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Young Muslim Rage Takes Root in Britain
"There is more nervousness now between communities and about the future," said Colin Sumers, 32, an information technology consultant from Bournemouth. "Where is this all heading? How do you answer these problems? What do these terrorists want?"
Asghar Bukhari of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which advocates Muslim involvement in the democratic process and opposes violence, said, "It's not hard to comprehend the mind of a Muslim." He said young British Muslims look around the world and "everywhere they are getting bombed," so they increasingly respond by saying, "Don't just sit down and take it -- let's fight them."
Harming the United States clearly remains a top priority of al-Qaeda and other radical groups, and the plot uncovered this week allegedly involved planes heading to major U.S. cities. But officials said Britain is an increasingly enticing target for extremists eager to strike back at the West, particularly Bush and Blair.
"This is the second-best thing," Ranstorp said. "You can't get to the United States? Punish Britain. Punish the little brother."
Seeds of Radical Islam
Sitting in his office in Walthamstow, Hussain said he has watched with dismay as his neighborhood has grown more angry in recent years. "I never expected anything like this," he said, working at a wooden desk by the window, under a framed map of England.
Since he arrived in Walthamstow as a 14-year-old boy from Islamabad, Pakistan, Hussain has seen the neighborhood's industrial past fade away and the South Asian immigrant population swell, part of the great migration of people from around the world -- including many former British colonies -- that has made London one of the world's most diverse cities.
Little is known about the background or motives of suspects in the latest case. The 19 suspects who have been publicly identified all have Muslim names; 14 are from London, including several from Walthamstow; four are from High Wycombe, a quiet suburb west of London; and one is from the city of Birmingham. They range in age from 17 to 35, all but three of them in their twenties. Friends interviewed in Walthamstow said the suspects were either born in England or were from families who have lived for many years in London. Police have released no further information about them.
Hussain said many Pakistani immigrants moved out of tiny apartments cramped with relatives and now own multiple cars and houses and flourish financially. But over the years, he has also seen the seeds of radical Islam grow around him.
Despite the prosperity of some Muslims, statistics released by the government earlier this year showed that unemployment rates were higher among Muslims than for any other religion. Among Muslims aged 16 to 24, almost 28 percent were unemployed, compared with about 12 percent of Britons overall in that age group. Many here argue that isolation and disenchantment among young Muslims provides a fertile environment for extremist groups recruiting new members.
"Whoever teaches or preaches or brainwashes them, the police need to stop them," Hussain said.
Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats and a leading opponent of Blair's government, said the reasons young Muslims turn to violence are more complicated than simply economic and social disadvantages.
"I used to think it was about having a stake in society, about people having poor housing and poor education," he said. "But the more you look at it, explaining it away as a lack of a stake in the success of the country might not be the easy answer some people think it is."