Review of the Year Feb 2015: Jihadi John and the CAGE controversy

Mohammed Emwazi aka Jihadi John

February 2015 was dominated by the uncovering of Jihadi John’s identity and the controversy over CAGE’s claims that he was partially radicalised by the security services.

The Washington Post first broke the story that the masked ISIS executioner known as “Jihadi John” had been identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born British man believed to be from West London who was known to the UK security services.

Emwazi first appeared in a video in August 2014 when he apparently killed the American journalist James Foley. He was later thought to have been pictured in the videos of the beheadings of US journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines, British taxi driver Alan Henning and American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig.

The Washington Post said Emzawi, in his mid-20s, was believed to have travelled to Syria around 2012 and later joined ISIS. Friends of Emzawi told the Washington Post that he was from a well-to-do family and that he studied computer programming at university.

Following the announcement, advocacy organisation CAGE issued a press release saying Emwazi had been radicalised by the British security services.

They said: “Since 2001, the British authorities have systematically shifted the spotlight away from its foreign policy and its security agencies by placing blame for violence at home and abroad solely on Muslims.

“British security services have systematically engaged in the harassment of young Muslims, rendering their lives impossible and leaving them with no legal avenue to redress their situation.”

Sign up for regular updates straight to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated on the latest news and updates from around the Muslim world!

Asim Qureshi, Research Director of CAGE, added: “Like Michael Adebolago, suffocating domestic policies, aimed at turning a person into an informant but which prevent a person from fulfilling their basic life needs would have left a lasting impression on Emwazi. He desperately wanted to use the system to change his situation, but the system ultimately rejected him.

Asim Qureshi of CAGE
Asim Qureshi of CAGE

“The culture of abuse now runs so deep in the UK that there are virtually entire communities which, due to security services acting outside of the rule of law, no longer have access to due process.

“Individuals are prevented from travelling, placed under house arrest and in the worst cases tortured, rendered or killed, seemingly on the whim of security agents.

“Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has also multiplied its military intervention in Muslim countries, only leading to more resentment and calls by fighting groups for retaliation. Groups such as IS did not express the will to strike British interests before the coalition’s bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq.”

Qureshi was severely criticsed for his comments by the mainstream media and CAGE later went onto admit that mistakes had been made in the press conference that it gave to the world’s media.

But writing in 5Pillars, political blogger Imran Shah said the assault on CAGE had been unrelenting.


He wrote: “We also already know MI5 harasses and blackmails Muslims to do their work. In addition, Moazzam Begg in his Hardtalk interview states that 17 of the leaders of IS were all tortured in American torture cells.

“For Muslims to even suggest that the Great British security services must be held accountable seems to be a bridge too far. What is most stark, CAGE never absolved Muhammad Emwazi from his killing as many claimed. They explicitly said in their interviews that he is fully responsible for his crimes. CAGE is only asking for ALL who are responsible to be held accountable…

“As a result, Islamophobia must reign. The demonisation of Muslims abroad to justify their killing must remain normalised, as must the demonisation of Muslim activists at home in the UK for daring to compare the barbarity of IS to the greater barbarity of the UK’s foreign policy.”

Channel 4 News’ Cathy Newman lies about mosque expulsion

Also in February, the editor of Channel 4 News told presenter Cathy Newman that he was disappointed with her claim that a mosque in Streatham “ushered” her out, after CCTV footage emerged that showed her leaving the mosque unescorted.

Newman’s tweets led to several days of negative comments and headlines about British Muslims.

After she was “rumbled” by a Huffington Post article she received harsh criticism from Muslims and non-Muslims who accused her of fanning the flames of Islamophobia and of losing her credibility as a journalist.

Over 7,000 people signed a petition on calling on Channel 4 to fire her.

In a letter to the South London Islamic Centre, Ben de Pear said: “I have spoken to her [Newman] at length and expressed my disappointment at her actions. Her language was poorly chosen and caused your mosque untold and undeserved hurt.”

Cathy Newman
Cathy Newman

Newman, in her letter to Aslam Ijaz, the chair of trustees at the Islamic Centre, said: “After leaving your mosque, I hastily tweeted my interpretation of events. I accept my language was poorly chosen and has caused offence. This was never my intention and I would like to offer my sincere apologies.

“Channel 4 News has a particularly strong relationship with the Muslim community and we pride ourselves on representing your views with balance and accuracy – a responsibility we take very seriously.”

But Muslim commentators were unforgiving. Dilly Hussain said the images from the mosque CCTV camera had exposed Newman as a liar.

He said: “Newman’s subsequent tweets on the day describing her version of events caused uproar on social media, which resulted in harsh criticism of the South London Islamic Centre in Streatham, and the Muslim community in general.

“Her tweets were picked up by the Daily Mail, Guardian, Independent amongst other media outlets, who amid the Islamophobic diatribe taking place on social media, decided to crucify the Muslim community based on Newman’s fabrications.”

Happy ending for French Muslim family

Meanwhile, on the international scene, a French Muslim family who had their children taken away by the authorities in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks got them back.

Meher and Aicha Msakni, from Bourgoin Jallieu near Lyon, were allowed to return home with their five children after a court lifted a confiscation order. However, other restrictions remained on the family such as their freedom to travel.

The Mskani children, aged 6, 5, 4 , 18 months and 3 months, were taken away in circumstances which remain unclear.

The Msakni family
The Msakni family

The family say the father was accused of preparing to take the family to Syria while he was in fact preparing to take them to Tunisia (his mother country) because he felt that France was too Islamophobic.

On the other hand, the authorities said the father was suspected of radicalism and endangering the children’s moral and physical welfare.

The Coordination Against Racism and Islamophobia (CRI), which led a viral campaign on behalf of the family, welcomed the news in a press release.

“We thank every person who has been touched or affected by this exceptional drama and who has expressed their solidarity and compassion towards this damaged family and towards the strong action that our association has taken.

“We hope that the authorities lift the restrictions which have been imposed on this family without any serious basis. The freedom to travel and move is a fundamental liberty and there is no reason why this family and all of its members have had this right taken away.”

CRI added: “We invite all those who responded to our calls to help this family to continue to mobilize because it is essential now to condemn the zealous and irresponsible officials who committed these administrative and judicial errors. We ask the court to punish wrongdoers and make amends for this injustice to children, in particular, which is irremediable.”

The Charlie Hebdo and other attacks in January killed 17 people. Since then many observers feel that France has been in a state of hysteria with Muslims being targeted on a regular basis.

Add your comments below

Previous articleSaudi Arabia to lead new 34-nation “Islamic military coalition” to fight terrorism
Next articlePolice hunting two women who punched and kicked Muslim woman off London bus