The following text comes from a Facebook post by Zuber Hatia (shared with permission), and their subsequent comments on the conviction of Mashudur Choudhary, from Portsmouth, for terrorism offences in relation to the Syrian Conflict. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily represent the group as a whole.
Portsmouth, Hampshire has a relatively tiny Muslim population, but has been drawn into the Syrian Revolution in almost an inexplicable way with a disproportionate number of young men (apparently 5 in total) from the city who have ended up going there to take up arms against the unfolding brutality that has been unleashed by the Assad Regime over the past 3 years.
Call it a sense of bravado or a sense of duty towards those in need as they see it, the young men’s decisions have left an indelible impact on their families in ways that cannot be ignored. There is no reason to assume that with such convictions in British courts as Mashudur Choudhary’s – who clearly went to Syria as plenty others have done so and who clearly did not join any combatant group and returned back to the UK having committed no crime, either abroad or here – that this is a reflection on the people of Portsmouth whose commitment to assist people anywhere in the world, suffering either as a result of natural disasters (eg Bangladesh, Haiti) or in war-torn conflict zones (eg Iraq, Afghanistan) overshadows the individual actions of some of its young men. But there will be people bigoted enough to try and tar an entire community based on the actions of a tiny few.
The attitudes of British courts that continue to threaten to criminalise anyone who travels to Syria is fraught with a further deepening sense of resentment from sections of the Muslim community who feel aggrieved at the discrimination that targets them differently to others who continue to travel to such conflict zones. This build up of resentment and anger are more likely to be the very factors that fuel flashpoints among communities that could well trigger the very thing that British courts are trying ostensibly to prevent.