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Channel 4 investigation uncovers the British women supporting ISIS

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Tomorrow night, Channel 4 will broadcast an undercover investigation which has uncovered some of the key British women who are supporting Isis – right here in the UK. Led by young British Muslim reporters, the production team managed, over 12-months, to infiltrate an inner circle of British women glorifying jihadis and promoting extreme Isis ideology both online and directly to women and young impressionable girls - often in the presence of very young children.

Captured before the deadly attacks in Paris, the undercover footage shows female Islamic State sympathisers in Britain who, in weekly two-hour lectures in London, are: using racially abusive language to describe Jews and Israelis, telling young Muslim women Britain is waging a war against them and urging them to abandon democracy and travel to Syria to join ISIS.

One of the women the programme identifies is the former leader of the female wing of the banned terror group once known as al Muhajiroun whilst another is known to have resided with an extremist preacher, also a former member of Al Muhajiroun.

The three women, identify themselves as Umm Saalihah, Umm L and Umm Usmaan on Twitter. Two operate in positions of authority within their circles and lecture women in secretive study sessions.

They are first identified in the investigation after promoting pro-Isis ideology on social media platforms. After extensive direct messaging on Twitter and making key contacts at a demonstration outside Regents Park Mosque, the undercover reporter is able to meet them face-to-face at an Islamic roadshow on Lewisham High Street, London. Gaining their trust, she is able to join them at their closely-guarded women-only study sessions which are strictly by invitation only.

The investigation was brought to a close four weeks before the attacks on Paris when the women – who were all established close contacts - became suspicious of the undercover reporter. The leader of the study circles Umm L challenged the reporter, preventing her from leaving unless they can look through her possessions. Eventually the reporter was able to leave but was banned from future contact and attending future sessions.

ISIS: The British Women Supporters Unveiled airs on Channel 4 on Monday 23 November at 9pm.

The women

Umm Saalihah

Umm Saalihah, is a mother in her 30s. Findings from the investigation suggests her name is Jamila and that she has lived at the same address in London as a well-known extremist who has previously been arrested on suspicion of encouraging terrorism and being a member of Al Muhajiroun - a banned terrorist organization. He is filmed calling for David Cameron to go to hell at a public demonstration our undercover reporter attended

At the first session at a local government-funded community centre in North London Umm Saalihah is in charge. She has previously said on Twitter that it is necessary for Muslims to migrate to ISIS territory. In the undercover footage she attacks the western coalition for bombing ISIS to an audience of women and children:

“Not like the cowards that you have who are throwing air strikes on to the Khilafah [Islamic State] and killing innocent people, you know, they are cowards because they will never come down and show their boots on the ground. Our mujahid were those people who, that’s what the Hadiths say, the people used to say the saying that goes on the social media that what can you do to a person who looks down in the barrel of a gun and sees paradise after that what can you do, the world is his oyster.”

Talking openly about her admiration for the jihadi fighters she is in touch with online she says:

“I know one brother on Facebook I remember who left for Sham [Syria] and he put it, and one thing he said was, he kept saying Allah forgive me, may Allah forgive me, all the excuses I’ve made all these years, may Allah forgive me now I see why, this is the life in jihad is nothing like the life in the dunya [world].”

She is also full of praise for Al Muhajiroun founder and hate preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed - banned from Britain, now in jail in Lebanon:

“To look for an Alim [Islamic scholar] in this day and age, is like looking for a needle in haystack. You have to call and ask and still you can’t get through to certain scholars you know because you know they are in captivity. They are behind bars like our Sheikh [Omar Bakri Mohammed] may Allah hasten his release.”

Umm L

Umm L is Rubana, a mother of four living in London and residing at the same address as a leading member of a banned extremist organisation. In 2003 Rubana said she was in charge of the female wing of the group once known as al Muhajiroun. This is an organisation set up two decades ago in the UK and banned under terrorism legislation in 2010. The second study session is held in East London, in a building frequently used by extremists to run lectures and film sermons. Umm L is running this session and the subject of her lecture is the West’s alleged war on Islam:

“The title of today is, ‘they plot and they plan and Allah is the best of planners’. You can see that there’s a lot of plots being hatched and a lot of planning going on. Unless you’ve kind of got your head in the sand you almost feel that this plotting and planning is against Muslims.”

During the two-hour lecture young children wander in and out of the room. Umm L says that what the government calls extremism is simply being a good Muslim:

“The vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values including democracy, that places every single Muslim in the category of extremist you know why? Because the statement “Lá iláha illallah” [there is no god but Allah] that statement that makes you Muslim, that is a rejection of democracy and the rule of law. Because that statement says la – you reject all other any ruling any legislation, you’re rejecting to obey anything other than Allah.”

“This is a fight against Muslims and Islam. That’s what we need to remember. This is the plan of the kuffar [disbelievers]. It’s hard, when you hear these things it’s very difficult, not to feel down, not to feel depressed, not to feel saddened. Allah says in the Quran do not be down, do not be depressed for you are superior, you are the best if you are believers. Allah will make you superior to these enemies, if you are believers. Allah he makes it a condition of our iman [faith] not to become depressed about it, but rather to do something about it.”

Umm L preaches to the women and teenagers in the room that across the world Muslims are under siege.

“When you see these videos, it makes your heart crunch, it makes your stomach churn. The audacity and the arrogance of these Jews and they encourage killing of Muslim children and Muslim women. The amount of Muslim children – I won’t even use the word Palestinian – Muslim children that are in custody of those filthy Jews.”

“These people who plot and they plan against the Muslims they are no match for Allah, they may be making all these plans in the corridors of Whitehall, in 10 Downing Street and in the White House and wherever they may be, but the same thing has happened time and time again do you think anyone ever defeated Allah”

“It’s not the first time nations have plotted against the believers. It’s not the first time the alliance has been formed like they have now with this coalition against the Khilafah [Islamic State]. But Allah one by one he will destroy them.”

She says the Khilafah – the ideal Islamic State as outlined in what she purports to be religious texts - has been established by ISIS:

“The good days have already begun, nobody ever have thought in our lifetime we would see the establishment of the Khilafah [Islamic State]. The thing is the more they plot, the more they plan, Allah has got his own plan, remember that don’t ever lose hope. There is a plan of Allah, that we can’t see unfolding already, very soon we will be seeing. It doesn’t matter how many bombs they drop on innocent men, women and children. It doesn’t matter that there’s Russian intervention, you know, all the enemies they can come together. Allah will not allow them, Ummah and the progress and the spread of Islam, Allah will not allow them to be quelled. David can say what he likes.”

Umm L says the government's counter extremism plan is simply futile:

“If they thought it was a plan to deradicalise people, God they got it so wrong, because if anything more and more people are becoming what they call radicalized. If extremism is to have a voice or actions against British values and democracy, they couldn’t have done anything worse than what they have done, because this is really changing the way Muslims feel in this country.”

Umm Usmaan

Umm Usmaan tweets from purported religious texts calling for Muslims to travel to Syria and tells Muslims to go and work for the Khilafah (Islamic State).

Tweet: “Go to Shaam [Syria] for it is the best of Allahs lands on earth.”

The undercover reporter meets Umm Usmaan and Umm L at an ‘Islamic roadshow.’ Never removing her veil in the presence of the undercover reporter or revealing her true name, she says she is a career advisor, living in London. She is a regular at Islamic roadshows calling for Muslims to reject democracy and the rule of law.

Response from Former Chief Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service Nazir Afzal

Commenting on the footage of Umm Saalihah’s lecture, former Chief Prosecutor for the CPS Nazir Afzal says:

“There is no doubt in mind that she - in referencing the Khilafah she’s talking about the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. If you are in a position where you think you are learning from somebody who knows what they’re talking about, it’s going to have an impact on you.

“Without any context that she’s - she’s attached to her statements she is clearly sympathetic, more than sympathetic to the so-called Islamic State. She’s presenting that as the only show in town, and that if you are a Muslim then that’s what you should aspire to, and that is extremely dangerous. It does not matter that it’s happening in a closed room or in a large audience at Wembley Stadium, it makes no difference.

In response to Umm L reference to Jews, he says:

“Even under the current legislation, you know, you can’t use language like that in the street because you’d be guilty of a religiously aggravated crime. Under future legislation, potential legislation it can be criminal anywhere.”

And in response to Umm L reference to Isis, he says:

“She does more than support them, she’s saying that the so-called Islamic State is the Caliphate, and by supporting them, she is potentially committing a criminal offence. It’s more than worrying, it’s extremely dangerous when you’re having that conversation. There are young people in the room, there are children in the room, there are women and we’ve got several examples of women who’ve taken their whole families, to Syria and Iraq.”

Counter-terrorism expert Hannah Stuart’s responds to the undercover footage

Counter-terrorism expert Hannah Stuart from the Henry Jackson Society says:

“What’s striking about the women that you’ve been following in the UK is they’re not actually telling people that they should commit acts of violence, but the messages that they’re repeatedly putting out support the ideological backdrop for groups like Islamic State and other jihadist groups. I would certainly consider them extremist and I think it is very dangerous because it is supportive of the worldview of Islamic State.

“The sorts of beliefs, like the rejection of democracy, the need to - or the religious duty to live under Sharia law, these are ostensibly non-violent ideas. What’s dangerous is that if you hold those views and then seek to act in order to achieve them that can entail acts of violence and acts of terrorism.”

“The fact that there are women, young girls and children is particularly worrying in terms of what these children are being taught to believe about their own state versus one of the most brutal terrorist organisations.”

“At the moment we’re not just concerned about young men going to fight for Islamic State, we are concerned about entire families leaving this country to emigrate and live in Islamic State, and it’s lessons like this that will encourage women to do that and make them believe that its’ their religious duty to do so. This is a nation-building project.”

“I think that the women skirt the line of inviting support for a proscribed terrorist organisation, and by that I mean Islamic State, but also by inviting one another to these study circles if it can be proven that they are advancing the cause of the group then that would also be an offence as well.”

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