Page last updated at 11:52 GMT, Friday, 17 July 2009 12:52 UK

Loner turns would-be bomber via the web

Andrew Ibrahim
Andrew Ibrahim allegedly listened to radical preachers on the internet

Student Andrew Ibrahim, who has been jailed for a minimum of 10 years for plotting to blow himself up using a home-made suicide vest, is the son of an NHS consultant and converted to Islam in 2006.

The 20-year-old from Bristol changed his name by deed poll to Isa, meaning Jesus in Arabic. He soon became obsessed with the politics of the Muslim world.

With the help of extreme material obtained via jihadist websites he became radicalised to the point where he became a danger to himself and others.

It has emerged it was Muslims who alerted police in Bristol and counter-terrorism officers from Scotland Yard to Ibrahim's activities.

The BBC understands that his arrest was the first major one following a community tip-off.

Whitehall security and community cohesion chiefs regard the way the case has been handled as a huge step forward in building trust with Muslim communities which are often on the sharp end of counter-terrorism investigations.

Some people have asked me 'do you feel betrayed by Isa Ibrahim' and I'd say 'no the Muslim community feels we let him down
Farooq Siddique, Bristol Muslim Society

But what happened to change a middle-class, British-born man, educated at some of Bristol's top independent schools, into the radical facing terror charges in court?

Prosecutors told his trial at Winchester Crown Court that Ibrahim developed a "mindset of martyrdom" and a taste for radical clerics on the internet - people like Abu Hamza al-Masri, the preacher jailed for race-hate who is now facing extradition to the US.

In turn, Ibrahim said he admired the 7/7 London suicide bombers - and he told friends the 9/11 attacks on America were a "justified response" for Western aggression.

A heroin-taking loner, Ibrahim felt he had found an ideology that echoed his own sense of anger with the world.

Guidance needed

Farooq Siddique, of the Bristol Muslim Society, said Ibrahim's world view was formed amid the difficult circumstances of a religious community feeling that it is under the media cosh.

"The media portrayal of Muslims is very negative with the majority of nouns used to describe Muslims today being terrorist, extremist, Islamist, suicide bomber," he said.

Farooq Siddique
Farooq Saddique: Need to support converts

"Then you get to the radical websites which say the reason they're saying this negative stuff is because this is part of a crusade against Islam - that it's part of a war to wipe Islam off the face of the earth.

"Suddenly you've found a cause and Ibrahim was already a guy in serious trouble in his personal life.

"He wanted to be part of something. He always wanted to be part of something and here he found a cause."

Ed Husain, of the Quilliam Foundation, the counter-extremism think-tank, said while Ibrahim was responsible for his own path, the Muslim community had to play a part in identifying and stopping the journey to extremism.

"When young people like Ibrahim don't find political guidance at the mosque, they then turn, as he did, to the internet," said Mr Husain.

"There they find ample guidance for political matters but that comes in the form of extremism, radicalism, or taking up arms, of being terrorists.

"This is a huge infrastructural problem within mosques and with British Muslims. There is a serious lack of understanding of the problem because there is a cultural, linguistic and psychological obstacle between the younger generation and the older generation."

Since Ibrahim's arrest in 2008, the Bristol Muslim Society has been working closely with the police. Every mosque in the city now has its own police community support officer.

Detective Superintendant Nigel Rock

PCSO Dawn Pearse said: "On Fridays they bring their young lads and you see them in the street. They call us by our first names and that's nice, so I think it's working," she said.

The mosques are also changing slowly. Danyal Laskar, who is a volunteer at the Muslim Support Network, said being able to hear sermons in English and talk about his faith in the language he grew up speaking has led to a greater understanding.

"When I entered the faith, the mosque that I was going to had no English sermons or lessons or people talking in English," said Mr Laskar.

"It was all in a foreign language. We wanted to make somewhere where it was all in English, where there were friendly faces and so people could understand their religion and meet other Muslims in a place where they would understand."

Ibrahim's family spoke of their shock and distress when he was arrested.

Farooq Siddique said: "Some people have asked me 'do you feel betrayed by Isa Ibrahim' and I'd say 'no the Muslim community feels we let him down'.

"This guy is looking for guidance and looking for help and support and I don't think the Muslim community was geared-up to provide this particular individual with help.

"We just have to make sure that we don't drop the ball next time."



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