eleven assaults, and to final yr’s bombings in Brussels.
So many Islamist militants have been born in Birmingham — or have handed by way of — that the Birmingham Mail newspaper as soon as lamented that the town had the doubtful distinction of “Terror Central.”
“The extremist faculties of thought appear to have turn into extra embedded in Birmingham than in different elements of the nation,” stated Nazir Afzal, the previous chief crown prosecutor for northwest England, who’s from Birmingham.
Mr. Masood, who transformed to Islam in his late 30s, was born and raised in an prosperous village in southeast England. He spent a lot of his maturity in and round London, interrupted by jail time and two yearlong relocations to Saudi Arabia. However Birmingham was his final residence.
Birmingham was the birthplace of Britain’s first suicide bomber, the residence of a financier of the Sept. eleven assaults, and the place the place Al Qaeda hatched a plot to explode a business airliner in 2006. When a masked member of Al Shabab, the Somali extremist group, celebrated the homicide of the soldier Lee Rigby in a 2013 video, he listed Birmingham as the primary supply of its fighters.
The person who’s believed to have recruited the militant referred to as Jihadi John, the Islamic State executioner with the King’s English accent, was from Birmingham, as was his closest affiliate. Different outstanding militants who’ve come by way of the town’s underground networks embrace Abdelhamid Abaaoud, organizer of the 2015 Paris attacks, and Mohamed Abrini, a Belgian nationwide who helped plot the 2016 Brussels assaults.
In 2014, Birmingham was on the middle of a so-referred to as Trojan Horse plot by which, it was alleged, a gaggle of Islamist extremists had sought to infiltrate and take over two dozen state faculties. A current report by the Henry Jackson Society, a politically conservative analysis group, discovered that one in 10 convicted Islamist militants in Britain come from 5 Birmingham neighborhoods.
David Videcette, a former senior counterterrorism official, stated that Birmingham had a greater established extremist community than London — a metropolis of seven million — which helped to elucidate why, in his view, many investigations lead “again to Birmingham.”
A part of Birmingham’s attract to potential militants is its numerous sprawl of Muslim neighborhoods the place they will mix in simply, native activists stated.
“It’s a hiding place or a passing place to do what they need to do, and maintain a low profile,” stated Mohammed Ashfaq, director of Kikit, a group group that helps younger people who find themselves drawn to medicine and extremist ideology.
If a militant have been to cover, for instance, in Birmingham’s Muslim neighborhood of Sparkbrook, Mr. Ashfaq stated, “nobody seems to be at them twice.”
Birmingham can also be a lot poorer than London, offering a extra exploitable inhabitants for extremists, Mr. Ashfaq stated, recalling how his group dissuaded two kids from becoming a member of the Islamic State. Each have been drug addicts.
“Lots of youngsters are on medicine, or from single father or mother households, or who expertise home violence,” Mr. Ashfaq stated.
Within the neighborhoods of Sparkbrook, Washwood Heath and Alum Rock, the place lots of Birmingham’s Muslims stay, mosques dot the cityscape, some providing sharia councils for household issues. After faculty madrassas serve a rising demand for folks who need their youngsters to review the Quran. Even state-funded faculties typically accommodate spiritual calls for, permitting for lunchtime prayer, shortened days throughout Ramadan and elective head scarfs.
To many outsiders, the segregation is hanging. However Muslim residents, notably ladies, converse of their neighborhoods as save havens from an more and more hostile society.
“There’s security in numbers,” stated Sara Begum, 20, purchasing on Coventry Street, a bustling space the place eateries promote halal meat from Kashmir and Syrian delicacies. Ms. Begum, who wears a face-overlaying niqab, not often leaves her neighborhood for worry of being insulted or worse. She stated a pal’s head scarf had been ripped away by far-proper youths close to Birmingham’s downtown practice station.
“I really feel protected round right here as a result of a whole lot of different ladies gown like I do,” she stated. “Different individuals take a look at this neighborhood, they see lots of brown individuals and plenty of Muslims they usually fear about safety.”
Inside hours of final week’s assault, Muslim ladies in Birmingham acquired textual content messages warning concerning the far-proper English Protection League mobilizing, and urged them to remain inside after darkish.
Small Heath Park, the place women in head scarves play soccer and males in Muslim garb huddle to share a picnic, seems like a unique world than the town middle, a ten-minute drive away.
There are just lately arrived Somalis, third-era Bangladeshis and European converts, like Alicia Fierens, who moved right here together with her Chinese language husband, additionally a convert, six years in the past as a result of Belgium had turn out to be too anti-Muslim, she stated. “We have been having our first baby and we didn’t need him to develop up with that,” she stated. Birmingham is friendlier, “so long as you keep within the space.”
One drawback, stated Nicola Benyahia, who runs Families for Life, an unbiased group that helps mother and father detect radicalization of their youngsters, is the distrust between Muslim communities and the authorities.
“It doesn’t assist when the group feels on the defensive,” she stated, sitting in a sparsely furnished first-flooring workplace.
Residents have been angered and appalled when the federal government in 2008 secretly positioned tons of of shut-circuit tv cameras in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods. “It didn’t really feel prefer it was for our safety,” Ms. Benyahia stated.
However she readily acknowledged that recruiters prey on Muslim youths. Her son Rasheed, then 19, abruptly left for Syria in Might 2015 and was killed six months later, which prompted her to start out her charity to assist different mother and father keep away from the identical destiny.
Ms. Benyahia, a Welsh convert married to an Algerian, stated she believed somebody in Birmingham had radicalized her son. When her daughter as soon as requested him, Ms. Benyahia stated, he recoiled and responded: “Don’t destroy it for anybody else.”
Birmingham’s Inexperienced Lane Mosque, a pink brick constructing with a clock tower that was previously a public library, as soon as had a status as an “incubator” of militants, Khalid Mahmood, an area lawmaker, stated. Now the mosque seeks to counter them.
Final week the mosque shortly condemned the assault in Westminster, saying it might “solely strengthen our ongoing work in exposing deviant extremist ideologies, to make sure that we safeguard weak people prone to radicalization.”
Mr. Videcette, the previous counterterrorism official, stated extremist networks are run “just like the mafia” and embrace bookshops that promote extremist literature. Additionally they manage excursions and talks involving hate preachers, he stated, and use some mosques to boost funds.
“It’s a enterprise for them,” he stated. “Once we say terrorism, individuals are likely to assume it’s about faith. It’s not. That is all the time about cash.”
One man in Britain who blurred the boundary between faith and violent extremism is Anjem Choudary, a founding father of Al Muhajiroun, which is assessed as a terror group.
Mr. Choudary, who’s now in jail after he was convicted last year of encouraging help for the Islamic State, had preached in Birmingham a number of occasions in recent times. His entourage would arrive in massive vans on Coventry Street, an space related to conservative Islam, preaching and distributing leaflets.
“They turned faith right into a gang-sort factor, with thugs round him saying ‘Come be a part of our gang’,” stated Mr. Ashfaq, the director of Kikit. Their message, he stated, was “you could be cool, you’ll be able to turn into a gangster jihadi.”
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