MI5 targets Muslim converts for recruitment, study finds

© Carl Court
British security services often target recent Muslim converts for recruitment as informants, according to a new study released by Cambridge University.

Researchers from the Centre of Islamic Studies spoke with 50 British men of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds who had converted to Islam. Some of the study’s participants said MI5 agents had personally approached them and asked them to work for the agency.

One participant described the attempted recruitment as moving from “flattery” at the initial point of contact to “veiled intimidation” if converts rejected their first overtures.

Another convert interviewed by academics branded MI5’s tactics “seedy.” He said agents operate “from ‘a bird’s-eye view of society’ rather than from ‘a ground-level view’ that took into account ‘how people live.’”

The 180-page report found that converts face distrust from both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It notes that they are often cut off from their families and are “tenuously integrated within heritage Muslim communities.”

Converts complained of feeling demonized by the prevalent stereotypes about extremism and radicalization and said they were subject to shame and ridicule.

One participant in the study, Abdul Maalik Taylor, who converted from Hinduism two decades ago, said that media coverage of Muslims contributes to a negative perception of converts.

“You find a number of stories that concentrate on radicalization,” he said.

“If there are successful Muslim converts who have contributed to society and to Britain, they won’t get highlighted by the media.

“Why do the media have a set agenda to try and demonize us?”

Centre of Islamic Studies director Professor Yasir Suleiman said: “In the West, conversion to Islam has been tarnished by claims of extremism – both violent and non-violent – radicalization, and, sadly, terrorism.”

“Some participants reported that involvement with the security services would threaten the ability of a convert to practice Islam with integrity and transparency, especially as some heritage Muslims believe that some converts were pretending to be Muslims and were in fact employed by the government to infiltrate various [Muslim] groups.”