LONDON — A girl of about 5 skips past the camera wearing purple polka-dot tights and a blue dress. Seated behind her, a woman with a thick British accent is delivering a lecture on the conflict in the Middle East.
“The amount of Muslim children—I won’t even use the word Palestinian—Muslim children in the custody of those filthy Jews…” she says, her matter-of-fact tone standing in sharp contrast to the shocking words spilling out of her mouth. “The audacity and the arrogance of these Jews—they encourage killing of Muslim children and Muslim women.”
This middle-age ISIS cheerleader, who is leading the weekly class in an East London community center, has no idea that one of the 20 women and teenagers in attendance is recording the meeting with a secret camera.
A British Muslim woman, using the name Aisha, spent a year undercover posing as a confused and conflicted woman struggling to balance her Asian heritage with the modern, Western city she inhabited. The film broadcast by Channel 4—ISIS: The British Women Supporters Unveiled—can be viewed online.
Would she be approached by ISIS recruiters? Are there women in London attempting to radicalize young women?
After a few months of tweeting in support of radical Islam, she was being advised to travel to Syria and join the self-proclaimed Islamic State. She asked Sally Jones—one of Britain’s most notorious ISIS defectors—for advice on Twitter, saying that her mother didn’t want her to wear the hijab.
Jones—a former punk singer now known as Umm Hussain al-Britani—replied publicly to her query. “Make hijrah [a journey to join ISIS] perhaps ? as u are not here to please ur mum ur here to please ALLAH swt & that is a reminder to ALL OF YOU.”
Then she sent a private direct message to Aisha. “Start saving for a plane ticket xxx and don’t tell anyone.”
She was soon being approached by other ISIS recruiters. “You need ticket money,” one wrote, in another direct message. “Use your mum’s bank card to book.”
Interactions with Twitter users inside the so-called Islamic State continued, but Aisha was also following the pro-ISIS accounts of three women in London, who were publicly tweeting in support of the terrorist organization.
“Go to Shaam [Syria] for it is the best of Allahs lands on earth,” wrote Umm Usmaan.
“We free ourselves from all the Muslims of the US who stay silent at the US-led coalition that kills Muslims of Islamic State,” typed Umm L.
After attending a demonstration outside the Regents Park mosque in central London over the summer, Aisha posted a photo of the crowd to her Twitter account and wondered aloud why no other sisters where there.
Abu Haleema, a radical preacher who was arrested on terror charges in January, replied to say that he could put Aisha in touch with women who ran “study groups” in London. Haleema was supposedly banned from social media and had his passport seized after accusations that he was “encouraging terrorism.”
He invited Aisha to join a day of leafletting outside a McDonald’s in East London. There she suddenly encountered the women she had been following on Twitter for the last eight months.
After two hours of handing out flyers, Umm L. took her cell number and Umm Usmaan said she was a careers adviser. A few days later she was invited to join the study groups.
The first one took place in a publicly funded community center in Walthamstow.
A third British Twitter radical was leading the session. In between berating her children for messing around, she told the assembled women about one of the ISIS fighters that she knew through Facebook. “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.”
This heroic figure, she contrasted with the coalition striking ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.
She also attacked Western countries for not putting “boots on the ground” in the Middle East, saying “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.”
“Not like the cowards you have that are throwing airstrikes… and killing innocent people…. They are cowards because they’ll never come down and show their boots on the ground.”
It was at the second session Aisha attended when the preacher described Palestinian children being imprisoned by Israelis. This was Umm L.—her real name is Rubana, and she is the mother of four children.
In 2003, she reportedly claimed that she ran the female wing of al Muhajiroun, an organization that has been linked to almost all of Britain’s convicted Islamic terrorists. The group was banned in 2010.
Rubana laughed at the British government’s attempts to fight back against the indoctrination of young Muslims by hate-groups like al Muhajiroun. “If they thought it was a plan to de-radicalize people, God, they got it so wrong, because if anything more and more people are becoming what they call radicalized,” she said. “They couldn’t have done anything worse than what they have done, because this is really changing the way Muslims feel in this country.”
Radicalized Europeans attacked the city of Paris, just 200 miles southeast of London, on Nov. 13. Some 130 people were killed.