My thoughts on Cage’s recent Press conference on the unveiling of ‘Jihadi John’.

Cage’s recent unveiling of “Jihadi John” as Mohammed Emwazi at their recent press conference has opened the floodgates to questions of “what if?” Many commentators, particularly CAGE, are now pointing the finger at British security services as playing a key part in the radicalisation of Mohammed Emwazi. During the press conference Asim Qureshi, director of CAGE, became emotional, as he spoke of Mohammed Emwazi describing him as an “extremely kind” and “extremely gentle” man, who had been radicalised by the harassment of the British security services. “He (Emwazi) was such a beautiful young man, really. It’s hard to imagine the trajectory, but it is not a trajectory that’s unfamiliar with us” (Asim Qureshi). According to Qureshi, Emwazi was a victim of the harsh treatment of UK security services which subsequently drove him from a ‘beautiful man’ into an ISIS executioner. I was left perturbed, to say the least, as to why Qureshi was describing Emwazi (who has beheaded seven innocent people, some of whom were aid workers) in such a way. I tried to follow Qureshi’s logic for why Emwazi was radicalised; blame was solely to be allocated to British security services for their harassment of Emwazi, and I felt such rationalisations simply didn’t add up. In the first instance, it’s important to highlight that British intelligence services harassment of Emzami was not without cause. Emwazi may have contacted Cage for help regarding treatment at the hands of British intelligence services, but the journey of radicalisation does not begin there. Prior to this in 2009 Emwazi travelled to Tanzania with others, he claimed they were holidaying and going on a safari. However, MI5 were monitoring the group and had reason to believe that they intended to travel on to Somalia, possibly joining Al-Shabaab – an extremist organization and jihadist group that had orchestrated terrorist attacks in Somalia. Emwazi wasn’t, therefore, simply an innocent safari enthusiast, but someone suspected of joining a terrorist organisation. One could argue that the evidence MI5 had was spurious and their actions were too quick to brand Emwazi as a threat; but given that Emwazi did actually end up becoming a terrorist, doesn’t that prove that the intelligence services were right in pursing Emwazi? Qureshi would say disagree, because in his view it was the “harassment” that was the cause of radicalisation.

So here’s a “what if” scenario to put my point in perspective: suppose Tim is accused of abusing minors by a neighbour and consequently his local police, who prior to this allegation believe Tim to be a respectable member of the community, incessantly question him and trace his movements. The press catch wind of these allegations and harangue him and brand him as a predator in the local newspaper headlines. After some time, the charges are dropped against Tim due to a lack of evidence. Tim, who is deeply affected by all this, decides to travel to the Philippines to escape his troubles. Many years later, British police are sent video footage by the Philippian authorities of Tim sexually abusing seven children. Would anyone in their right mind blame the British police or the local papers and argue that it was their harassment that had led to Tim’s transformation? Probably not. So how then can such a case be made for Emwazi?
If the British intelligence agencies are responsible for Emwazi’s radicalisation, it can also be argued that Cage are also partially responsible. Upon being made aware of Emwazi’s grievances why did they not take the necessary steps to ensure that Emwazi’s anger and frustration did not turn into him being radicalised? Perhaps, there are some questions that need to be answered here.

The press conference was an attempt to explain how a young man had morphed from a genuinely nice person into a monster. So what may have caused Emwazi’s transformation? We can perhaps answer this question by referring to Hannah Arendt’s (correspondent for the New Yorker) writings on Adolf Eichmann, the chief architect and executioner of Hitler’s genocidal plans. During the Second World War, Eichmann planned the murder of millions of Jews from every part of Europe under Nazi control by placing them in concentration camps. After Germany’s defeat, Eichmann fled to Argentina. By 1960, however, he was discovered and kidnapped by Mossad agents, smuggled out to Jerusalem and made to stand trial for mass murder. He was found guilty, and later hanged. Hannah Arendt who attended the trial wrote that Eichmann did not give the impression of being a monster, a sadist or violent individual nor was he a psychopath or a sociopath, but an ordinary, reasonable man. Arendt’s observation that someone so innocuous could become one of the most notorious criminals of the Nazi regime, coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to characterise Eichmann. Her characterisation of these actions as “banal” was not to claim Eichmann’s obscene actions were merely every day. Rather, to argue that evil can emanate from the ordinary. How was this evil possible? Arendt concluded that Eichmann lacked the faculties of sound thinking and judgement, which would have instilled in him a sense of empathy towards the suffering of his victims. Eichmann was devoid of the intellectual ethical resources to question his actions; he simply operated without thinking, following orders, with no consideration of the consequences on his victims. For Eichmann signing off the murdering of Jews was simply an ordinary day at the office. Which leads us to ask, was Eichmann’s problem simply a case of lacking moral facilities?   Many have challenged Arendt’s conclusions, more recently the German political philosopher, Bettina Stangneth, with use of newly discovered documents including Eichmann’s own notes / transcripts of conversations with fellow Nazi. Based on these documents, Stangneth paints a different picture and gives a different perspective on how Eichmann could be complicit in such evil acts. She showed that Eichmann wasn’t just a pen pushing bureaucrat just taking orders, but an unrepentant ideological warrior for the Nazi cause. Eichmann had internalised Nazism, he backed his actions with philosophical ideas and lacked any self-doubt. His condition was not of moral lacking, but of moral deception driven by Nazi ideology and a firm belief in the “Final Solution” of the Jewish question.

How do these insights help us? When considering what caused Emwazi’s transform we should not underestimate the role noxious ideas play in radicalising an individual. If it’s not apparent- you’re not looking in the right place. I too attended Westminster University, as did Emwaz, many years ago and I recall it very well. This was the time I was introduced to the ideas that I now hope to change. There were two camps: one camp political in nature which was a type of Islamofascism (which ran the Islamic society) and the other Theofacsitic, a pro-Saudi Wahabism. The two camps were deeply critical of one another and were constantly at each other’s throats, but both totalitarian. The plus side of their disagreements was that at least there was a degree of critical introspection and intro-dialogue. However, that’s not to say they were not damaging for young Muslim minds in their own right. Both camps consisted of ‘lovely, kind’ young men who didn’t have a mean bone in their bodies, they were smart and intelligent who were misled in adopting such ideas. Today, as a result of a growing victimhood mind-set the two camps have now merged as one, often cooperating with one another. Consequently, no longer are their views challenged and reflected upon but the sole focus is on the other, namely the West and non-Muslims. Perhaps, a more worrying reality. It is no coincidence that we can trace back Emwazi to such views. Perhaps the British intelligence services frustrated Emzani, angered him to the extent that he resented them for the ‘harassment’ he received, but that would not explain the choice and conviction to join ISIS and commit his horrendous crimes. This is beyond disproportionate. Emwazi wasn’t a mere victim lashing out at the British intelligence agencies, but someone who internalized the ISIS ideology; an ideology that consists of a toxic theological backcloth that underpins his outlook of the world, splitting the world into crude dualistic good and evil. Emwazi didn’t behead those innocent people because it was some warped form of payback against the British intelligence services / British government. He believed that his actions were Godly and justified by his faith. Extreme social conditions can transform good people into behaving in a way that they would not normally do, the Milgram experiment is a prime example of this. In the end, it seems, it is noxious ideas that transform banal people into unrepentant monsters.

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17 thoughts on “My thoughts on Cage’s recent Press conference on the unveiling of ‘Jihadi John’.

  1. I see the intent behind your post, but the crux of your argument right here:
    Prior to this in 2009 Emwazi travelled to Tanzania with others, he claimed they were holidaying and going on a safari. However, MI5 were monitoring the group and had reason to believe that they intended to travel on to Somalia, possibly joining Al-Shabaab – an extremist organization and jihadist group that had orchestrated terrorist attacks in Somalia. Emwazi wasn’t, therefore, simply an innocent safari enthusiast, but someone suspected of joining a terrorist organisation. One could argue that the evidence MI5 had was spurious and their actions were too quick to brand Emwazi as a threat; but given that Emwazi did actually end up becoming a terrorist, doesn’t that prove that the intelligence services were right in pursing Emwazi? Qureshi would say disagree, because in his view it was the “harassment” that was the cause of radicalisation.

    is fallacious because it rests on the premise that Emzani went to Tanzania ‘in order to join AL Shabab, and that the British intelligence services knew that and were therefore justified in investigating him.

    In that, you do make the choice to believe, without cause really, that Emzani lied and that the British intel was legitimate. Based on the history of the British, and US intel services, in accusing innocent muslims of nefarious intent and using it to justify long lasting harassment and mistreatment (CIA black sites, Guantanamo…), that is rather disturbing.
    Everything else you offer, whether the extremist religious climate at the university or Tim or Eichmann are ‘unacceptable parables and are rather dangerous.

    It is obvious that Emzani’s joining ISL was in reaction to the harassment he experienced. He was never justified in doing what he did, if indeed he is Jihadi John. And it is apparent to most that his driving factor was less religious and more emotional. His fellow ISL members have said he would not join them in prayers.

    I did not know about CAGE before this issue but they have earned my respect with their handling of the matter.
    They were there from the start, and witnessed both the harassment Emzani experienced and the unhinging that resulted from it. They have called attention to it ‘for a long time and tried to take steps to alleviate it.
    They are not excusing what Emzani did, but they are speaking in retrospect , as witnesses and warners that this harassment is not going to end well, and now they are saying, we told you that in any case where one is treated the way you were treating this man, only bad things happen, so assume you responsibility.

    So whatever Jihadi John did is his own responsibility, but everyone has to take responsibility for every step we took or did not take to enable/ drive him to this. Most of us would be tempted to lash out at any system that harasses us daily and controlled our lives and dreams. May we never find ourselves in his shoes.

  2. Excellent piece Adam. As a side note I recall with horror the indifference expressed by certain leading figures in the Muslim Debate Initiative when a friend of theirs (a student Dr) expressed a keen desire to do jihad by blowing up a civilian airliner and join Al-Shabaab. I was appalled and spoke out but MDI were not disturbed in the least and just made excuses for the brother.

    1. Did you do your duty as a good British citizen and report this person to the authorities? Or where you just as indifferent?

      1. Paul you misunderstood me. First I think its a really good thing you turned over the information to the appropriate authorities.

        I called you a Rat because you joined this thing called Islam and even though you did the right thing according to common sense, you did the wrong thing according to this thing you joined.

        Now you can and will say that what you did is permissible under Islamic law, and you can find rulings that will agree with you. However those that would do such a thing as you reported will not only be able to find rulings justifying what they wanted to do but would and can find rulings that would condemn you as a rat for turning them in.

        So in their eyes you are a RAT.

      2. Robert aka radmod

        it is clear you have considerable personal animosity for me : “I called you a Rat because you joined this thing called Islam”.

        Furthermore Islam is not a ‘thing’ but a beautiful faith followed by 1.7 billion people. Islam rejects and condemns terrorism.

        Any individual or group can *claim* the justification of a faith to further their own evil agendas. Just think of your own KKK or the Westboro Baptist Church (amongst many others).

      3. Paul yes I have “considerable personal animosity for” you. I have “considerable personal animosity towards anyone who has claimed to once have partaken in the fruits, to now try and poison those fruits for others.

        But putting that aside I called you a RAT as I said because you are a RAT to those “Muslims” you betrayed. Just as I would be a RAT if I joined the KKK or the Westborrow Baptist church and betrayed them.

        Islam is not a monolith as you yourself told me on your blog. Now unless your going to “takfir” those Muslims who do such acts as blow up civilian airliners then they are still Muslims part of Mohameds “Ummah” and since you also claim to be part of Mohamed Ummah then they are also part of you and you are part of them.

        I do not have communion\fellowship with the KKK or the Westborrow Baptist church so they are not part of me and I am not part of them.

        See the difference.

      4. Robert, whenever I read your comments I feel sadness because you are sick soul with much hatred in your heart. And clearly you have mental health issues. I wish you well. Salam.

      5. Yah Paul kind of funny how everyone who not only disagrees with you but consistently demonstrates how your warped world view fails at every level, is “full of hate” and has “Mental health issues”. Maybe I’m not the one who has mental health issues? Maybe I’m not the one who is full of hate… maybe thats YOU.

        But either way, don’t feel sadness for me. For if I am true to the end He will save me, unlike you. Who rejected for light and transient reasons, the only one who can save you .
        One of those being your “revelation” that people who were not Christian or even believed in God where able to over come their alcoholism and drug addiction with out Christ and or God, so this some how means that Christianity is false. Now that is SAD.

  3. Asim Qureshi said in a video played on the BBC words to the effect of “…we have to start questioning whether our policy’s here in the UK are making them feel like they don’t belong here anymore…”

    I’m not a UK citizen but if you believe adulterers should be stoned to death, homosexuals should be killed, thieves should have their limbs amputated, and witches, blasphemers, and what ever other capital offenses people may be guilty of should be beheaded. YOU SHOULD NOT FEEL LIKE YOU BELONG IN THE UK. I”M DEFINITELY NOT GOING TO MAKE YOU FEEL WELCOME IN THE USA.

  4. Asim Qureshi in a video played on the BBC said the following “.”we have to start questioning whether our policy’s here in the UK are making them feel like they don’t belong here anymore…”

    If you believe adulterers should be stoned to death, homosexuals should be killed, thieves should have their limbs amputated, and witches, blasphemers, and what ever other capital offenses people may be guilty of should be beheaded. You should feel like you don’t in the UK. I know I would make you feel like you don’t belong in the USA.

  5. Adam. I agree with most of what you have written but I do feel that what Cage have said has been misunderstood by most people.
    (Cage have even been called Muslim apologists by some people).
    Cage have clearly said that they strongly condemn ISIS and any acts of oppression. They have said that if ‘jihadi john’ is Emwazi (or whoever this person really is) he needs to be brought to justice. They then said that whilst these people need to face justice, the question of ‘how’ these men became the monsters that they are today, needs to be addressed; so that future cases like this don’t happen.
    Is it so hard to think that ‘maybe’ society somehow may have contributed to this? There are many many socio-political factors that may have (and can do) messed this man’s head up. I think it’s very important to be honest and address things clearly.
    What these extremists are doing is NOT a teaching of Islam.
    It’s just an evil sickness within their own-selves.
    Islam has clearly laid the guidelines to good and bad; whether or not someone followe these guidelines and implements them in his/her life, is their choice.
    It saddens me deeply when I see these thugs use Islam as a pretext for their own agendas. Any sane person knows that they are only using the name of Islam to fool the masses and to legitimise their false claims to themselves and the world.
    They (ISIS) are killing anyone and everyone (Muslims and non Muslims). They have no love for anyone. And; as a result of their evil actions, Islam is being misrepresented to the world at large; and the Muslims are being demonised.
    Sometimes I feel that maybe this is what ISIS want: to make people of the world hate Muslims and Islam. Maybe they want to destroy Islam.
    They are creating disunity between the people of their land. Maybe this is what they want. They want a broken land and a broken religion.
    Allahu Alam.
    I have a lot of respect for you Adam. Thank u.
    I truly pray that Allah protects ALL people from evil and that there can be peace in the whole world.
    We are all human beings.

  6. Paul, radicalmoderate99/robert, it is apparent you two have a history, but according to the comments made here, and only those, radical, you owe Paul an apology, at best. At worst, let’s just all move on!

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