Charles Clarke is studying proposals to combat Islamic terrorist groups by treating them as religious cults.
“What we know about other religious cults may offer some insight into how these men ended up behaving in this appalling way,” he said last night.
He believes that there is no point in seeing extreme Islamists in the “classic” mould of revolutionaries fighting for a political cause. A closer parallel is with recruits to cults, who often come from educated backgrounds and are “brainwashed” into renouncing society.
One example, he said, was Mohammed Atta, the leader of the September 11 hijackers, who was an architecture graduate. Mohammed Sidique Khan, one of the London bombers, was a classroom assistant in Leeds and was married with a baby daughter.
The Home Secretary cited the work of Inform, an organisation specialising in cults, which emphasises the need to perceive how victims of brainwashing see their circumstances.