May 1. Mubashir Jamil, a 21-year-old man from Luton, was arrested on suspicion of attempting to travel to Syria and engage in "violent jihad" with the Islamic State. He was charged with "engaging in conduct in preparation for committing acts of terrorism."
May 2. A senior British jihadi who boasted of recruiting hundreds of Britons for the Islamic State was killed in a drone strike in Syria, according to the Independent. Raphael Hostey, also known as Abu Qaqa al-Britani, left Manchester to join the Islamic State in 2013. The 23-year-old graphic designer became a key recruiter of British fighters and jihadi brides for the terror group and was also heavily involved in its propaganda. At least 700 people from the UK have travelled to support or fight for jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria.
May 4. The "Department of Theology" of the Blackburn Muslim Association ruled that it is "not permissible" for a woman to travel more than 48 miles — deemed to be the equivalent of three days walk — without her husband or a close male relative. The group also ruled that men must grow beards and women must cover their faces. The rulings were accompanied by the catchphrase: "Allah knows best."
May 7. Labour Party politician Sadiq Khan was sworn in as mayor of London. He is the first Muslim to lead a major European capital. During the election campaign, Khan faced a steady stream of allegations about his past dealings with Muslim extremists and anti-Semites.
British politician Paul Weston warned that Khan's rise is a harbinger of things to come:
"The previously unthinkable has become the present reality. A Muslim man with way too many extremist links to be entirely coincidental is now the Mayor of London. ... In a couple more decades Britain may well have its first Muslim Prime Minister. ... Reality cannot argue with demographics, so the realistic future for Britain is Islamic."
May 7. Mohammed Shaheen, a 43-year-old father of seven, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for raping underage schoolgirls. Shaheen, an immigrant from Pakistan, told the court he was a devout Muslim who had been framed by his victims. Judge Martin Steiger QC said: "He masqueraded as religious when all along he was behaving in this hypocritical way."
May 8. The Times reported that Britain's biggest Muslim charity will brand hundreds of buses around the country during Ramadan with a slogan proclaiming glory to Allah. The initiative by Islamic Relief, a government-backed organization, is an attempt to "break down barriers" and portray Islam in a positive light. Islamic Relief has paid for hundreds of buses in Birmingham, Bradford Leicester, London and Manchester to carry advertisements with the slogan "Subhan Allah," which means "Glory be to Allah" in Arabic.
May 8. Six Algerian terror suspects with links to al-Qaeda were allowed to stay in Britain after winning a protracted legal battle. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) ruled that there was a "real risk" the men would be tortured by the Algerian security services if they were deported. This would have violated Article 3 of the Human Rights Act, which guards against "torture or degrading or inhuman treatment."
May 9. A Muslim man who was found guilty of threatening to behead a candidate of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) had his sentence overturned on appeal. Aftab Ahmed, 45, had been found guilty of making threats to kill David Robinson-Young, but a Newcastle Crown Court judge said he believed that Ahmed did not intend to act on his threat.
May 10. The Greater Manchester Police (GMP) apologized for a counter-terrorism exercise in which a mock suicide bomber shouted "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is the Greatest). Eight hundred volunteers took part in the overnight drill to make it as realistic as possible. Manchester peace activist Erinma Bell criticized the use of a "Muslim terrorist." She said "a terrorist can be anyone" and "we need to move away from stereotypes." A local Muslim leader, Syed Azhar Shah, said it was "shocking to portray Muslims as terrorists" and accused the GMP of "institutional racism." A statement released by GMP said:
"The scenario for this exercise is based on an attack by an extremist Daesh-style organization and the scenario writers have centered the circumstances around previous similar attacks of this nature, mirroring details of past events to make the situation as real life as possible for all of those involved. However, on reflection we acknowledge that it was unacceptable to use this religious phrase immediately before the mock suicide bombing, which so vocally linked this exercise with Islam. We recognize and apologize for the offense that this has caused."
May 10. The trial began of three Muslims who plotted to behead British citizens after being inspired by an Islamic State order "to kill civilians everywhere in the West." The court heard that Haseeb Hamayoon, 29, Yousaf Syed, 20, and his cousin Nadir Syed, 22, planned to carry out a terrorist atrocity after a fatwa was issued by Islamic State spokesman Abu-Mohammad al-Adnani. Hamayoon, who has a Pakistani passport, had bought a "Rambo First Blood II" hunting knife online using his wife's bank account. British born Nadir Syed had stored images of Lee Rigby's killers, and the three men had allegedly shared images of beheadings.
May 11. Prime Minister David Cameron apologized to Suliman Gani, a Muslim extremist, for saying he is a supporter of the Islamic State. Gani said accusations that he backs the Islamic State are defamatory and must be retracted. In a statement, Cameron said he was referring to reports that Gani supports "an" Islamic state rather than "the" Islamic State. The Muslim Council of Britain called on Cameron to repeat his apology in Parliament, and for an "urgent review" of Islamophobia in the Conservative party.
May 15. The BBC's religious output is too Christian, an internal review concluded. A report by Aaqil Ahmed, the BBC's head of religion and ethics, argued that that Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faiths should get more airtime. One Muslim leader suggested the review could lead to Friday prayers from a mosque being broadcast in the same way that Christian church services currently feature in the BBC's programming. Ahmed's appointment to the BBC in 2009 was controversial because of allegations he had shown a pro-Islam bias in his previous role at Channel 4, according to the Telegraph.
May 16. The government confirmed that Sharia-compliant student loans will be offered for the first time in Britain as part of an effort to boost the number of young Muslims applying to university. The new halal (permitted or lawful) finance model complies with Sharia law, which forbids Muslims from taking out loans on which they would be charged interest. In a white paper, the government said:
"We will introduce an alternative finance system to support the participation of students who, for religious reasons, might feel unable to take on interest-bearing loans.... To ensure participation and choice are open to all, we plan to legislate for the creation of an alternative model of student finance."
May 17. One-third of Muslim adults in Britain do not feel "part of British culture," according to a new report on British multiculturalism. Nearly half (47%) of Muslims consider their Islamic faith to be the most important part of their identity. Only half (54%) of British adults believe there are a set of values that all nationalities and religions in Britain can agree upon in the future.
May 17. Belmarsh, a maximum-security prison in London, has become "like a jihadi training camp," according to testimony from a former inmate. Now a whistleblower, the former inmate said that a group of jihadists who call themselves "the Brothers," or "the Akhi" (Arabic for brother), have gained control of the prison, where many convicted terrorists and terror-related offenders mix freely with ordinary prisoners. "The problem is that Belmarsh is also a holding prison and so young people who are brainwashed and indoctrinated then go out into the wider prison system and create wider Akhi networks." In the five years to December 31, 2014, the number of Muslim inmates at Belmarsh has more than doubled to 265, or 30% of the total prisoners.
May 17. A Muslim convert who was arrested for a plot to behead a British soldier had his sentence reduced. Brusthom Ziamani, 20, was arrested in east London; he was carrying a 12-inch knife, a hammer and an Islamic flag. At his trial, the court was told that he had researched the location of Army bases in London and had shown his ex-girlfriend weapons, described Lee Rigby's killer, Michael Adebolajo, as a "legend" and told her he would "kill soldiers." The judges reviewing his sentence said: "Given his youth, we consider that the custodial part of the sentence, namely 22 years, was too long." Instead they gave him 19 years.
May 18. Ofsted, the official government agency responsible for inspecting and regulating British schools, admitted that it failed properly to inspect a school run by the Deobandis, a conservative Muslim sect, because the inspector was "prohibited" from talking to pupils or staff. The inspector's report into child safety at the private Zakaria Muslim Girls' High School in Batley said that celebrations for the Islamic festival of Eid meant he could only speak to senior managers. After Sky News reported on the issue, Ofsted said it was taking "appropriate action" against the inspector concerned and has re-inspected the school, which teaches 149 girls aged 11 to 16. Deobandis, many of whom are said to shun non-Muslims, are thought to control around half of Britain's private Islamic schools.
May 18. The Queen's Speech, setting out the government's program for the next session of parliament, unveiled a controversial new counter-extremism bill that includes powers to gag individuals and ban organizations deemed as extremist. The bill does not, however, include a definition of extremism. Until now the main focus of British policy has been to prevent violent extremism. Simon Cole, the police lead for the government's Prevent anti-radicalization program, said that the proposals targeting alleged extremists are not enforceable and risk creating "thought police" in Britain by making police officers judges of "what people can and cannot say."
May 18. A Muslim man who was arrested after giving police a false name filed a lawsuit against the City of London Police for discrimination. Akmal Afzal, 23, claims he was arrested at the 2012 Olympics because he was an "Asian man with a beard." Afzal, a Briton of Pakistani descent, was released without charge but is suing for false imprisonment, assault and discrimination. His lawyer said: "His position is he did nothing wrong and he says the reason he was treated in the way he was relates to his ethnic origin and/or his religion."
May 22. The government was accused of burying a report on prison extremism which warns that staff have been reluctant to tackle Islamist behavior for fear of being labelled "racist," according to the Sunday Times. The independent review, commissioned by Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove, says that Islamist inmates have exploited the "sensitivity to racism" among prison staff by making false complaints that they are victims of discrimination. The review recommended the creation of "specially designated units" in high-security prisons to house the most "dangerous, extreme and subversive" Islamists. There are more than 12,000 Muslims in prisons across England and Wales, according to the latest figures.
May 23. British and American intelligence services identified 27-year-old El Shafee Elsheikh as the fourth member of the Islamic State execution cell responsible for beheading 27 hostages. The four guards, led by "Jihadi John," were nicknamed the "Beatles" because of their English accents. Elsheikh, who was granted asylum in Britain when he was seven, left for Syria in 2012 after being radicalized in just 17 days after attending mosques in London.
May 23. A British Muslim woman who wanted raise her children in the Islamic State in Syria was jailed for two and a half years. Lorna Moore, 34, who failed to tell authorities that her husband, Sajid Aslam, 34, had left for Syria, was planning to take her three young children, one of them 11 months old, to the war zone. During sentencing at the Old Bailey, Judge Charles Wide said Moore, a Muslim convert from Walsall, West Midlands, "knew perfectly well of [her] husband's dedication to terrorism."
May 23. A survey conducted by ComRes on behalf of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK found that 33% of British adults believe that Islam promotes violence in the UK. The study also found that 56% of Britons disagree with the view that Islam is compatible with British values.
May 24. The BBC reported that a National Health Service (NHS) doctor who spent seven years working in Britain left his wife and two children in Sheffield to join the Islamic State. Issam Abuanza, 37, a Palestinian doctor with British citizenship, is the first practicing NHS doctor known to have joined the Islamic State.
May 25. Police in West Yorkshire revealed that they are currently investigating 220 alleged cases of child sex grooming in Keighley and Bradford. The cases involve 261 suspects and 188 victims. The revelation came after Keighley's former MP, Ann Cryer, called for the perpetrators of the crimes to be brought to justice. Cryer suffered verbal abuse and was accused of "demonizing" the Asian community when she began a campaign more than a decade ago to get the authorities to tackle child sex grooming in Keighley.
May 25. A Nigerian man launched an appeal against a decision by the Home Office to strip him of his British nationality. The man, known only as L2 for legal reasons, is directly associated with close friends of Michael Adebolajo, who murdered Lee Rigby in London in May 2013, and Mohammed Emwazi, or "Jihadi John." L2 was deemed such a national security threat that Home Secretary Theresa May personally signed an order removing his British nationality in 2013.
May 26. Home Secretary Theresa May established an independent review into the "misuse" of Sharia law in Britain. The inquiry will examine if Sharia ideas are being "misused or exploited" to discriminate against women. The review will not, however, examine whether Sharia law itself is discriminatory against women. A Home Office statement said: "It will not be a review of the totality of Sharia law, which is a source of guidance for many Muslims in the UK." According to May, many British people "benefit a great deal" from Sharia teaching.
Baroness Cox, who has spearheaded a parliamentary drive to rein in unofficial Sharia courts in Britain, said:
"My reservation is that it won't get to the root of the problem. ... a lot of Muslim women I know say that the men in their communities just laugh at this proposed investigation, that they will go underground so the investigation will have to be very robust.
"But the aspects which are causing such concerns — such as that a man can divorce his wife by saying 'I divorce you' three times — that is inherent; the right to 'chastise' women is inherent; polygamy is inherent. I don't think those things are a distortion of Sharia law. These are aspects of Sharia law which are unacceptable."
May 27. A British citizen who plotted to carry out a suicide bomb attack at Heathrow Airport was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Minh Quang Pham, 33, was sentenced in New York for travelling to Yemen to train with members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Pham pled guilty to three counts of terrorist-related activity based on his support for the group, but denied he intended to carry out his plot and no attack ever occurred. Pham, a Vietnamese born British convert to Islam, was first arrested in Britain in June 2012 and was extradited to the U.S. in February 2015.
May 29. Music festivals, big sports venues and nightclubs have been placed on "high alert" for potential jihadist attacks, according to a senior anti-terrorism officer interviewed by the Sunday Times. Neil Basu, the deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said that crowded places — including Glastonbury, billed as the world's largest music festival, which will draw 135,000 people to Somerset from June 22 to 26 — are a major concern for police this summer. Basu warned: "These people are perfectly happy to target civilians with the maximum terror impact. Crowded places were always a concern for us, but now they are right at the top of the agenda."
May 31. The trial began of a Muslim man who tried to decapitate a random stranger in the London Underground. Somalia-born Muhiddin Mire, 30, attacked musician Lyle Zimmerman, 56, at Leytonstone Underground station on December 5 with a knife while yelling, "This is for my Syrian brothers; I am going to spill your blood." The jury was told that after the attack, police found images of Islamic State hostages having their throats cut on Mire's cellphone. The prosecutor said:
"At the end of the assault, when Mr. Zimmerman was lying motionless and defenseless on the floor of the ticket hall, the defendant crouched over him and quite deliberately began to cut Mr. Zimmerman's throat with a knife blade. Mercifully, Mr. Zimmerman survived the ordeal because, although he suffered three jagged wounds to the front of his neck, none of them caused any damage to any of the major blood vessels in that area."
Left: Muhiddin Mire, a Somalia-born Muslim, tried to behead musician Lyle Zimmerman at a London Underground station with a knife while yelling "this is for my Syrian brothers." Right: Belmarsh maximum-security prison in London has become "like a jihadi training camp," according to testimony from a former inmate.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. His first book, Global Fire, will be out in 2016.