“Islamist Terrorism”

Wednesday marks the fifth anniversary of 7/7, the summer’s day in 2005 when four young Muslim male bombers unleashed co-ordinated attacks on London’s public transport system, killing 52 civilians as well as themselves. These were the first suicide-bombings on British soil, although Britain’s first suicide-bomber can be traced back to Afghanistan in 1996.

In the run-up to the anniversary of 7/7, the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC), which was founded in 2007 (and describes itself as a non-partisan think-tank promoting human rights, tolerance and community cohesion), has today released the preview edition of a major report, which will run to over 500 pages, on Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections (ISBN 978-0-9560013-6-8, £40).

Written by Robin Simcox, Hannah Stuart and Houriya Ahmed, the book is divided into two parts, dealing with ‘Islamist terrorism’ in, respectively, the UK and worldwide, based on individual profiles of the terrorists. However, the preview edition comprises only the executive summary and other preliminary material. This is available for download at:


‘In order to be included in this report,’ it is explained, ‘individuals must have: been convicted for terrorism-related offences; committed suicide attacks in the UK; been convicted, fought or committed suicide attacks abroad and possessed significant links to the UK (having been educated there, lived there for an extended period of time or been radicalised there); or been involved in extradition cases from the UK. In addition, they must have been motivated primarily by a belief in Islamism.’

‘Islamism’ is defined as a ‘political ideology, whose key tenets include: belief that Islam is not a religion, but a holistic socio-political system; advocacy of Sharia (Islamic) law as divine state law; belief that a transnational Muslim community, known as the Ummah, should unite as a political bloc; advocacy of an “Islamic” state, or Caliphate, within which sovereignty belongs to God.’

In the absence of comprehensive official data, for which government was criticized by the Intelligence and Security Committee in 2009, CSC researchers spent two years compiling, from court records and press reports, a database of individuals involved in 127 ‘Islamism-related offences’ (IROs) in the UK between 1999 and 2009.

With only five exceptions, these IROs were carried out by men. The average age of perpetrators was 27, with the youngest 16 and the oldest 48; 68% were under 30 years. 42% were persons in employment or in full-time further or higher education, while 35% were unemployed.

69% of IROs were carried out by British citizens, supporting the theory that the UK faces its greatest threat from ‘home-grown’ terrorism. However, 46% of perpetrators had ancestry in south-central Asia. 48% were residents of London, the next two most common regions being the West Midlands (13%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (9%).

In 44% of IROs, the individual pleaded guilty. 60% of convictions were secured under anti-terrorism legislation. Sentences of ten years or longer were given in 20% of cases and a life or indefinite sentence in 19%. 21% of the convicted successfully appealed their sentences.

68% of those who committed IROs had no links with any proscribed organizations, but the other 32% did (mostly with al-Muhajiroun or al-Qaeda). Seven of the UK’s eight major bomb plot cells contained members with direct links to al-Qaeda. 31% of perpetrators (mostly British) had attended a terrorist training camp, typically in Pakistan.

Data on British-linked Islamism-inspired terrorism threats worldwide between 1993 and 2009 have yet to be released.

Other CSC publications touching on Islam and Islamism include: Hate on the State: How British Libraries Encourage Islamic Extremism; Virtual Caliphate: Islamic Extremists and their Websites; Islam on Campus: A Survey of UK Student Opinions (based on online fieldwork by YouGov); Hizb ut-Tahrir: Ideology and Strategy; and Radical Islam on UK Campuses.

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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