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So the West asked for it?

By Jed Lea-Henry - posted Friday, 6 March 2015

British society might just have woken up to the wolves at their door – an awakening that we can only hope spreads to Australia.

The recent unmasking of the Islamic State fighter, dubbed by the media as ‘Jihadi John’, was met with a hitherto unseen wave of public disgust and outrage. This was not a response to the unveiling of another home-grown terrorist – the presence of such people are sadly all too common an occurrence to make a real impact anymore upon the public consciousness – this was rather, a response to the broken moral arguments that are often used to protect, or even justify, the radicalisation of such terrorists. 

The moment was itself nothing too remarkable. CAGE, a self-labelled ‘human rights organisation’, was asked for comment, after ‘John’ was identified as Mohammed Emwazi. CAGE had a long association with Emwazi before he left for Syria, and before he was filmed cutting the heads of his fellow Britains, Alan Henning and David Haines.


Director of Research for the organisation, Asim Qureshi, had two simple messages:

Firstly, Emwazi was “extremely kind, extremely gentle. [The] most humble young person I ever knew”; a “beautiful young man”. And Secondly, Emwazi’s radicalisation was the fault of the British security agencies, ‘MI5’ and ‘MI6’. According to Qureshi, Emwazi was driven to cut the heads off innocent civilians because the British security apparatus highlighted him as a terrorist and tried to stop him travelling abroad.


Well, yes and no.

Yes, for obvious reasons: The logic borders upon the laughable, that is, ‘we must not try and police suspected terrorists, lest they become terrorists’ (a flawless tautology).

However, no: because Qureshi was simply going through the motions. When it comes to the radicalisation of terrorists, such ill-reasoned arguments have not only been happily accepted in the past, but they have subsequently been adopted and championed by large sections of the general public.


People like Qureshi, and organisations like CAGE, have a history of success when it comes to controlling the language and the terms of the public debate. Hence, they had every reason to believe that they would get away with blaming Emwazi’s brutality upon the people who were trying to stop him.

Take Charlie Hebdo as an example:

Angered by a series of cartoons, two terrorists force their way into the offices of a popular magazine and methodically kill its employees. The message and motive was explicit: this was an attempt to impose blasphemy laws upon the citizens of a secular society.

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About the Author

Jed Lea-Henry is a writer, academic, and the host of the Korea Now Podcast. You can follow Jed's work, or contact him directly at Jed Lea-Henry and on Twitter @JedLeaHenry.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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