The most important thing when considering the case of Ifthekar Jaman, who has gone to Syria, is to keep a sense of perspective.
Yes, there are fears that he – and others from Portsmouth who are believed to have joined the ISIS group trying to unseat Bashar al-Assad – could become radicalised as their group is allied to al-Qaeda.
And yes, we should be worried on their behalf as joining radical religious groups, of any creed, is rarely a wise idea and most often will not end well.
But we must not take this as a sign that a fundamentalist version of Islam is flourishing in our city.
Consider the evidence. Firstly, a Muslim approached The News to explain that he wanted the authorities to act before more young men may be influenced – and explained that the men’s families ‘had had no idea what was happening until it was too late’.
This man was motivated by concern those who had made the trip to the Middle East – and anger at their decision.
And worshippers at Portsmouth’s mosques approached by our reporters could not have been more clear in their beliefs – in short, that while Ifthekar’s decision could be respected, this path does not sit well with the firm conviction that Islam is a peaceful religion. The general opinion is more that his decision to go to Syria is more a product of immaturity than devotion.
We are reassured by the police’s clear statement that there is no risk in Portsmouth, and also that there are regular meetings between Muslim leaders and officers – open communication in this, as in most areas, is the way forward.
So let us repeat – we should not be worried about this in terms of a threat to our city, or our society. We instead should be concerned that Ifthekar, and anyone else out in Syria with him, survives.
Like many others before him, let us hope that he sees through any rhetoric of recruiters, and realises that the radical way is not the wisest path. Thankfully, his current opinions are not representative of Muslims who live in Portsmouth. Let’s hope he lives long enough to realise this.