The Rise of the British Jihad

Richard Watson

The cover story of Granta 103 is Richard Watson’s remarkable investigation into the origins – and the rise – of the British jihad. At present, in Britain, there are at least 200 indigenous active terrorist cells being monitored by the Security Service MI5, with 4,000 British Muslims considered to be a threat to national security. How did the British jihad start and how do we stop it?

Richard Watson is an investigative journalist on BBC Newsnight. For the past eight years he has been Newsnight’s specialist reporter covering Islamist extremism and terrorism. In this exclusive interview with, he talks about Islamic fundamentalism in the United Kingdom, the perils of propaganda, the influence of the internet, the mistakes of Britain’s security services and the future of terrorism and counter-intelligence.


Introduction: Richard Watson discusses his background in journalism and how he came to the story of the British jihad


The Origins of the British Jihad: Tracing the beginnings of Islamic radicalism in the United Kingdom and placing the London bombings in a global context


Justifying Jihad: It all changed after 9/11. How America’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq mobilized terrorism in Britain and beyond.


Why British Intelligence Failed to Stop the 7/7 Bombings: How MI5 failed to heed warnings and act in time, and the close connection between terrorist cells around the world


What Makes a Terrorist: A sense of social alienation is something shared by many British radicals, but other elements are just as troubling and more difficult to define.


The Internet as a Tool for Terror: How new technology has played a crucial role in the radicalization of young people around the world; the appeal and allure of joining a community of secrecy


Will 7/7 Happen Again? As MI5 modernizes and adapts to new challenges, so do global terrorists. How safe are we, really?


How to Win the Battle of Ideas: Britain has been too slow to challenge the threat of terrorism head-on. Winning the battle of ideas is paramount.

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