At least 500 UK nationals have traveled to Syria and Iraq to wage Jihad. Some of the fighters are as young as 16.
In August, the current UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, said that the UK will strengthen laws to deal with British Islamic militants who return. Her vow was in response to the video indicating that a Briton was behind the beheading of journalist James Foley.
But is she backpedaling?
Now, the response to returning fighters is a little softer than jail time. Returning Islamist fighters are being offered "jihadi rehab".
The vast majority of the young men who have arrived back from Syria and Iraq have been offered places in the Government’s counter-radicalisation process, known as the Channel program.
Channel aims to provide support to individuals at risk of being drawn into violent extremism. The program is a collaboration between local authorities, the police, advocacy groups and the local community. There are three objectives:
1) To identify individuals at risk of being drawn into violent extremism
2) To assess the nature and extent of that risk
3) To develop the most appropriate support for the individuals concerned
One official said that investigators want to balance the approach towards returning jihadists with the need to avoid being perceived as ‘anti- Muslim’.
"The police and MI5 are being careful about how to handle the returnees because they don’t want to disturb community cohesion. Obviously they have to protect this country’s national security, but without any solid evidence . . . it’s very difficult to arrest and charge them".
Is rehab the answer to combat extremism? Time will tell if this approach keeps citizens safer than prosecution and jail.