Radical Islamist organizations are sprouting up all over the world; perhaps even in your own backyard. The author of this film attempted to infiltrate one such extremist group in Britain. Over the course of two years, he gained unfettered access to their inner workings, and even rubbed shoulders with one of the most notorious ISIS militants on the international stage. The new documentary The Jihadist Next Door is the chronicle of this investigation.
When we're first introduced to Abu Rumaysah, he could pass for any working-class family man. Then he invites us into his storage unit where he keeps flags and other memorabilia representative of the Islamic State. A young father of four who operates a children's party supply business, Rumaysah has been radicalized for over a decade, and is a strong advocate for the implementation of strict Sharia law in the United Kingdom. He threatens escalating waves of violence if the British government continues in their attempts to oppress and persecute members of his movement. Rumaysah will soon be known across the globe by a different name - Siddhartha Dhar - after he participates in the taped execution of suspected spies against ISIS.
The film shows us the growing tensions and physical altercations that result when Kurdish activists butt heads with radical Islamic recruiters on a busy public street. We're given insights into the philosophy of these radicalized figures, and we learn of their motivations for fighting against a democratic system that they feel unfairly marginalized and stigmatized by. One interview subject responds to the horrendous Paris attacks as an example of "the chickens coming home to roost."
The underground movement we witness brewing in the UK is just a single stitch in the fabric of a worldwide tapestry of homegrown terrorism. The Jihadist Next Door provides a platform from which a few of these terrorist sympathizers can plead their case, which is a dynamic that creates great conflict within the filmmaker himself. But with ISIS-inspired attacks on the rise in various regions around the world, it would be irresponsible of us to avoid a deeper understanding of the dark forces we face.