The sidewalks where terror breeds
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His disillusionment with Britain became complete when he was sacked from his IT job "for telling a kafir [unbeliever, or non-Muslim] woman to cover up." Ironically, only Abu Osama dons religious garb. The others wear jeans and shirts. Kelly would look at home in an Irish pub.Skip to next paragraph
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They aren't the only British Muslims torn between two worlds. Every year, many young British Muslims visit the Middle East to explore their roots and often to study Arabic and Islam in a traditional environment. Most return to the West, their curiosity satisfied, to continue their lives. A few, by accident or design, return deeply transformed.
Several of the 7/7 suspects, too, are believed to have traveled to Pakistan, where investigators believe they may have hardened their faith. Officials are also exploring whether the four suspects made contact with an Al Qaeda aide linked to Mr. Masri, the radical cleric.
British-born radicals "would have felt a secret excitement of having become the spearhead of a mission that would make them renowned in martyrology," says Magnus Ranstorp, director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St. Andrews University, Scotland.
But despite this bleak outlook, even such conservative Middle Eastern countries as Saudi Arabia and Yemen have successfully defused the anger of Islamic militants through an intensive program of religious dialogue and youth outreach.
At the East London mosque, Abu Osama's street preaching has evolved into a theological debate: Should one defend Islam worldwide by fighting in Britain? For these men, it's not just a philosophical exercise. Their conclusions could tip the balance of security across the country.
"Islam is not just a religion. It is a way of life," insists a young and zealous black American convert initially drawn to Islam by admiration for Malcolm X. "It's specific in the Koran that jihad is about fighting."
"If you're in Iraq," Kelly affirms, "it means physical fighting."
The Iraqi breaks in. "Every day I think of going there. But Allah has to choose me. I pray to Allah that I can go there one day and help them." The others pause, digesting his words.
"We are torn between these two worlds: a love for life, and a love for death," he continues. "I have four children. I can't leave them. My children will be led astray if I leave them."
He may not have to, Kelly suggests: "We can fight wherever, in Iraq, London, Paris, or Berlin. There is no such thing as innocents. The idea of the Islamic state is terror against anyone who doesn't support Islamic ideology."
Abu Osama nods. "If four men can take explosives and rock the whole of Britain, imagine what more could do."
Shahid: An Islamic martyr. Often used to label Muslim victims of wars, terror attacks, and assassinations.
Halal/Haram: Permitted/forbidden according to Koranic law. Observant Muslims forego cigarettes, alcohol, and nonmarital sex. Most Muslims also avoid pork.
Dar al-Islam/Dar al-Harb: "House of Islam," where Koranic law prevails; and the "House of War," meaning everywhere else.
Kafir: Unbeliever, non-Muslim, one who refuses to submit to Islam.
Jihad: The term means "struggle in the path of God." Muslims debate whether jihad means a purely personal struggle within oneself for right thoughts and deeds, violent struggle in the name of Islam, something in between, or both.
Takfir: Literally "rejection," but in radical circles refers to the branding of other Muslims as unbelievers to discredit them.
Dawah: Islamic call or propagation. Inviting another to Islam; missionary work.
Ummah: The worldwide spiritual community of all Muslims.
Jahiliyyah: Ignorance of Islam; "barbarism." Some radicals use this term to describe Western society.
Fatwa: An Islamic scholar's legal opinion about whether something is permissible. Usually on mundane topics, but radicals have issues death-sentence fatwas against opponents.