LONDON — The featured speaker at the annual dinner of London Metropolitan University's Islamic Society thundered with fundamentalist zeal while warning of the rage spreading among young British Muslims.
College students should try to curb their "anger and frustration at injustices I see against myself and my Muslim brothers and sisters in this country and globally," said cleric Abu Aaliyah, according to an audio feed on the student group's website.
The next speaker at the March dinner congratulated a biomedical student, referred to as "Brother Waheed," on his election as president of the society.
Today, that up-and-coming activist, Waheed Zaman, is one of the 23 British Muslims detained by London authorities on suspicion of plotting to blow up at least 10 U.S.-bound jetliners in midair.
Whatever the verdict is on the 21-year-old Zaman, his arrest and that of several other well-educated, middle-class men cast a spotlight on the rise of jihadism here among second- and third-generation members of Muslim immigrant families.
The alleged plot, in which police say they have seized evidence from Internet cafes and homes, and in which extremists reportedly met on campuses and at community centers and mosques, suggests that British militants have found an array of gateways for international jihad.
The phenomenon highlights the especially virulent convergence here of Muslim anger and the opportunity for young activists to connect with experienced militants.
"The unregulated existence on campus life allows the formation of a group of sympathizers," said Anthony Glees, who teaches politics at Brunel University in London. "It allows the invitation to outsiders, be they imams, be they travelers who may have fought against British troops in Iraq, British and American troops in Afghanistan. They are invited on campuses without anyone knowing and inspire young men and women to their fanatical cause."
Alienation in Muslim communities across Europe runs high.
In the Netherlands in 2004, filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was killed by a Muslim extremist, and the same year in Madrid, Islamic militants planted bombs on commuter trains, resulting in 191 deaths.
But British militants stand out for their willingness and capability to attempt large-scale suicide bombings.
In 2001, Al Qaeda-trained "shoe bomber" Richard Reid tried to bring down a U.S.-bound flight. Subsequently, Britons of Pakistani descent featured prominently in cases including a suicide attack on a Tel Aviv cafe in 2003, a foiled truck bombing in London the same year and the London transit system blasts last year that killed 52 people.
The large numbers of Muslims of South Asian descent plays a role in the amount of homegrown militants in this nation. Britain has the largest population of Pakistani immigrants in the world, and British radicals find inspiration, training and direction in Pakistan, an outpost for the remnants of Al Qaeda and affiliated networks that operate training camps and hatch plots against the West.
Moreover, critics say, a longtime British policy of tolerating Islamic ideologues has turned London, known sardonically as "Londonistan," into a haven for holy warriors and allowed extremist ideas to seep into mainstream thinking in Muslim communities.
Britain remains a caldron of Islamic movements and militants whose diversity and volatility are unmatched in Europe: Somali refugees, Saudi financiers, Egyptian scholars, Afro-Caribbean jailhouse converts.
"There are just too many extremist groups in Britain. The British have to make choices about which ones to monitor," said a senior European anti-terrorist police commander. "The development of Londonistan, combined with the large numbers of Muslim immigrants, created this phenomenon, and it lasted a long time out in the open with little control.
"The British woke up too late. Now the police are working effectively, but the numbers are against them."
The jihad movement in Britain dates back at least 26 years to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, when a number of young British Muslims traveled to fight with the mujahedin.
Since then, the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and British foreign policy have been rallying calls for Muslim activism, which now takes aim primarily at Britain's partnership with the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan and its support for Israel.
British Islamic militants are largely the children of parents who immigrated to England and worked hard to support large families. In some ways, those families have fared better than their counterparts in France and Germany: The open, multicultural approach to integrating immigrants in Britain helped a Muslim middle class take root and attain a presence in politics and government.
But the young people, brought up free of the hardships their immigrant parents' faced, resent the barriers they still find to success in Britain.