Should the UK be involved in Syria? 8 important things to consider


This week MPs will vote over whether to take military action against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. David Cameron says voting against military action makes you a terrorist sympathiser. What’s going on in Syria and should we get involved?

ISIS Explained: Seven Suggested Ways To Combat ISIS


Part of the ISIS Explained series.

Part 1: What is ISIS?  //  Part 2: What does ISIS want?  //  Part 3: What makes ISIS powerful?

Part 4: 7 Suggested Ways to Fight ISIS  //  Part 5: ISIS Frequently Asked Questions Explained



A global coalition of 62 countries led by the United States is fighting the terrorist group so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS). Different countries contribute in different ways. What’s the best way to tackle terrorist groups?


Tell Me About Airstrikes

ISIS Fighting Terrorist Groups - Airstrike attack

Source: Wikipedia

The USA loves airstrikes. It has used them on 2,600 ISIS targets since 2014. Many countries including Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia and France also got involved. The UK is bombing Islamic State in Iraq, but not in Syria. MPs voted against similar action in Syria in 2013. This was mainly because Iraq asked for our help – the Syrian government hasn’t.

A Parliament committee suggested focusing instead on bringing peace to the country. Sensible, no? Despite this David Cameron wants to extend airstrikes to Syria… but won’t risk losing a vote in Parliament.





Put Boots On The Ground?

Let’s face it, there’s only so much you can do from the air. A source within the Armed Forces told us that for every ISIS fighter taken out by airstrikes, another is recruited. Last year it was reported that Drone Strikes in Yemen were causing more people to join extremist groups. Their books are always full.

Fighting Terrorist Groups ISIS - A soldier from the 2nd Battalion in Iraq in 2003, armed with an L85A2

Source: Wikipedia

Air Chief Sir Michael Graydon says airstrikes aren’t enough to stop terrorist groups such as ISIS. We need to send in the army. This view is shared by Colonel Richard Kemp who calls the current US-led airstrikes “half-hearted”. Kemp believes the Special Forces should conduct raids to “kill and strike fear into the hearts of IS fighters.”

It’s unclear how many fighters ISIS has. The CIA estimated around 30,000 people. A senior Kurdish leader says the group has 200,000 fighters. It could be argued that a few SAS raids wouldn’t do much damage. The Iraq War cost the UK £8.4 billion, so sending across an army would be costly.  With the size of the British army shrinking to 83,000 by 2020 we’d probably need backup. Russia however, say they are prepared to send 150,000 troops into Syria so we might see a partnership in the making. 


Don’t Put Boots On The Ground?

The current situation in Syria is a mess. As well as ISIS the country is divided by a civil war between the government and rebel groups. Most countries agree that ISIS need to be abolished, but can’t agree on how Syria should be governed. The UK says Syria’s President Assad can’t stay in power due to his record on human rights. Russia on the other hand supports Assad partly because he buys Russian weapons. Sending soldiers into Syria without a long-term plan might not be the greatest idea and probably why there has been hesitation thus far. 

Something you might not know: wars can lead to the creation of terror groups. Foreign Policy Journal describes how ISIS “was born out of the Iraq war”; President Obama calls it an “unintended consequence”.

There are two main types of Muslim: Sunni and Shia. In Iraq, the Sunnis had been in charge since the 1920s. However when the US and the UK entered the country to take out Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, they handed over power to a Shia government. The Sunnis who had mostly boycotted this process, were not happy.

ISIS began as a group called Jam’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. They were a collection of Sunni Muslim resistance fighters fighting in Iraq and Jordan. The group formed in 1999 and became a major force during the 2003 Iraq War. The group joined other Iraqi rebels fighting Western forces. Eventually they joined Islamist group Al-Qaeda and their fight against the West. In 2006 they and other Islamist groups created the Mujahideen Shura Council,  which later rebranded as ISIS.

Many experts believe the chaos in the aftermath of the Iraq War meant ISIS was able to grow stronger. The Guardian describes that though the name may have changed “the group’s grievances have been largely consistent. Central to them is the belief that the invasion destroyed a regional order, ousting a stalwart of Sunni rule, and inviting the rival Shia sect to take over.”

If wars create terror groups like ISIS, declaring war on those groups legitimizes them as a state. This, as Matthew Norman at the Independent writes, is exactly what ISIS wants.


Cut Off Supplies For Terrorist Groups

ISIS Fighting Terrorist Groups- The pumpjack oil well,  as this one located south of Midland, Texas

Source: Wikipedia

“A crucial way to help defeat ISIL is to cut off its funding, its supply of arms, and its trade,says Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party. He pressed David Cameron to clamp down on Britain’s allies which may be providing support to ISIS.
Maybe he has a point. It’s easier to fight an enemy with weakened supplies. It’s estimated ISIS could be making up to $3 million a day selling oil from captured oil fields. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have all been accused of assisting ISIS. All three countries deny the charges, and considering as they are in the oil game themselves, chances are they see ISIS as a threat. Stopping people buying oil from ISIS would reduce their income and limit their operations. Trying to identify buyers is the hard part. The Green Party recently got into trouble for accusing an oil company of buying from Islamic State. Awkward.

One step further would be to crack down on all companies accused of War Profiteering. It is what it says on the tin, profiting from war. As we’ve seen above, violence and conflict provides a space for extremist groups to flourish. Though war profiteers don’t cause violence, they supply the resources and it is unfortunate that both the media and politicians might have their part to play in this process. Comedian Russell Brand believes we should question the information we receive from the media and politicians for exactly this reason. 

“The media just want to create stories and tacitly support the corporations that benefit from wars in foreign countries – because they are the corporations that benefit from those wars.”


Take the Fight Against Terrorist Groups Online

ISIS Fighting Terrorist Groups - Cyber Warriors flex digital muscle at 2014 Cyber Shield Exercise

Source: Wikipedia

We don’t mean trolling ISIS supporters on Twitter like Hacker group AnonymousChancellor George Osborne takes cyber warfare seriously; it is seen just as much as a threat as it is a weapon. He’s investing £2 billion in a new National Cyber Centre to target terrorist groups online.

“If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, or our hospitals were successfully attacked online, the impact could be measured not just in terms of economic damage but of lives lost.”

Does this mean we could do the same in retaliation, or indeed that we should be worried? This year regulators in the US announced that certain hospital drug pumps could be hacked through the hospital network. This could be used to give an overdose to patients. Yet though ISIS may have a cyber army, its soldiers need lessons on internet security. One ISIS member gave away his location by posting selfies.


Use Former Extremists to De-Radicalise Potential Terrorists

Stopping young Brits from becoming radicalised would deny terror groups new recruits. It could also reduce the risk of attack from “home grown” British terrorists. The UK government funds Channel, a secretive de-radicalisation scheme which attempts to steer young people from radicalisation. Eight people a day were referred to Channel this summer.

Apart from salvaging potential radicals, there could be a use for them too. Charlie Winter from anti-extremism think tank Quilliam Foundation thinks former extremists can be useful in de-radicalising potential terrorists. Speaking to the IB Times he said that they know the ideology which will be taught to recruits and can offer counter arguments. Quilliam was set up by Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist extremist. Another British former extremist has created a cartoon series designed to discourage young Muslims from joining extremist groups. That’s not to mention several times Muslims took action against Islamic Extremism.


So, what about talking to ISIS?

This is a controversial question. Should we try to negotiate with extremist groups? The British government’s official line is that it does not negotiate with terrorists. Negotiating legitimizes terror groups by acknowledging that their demands are real. However, it seems there are exceptions to the rule. In the 1980s then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher stated she would not talk or negotiate with the Irish Republican Army, seeing them as terrorists. It was later revealed that she had taken part in negotiation with the group. However, the communication did not lead to a deal. More recently the G7 countries made a pledge in 2013 not to talk to terrorists. Could current problems be solved by just sitting down and having a chat with ISIS? Somehow we doubt it.


Fighting Terrorist Groups; is there really a solution?

Terrorism techniques are constantly evolving. It could be argued there is no solution. Governments and anti-extremism groups must constantly change tactics to keep up. Which approach do you think is best?

Take part: The Quilliam Foundation is looking for young people to create a short film to challenge extreme views.


NEXT: Still got questions? Check out Part 5: ISIS Frequently Asked Questions Answered.

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8 times Muslims took action against Islamic Extremism


The media shows us terrorists, extremists and murderers, and a constant association with Islam. In reality the majority of Muslims live in peace and many are fighting back against Islamic Extremism. Yet, is it fair to expect Muslims to apologise for extremists?


Islam and Islamism; know the difference

Islam is the world’s second largest religion. Muslims believe Allah is the one true God and that the prophet Muhammad communicated his will. Islam promotes messages of peace; the Qur’an (Muslim holy book) states that you should not kill. In Britain there are about 2.7 million Muslims.
Islamism, also called political Islam, is very different. It’s the belief that Islam should be political as well as just personal. It’s often (though not always) linked to violent Islamic extremism, fundamentalist beliefs and terrorist groups.


8 times Muslims stood up to Islamist Extremism:


1) When French Muslims condemned the Paris attacks

To Paris, From Pakistan Please share it as much as you can so it reaches the people in Europe!#PrayForParis #PrayForTheWorld House of Lolz

Posted by Pakistani Comedians on Sunday, November 15, 2015

On Friday 13th November 2015, Paris was decimated by a series of terror attacks. At least 129 people are dead and around 99 are seriously injured. Shootings and suicide bomb attacks were carried out across multiple locations. Extremist group the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks.

In the wake of the attacks a series a videos of Pakistani Muslims denouncing the attacks went viral. It begins by saying “we’d like you to know that we’re just a shocked and horrified as everyone else around the world.” It then goes on to say that they would not be apologising for the actions of Islamic State. “We can’t possibly be held responsible for the actions of a few deranged individuals who somehow claim to be like us… that’s like blaming all Germans for the actions of Hitler.”

The hashtag “nous sommes unis” which means “we are united” in French also started trending on twitter.


2) When the local Muslim hotel staff in Tunisia formed a human shield to protect tourists

Picture from the Tunisia Attack, where Islamic Extremism was committed by Seifeddine Rezgui

Easily Misunderstood; though it looks like they are watching the hotel workers were chasing the killer Seifeddine Rezgui

Earlier in 2015 killer Seifeddine Rezgui murdered 38 people in Tunisia. Islamist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

When Sky News released this image some people commented that it looked as though the Muslims on the beach were just standing by.

Later, a video would show locals and hotel workers chasing the killer, picking up bottles as weapons and shouting at him “Why?”

Other witness accounts confirmed the bravery of the Tunisians. They placed their own lives in danger protecting the guests.


3) The 7/7 bombing survivor who now prevents children from being radicalised

Survivor is Islamic Extremism in the 7/7 bombings Sadja Mughal is now a charity worker

Survivor: Sajda Mughal

Sajda Mughal was the only Muslim in the underground carriage targeted in the 7/7 bombings in 2005.

After the attack she quit her job in the city and now works for a charity attempting to stop young people becoming radicalised.

“Islam teaches you to respect life, not even to harm an ant – how could you harm a human being in the name of Islam?” – Sajda Mughal in an interview with the Mirror.


4) When the Imams recorded this video

Imams are leaders of the Mosque. They lead the prayers, teach the religion and help out in the community. In the past people have worried that Mosques were places where extremist views could be preached in secret. A group of Imams from around the UK decided to make this video, setting themselves against the actions of Islamic State.



5) When young Muslims decided to wage a “jihad” of their own against the Islamic Extremism

More and more reports describe young Muslims who are radicalised by extremist messages. Many are travelling to areas like Syria and Iraq to join Jihad (“holy war”). It’s worth noting that Jihad isn’t actually a violent concept; it has been misappropriated by extremists.

The Muslim Youth League decided to do something about this. They launched a campaign urging politicians and leaders from the Muslim faith to condemn violence and extremism.


6) The Muslim women who formed the anti-extremist group “Make A Stand”

#MakingAStand against Islamic Extremism in The Sun

Will you make a stand?

The group used an image of a Muslim woman using a Union Jack flag as a headscarf. Visiting cities up and down the country, they educated many against the dangers of radicalisation.

The campaign was created by Sara Khan who also co-founded the Inspire group; which was created to empower Muslim women and work towards gender equality.

You can view some of the women making a stand on the MAS wall as part of the Inspire website.


7) When Muslims around the world told ISIS “Not In My Name”

Screengrab from the #NotInMyName campaign which combated Islamic Extremism online

#NotInMyName combated Islamic Extremism online

Activists and ordinary people uploaded images to social media with #NotInMyName.

Groups like ISIS have used social media to spread their message and many fear they are winning the online battle.

‘After finding out that James Foley had been beheaded and David Haines was next, we decided enough was enough and that we must take action and take a stand to show the world they do not represent us Muslims. They will not kill in the name of Islam.’ – Zahra Qadir from Active Change, the charity behind the campaign.


8) And when local Mosques opened their doors and invited in members of the community

This year, to mark the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings, Mosques around the country opened their doors. They invited non-Muslims to attend a peaceful “iftar”; the meal eaten after sunset by fasting Muslims. Imams are also encouraged to mention 7/7 in their sermons.


Should Muslims even have to apologize for extremists?

Ben Affleck takes on the myth of Islamic Extremism

Tell it how it is Ben Affleck

That list only gives 8 examples. It doesn’t mention the other times Muslim leaders around the world denounced ISIS, or Muslims in the security services who protect our country from terrorists.

We should also mention the countless times Muslims have explained that terrorist groups misinterpret the teachings of Islam, which is a peaceful religion.

Is it enough to win over the public opinion? More importantly, why should Muslims have to apologise for the misinterpretation of their religion?

More than a quarter of British 18-24s don’t trust Muslims. Around 15% of Muslims are Islamists according to historian Daniel Pipes, though many would disagree with that statistic. Yet some people think that just because the figure is low it doesn’t mean we can’t debate the big issues. When confronted with this statistic American journalist Brigitte Gabriel gave this passionate response;

Is she right? The percentage of Muslims who are extremists is extremely low; does this mean we shouldn’t link Islamic Extremism to Islam? It’s unlikely a definite answer is coming any time soon. With David Cameron and Teresa May pressing the Muslim community to do more to combat extremists, this issue will be on the agenda for a long time to come.

However some might argue that it is unfair to expect Muslims to apologise for, and condemn acts of Islamic extremism. This Daily Show clip outlines the issue perfectly. It’s arguable that we wouldn’t expect a Christian to condemn all the bad things the Church has done in the past. Nor would we ask a white person to condemn all the acts of violence committed by white people. So why do we demand this from Muslims?


What we learned; there are good people and bad people, religion is often used as a justification.

Do we need to do more to ensure Muslims aren’t misrepresented? Can the Muslim community do more to condemn acts of violence and should we expect this? Are people too scared to speak out for fear of being seen as racist or Islamophobic?

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ISIS Explained; Everything you need to know about Islamic State


They dominate our headlines, but what do we actually know about the so-called Islamic State? Who or what is it? What do its members believe in?  What do they want? Are they really so powerful? How do we combat them? All your questions; simply answered in our five-part guide.


Part 1: What is ISIS?


What even is the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Wikipedia says it’s a Wahhabi/Salafi jihadist extremist militant group, but what do all these words even mean? We broke it down.


Part 2: What does Islamic State want?


Members of the group want to create a caliphate. What is this? What is Muslim Sharia Law? Is this actually anything to do with Islam or is the group twisting it to suit its own ends? 


Part 3: What makes Islamic State powerful? 


Islamic State seems like an unstoppable force. How powerful is the group really? Why are young Westerners attracted to join the ranks?


Part 4: Seven suggested ways to combat Islamic State


A global coalition of 62 countries led by the USA is targeting the so-called Islamic State with airstrikes. What’s the best way to tackle terrorist groups? Is dropping bombs the answer or do we need actual boots on the ground?


Part 5: All Your Islamic State Questions Answered


All those questions you had about ISIS but were too embarrassed to ask? Yeah, we answered them. Trust us, ISIS can be a tricky subject to get your head around. So we took a bunch of frequently asked questions and broke down the answers. What does ISIS mean? What does the flag say? How did ISIS get weapons and Toyota jeeps? Are ISIS terrorists? Is ISIS actually Islamic? All this and more, with simple answers.


Can ISIS really be defined?

A tonne of material has been written on ISIS and our understanding of the group is constantly changing. World leaders, journalists and scholars continually struggle to explain the group and its motives. If there are any definitive answers, it’s clear we won’t have them for a while due to the lack of information we have on the group. The information we do have is often conflicting and challenged. Most importantly we can’t claim to be able to explain ISIS as we cannot assume there is a rationality behind their actions that we can fully understand. This is not to say that they are just batsh*t crazy and fueled purely by evil. Instead, we are saying that the ISIS worldview may be so different to that of most Western journalists and analysts that they may simply be unable to wrap their heads around it, not with the little information we have on them anyway.  

Take it from us – the guys doing the explaining – some things don’t have a rough and ready straightforward explanation. But what the hell, we thought we’d try anyway.

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The weekend means two things: The hangover breakfast and hours spent on social media. However you should probably think before you post. As recent events show that being careless on social media can leave you unemployed, arrested or even dead.


Location, Location, Location.

Two IS soldiers one with a balaclava. Tagline "no filter"

A social media fail led to US forces bombing the location of IS soldiers

We all love a good selfie. Especially when we’re in a glamorous location. But if you are a member of a rebel terrorist group, it might be best to stay off Twitter.

This week the location of an Islamic State hideout was busted after an IS fighter decided to post a selfie.

US spies recognised the background and within 24 hours they had bombed the area.

If alive, the IS fighter probably hasn’t had any new follower requests.



Similarly, a Russian soldier gave the game away when he posted on Instagram from Ukraine. You can find out all about the Russia/Ukraine saga right here, but in a nutshell Russia was NOT supposed to be in Ukraine. They’d even denied they had soldiers in the country.

Social Media Fail by Alexander Sotkin revealed that he was in Ukraine with Russian soldiers

The social media fail which revealed Russian soldiers might be somewhere they shouldn’t


VICE news even used social media to track down Russian soldiers;


Come Fly With Me

Everyone loves a good prank. Pretend to be someone else and wind them up. Classic banter. A fourteen year old girl decided to take it to a whole new level and tweeted a threat to an airline as a joke.

As you can imagine this very quickly backfired.

Teenage girl tweets an airline pretending to be a terrorist. They pass on her details to the FBI: Social Media Fail

Airline Fail: Don’t pretend to be a terrorist


Don’t worry though, she had things covered.


Social Media Fail - the girl who tweeted pretending to be a terrorist then blocked the FBI

Good plan.

However, this didn’t stop her from being arrested. Nice try though.


Hackers gonna hack

Hacker Chris Roberts commits a Social Media Fail and was arrested. His tweet looked like he was going to hack into the WIFI of a plane

Chris Roberts was about to get hacked off

Bragging about your skills is never cool. But if your skill is hacking… maybe keep it on the down low. Computer expert Chris Robert’s wasn’t expecting the response he got when he posted this tweet to the right:

Yeah, we don’t really understand it either. But apparently it refers to a weakness in the airplane WI-FI system which could allow a hacker to take over the flight controls.

It’s like every plane disaster movie you’ve ever seen rolled into one.

The US authorities didn’t take kindly to this and arrested Roberts as soon as he landed. Then confiscated his laptop.

Oh, and if you want the low down on hacking you can read our guide. You’re like totally welcome.


Funeral = Not A Photo-Op


David Cameron's Social Media Fail - getting a selfie with Barack Obama and the Prime Minister of Denmark

“Did you get my good side?”

It was all going so well for David Cameron. Leader of the Conservative party, then Prime Minister, he was finally invited to one of the biggest public events in history: Nelson Mandela’s funeral. What could possibly go wrong?


What better way to show your respect to a dead world leader than selfie-ing up with US President Barack Obama and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt?


David Cameron's Social Media Fail - getting a selfie with Barack Obama and the Prime Minister of Denmark

Say Cheese!



The world didn’t take too well to this social media fail and Cameron later tried to save face by suggesting the photo be auctioned off to charity.

Bidding starts at 1p, any takers?

Don’t think President Obama got off the hook, however. Just look at the frown on his wife’s face. He’s in big trouble.





David Cameron also took flak after the Downing Street official Facebook page changed its profile picture to an image of the prime minister wearing a Remembrance Day poppy. Poppies are worn to honour those who gave their lives in war and conflict.

David Cameron's social media fail with a poppy photo-shopped onto an existing image

Spot the difference

The problem? Turns out the poppy was actually photo-shopped onto an existing image. Awkward!


By-Election Bye Bye


Emily Thornberry MP's tweet about Rochester features a white van and three England flags.

A political social media fail led to the resignation of Emily Thornberry

It’s not just the Prime Minister who found out that Politics and Social Media fails really don’t mix. Labour MP Emily Thornberry lost her job in the Shadow Cabinet for tweeting this picture of a white van and some England flags.

Thornberry had travelled up to support the Labour party in a by-election. (What is this I hear you say? Take a look at The By-Election: Decoded)

Residents of Rochester were furious at the tweet and many thought Thornberry was making a snooty comment about the working classes.

Then a “helpful” journalist decided to point out it wasn’t the first time she had tweeted about England flags.


Maybe she just really likes flags. Maybe.


Queen Elizabeth II is (not) DEAD

Yeah, OK, maybe not. But BBC journalist Ahmen Khawaja decided to send a tweet saying exactly that.

Tween From Ahmen Khawaja stating that Queen Elizabeth II is dead

Killing a royal is the ultimate Social Media Fail

Turns out the BBC was just running a rehearsal to work out how they would cover an event such as the Queen’s death. Not weird at all. The rehearsal coincided with Queenie’s annual medical check up.

Khawaja’s version of events; she got pranked. #likelystory


Learnings: Social Media Fails can be fun.

If you take fun to mean “deadly dangerous”.

Could Instagramming your brunch lead to you being arrested? More importantly  – is anyone actually using Pinterest? Answers in 140 characters or less.


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