Hannah, a British woman of Indian descent, joined a militant Muslim group when she was 18. Raised Hindu, she began studying Islam during her first year at a London university. On the suggestion of a fellow student named Rashad Ali, Hannah attended a campus meeting of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group that espouses nonviolence in establishing a unified Islamic state but has been linked to murder and praises jihad. She fell hard for the rhetoric: She converted to Islam, quit a student job at International Business Machines Corp. to become a housekeeper for a woman who belonged to Hizb ut-Tahrir, and stopped wearing Western clothes. "Basically, I was going through a brainwashing," says Hannah, now in her 30s, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Like Hannah, Ali had become disillusioned with extremist ideology and had left Hizb ut-Tahrir. He'd begun counseling jihadists who were questioning their paths, offering guidance both online and in person through the nonprofit Gen Next. It's a network for those "who've gone through similar journeys," says Hannah, who began volunteering with the organization in 2013. "I jumped at the opportunity."