For some reason there is a perception in Britain and indeed, in the Western world that security services are a squeaky clean in their approach to protecting the citizens of this country. This, despite the fact that they have been exposed in violating the very principles, which are lauded for keeping the “civilised world”, civilised. In the damning judgment of Binyam Mohamed in 2010, it was found that the Mi5 did not respect human rights, nor renounced torture, misled MPs and operated in a “culture of suppression” in dealing with the court.
As the papers did what they do best – control+c and control+v reports, it seemed as though the corporate media suddenly had an epiphany: we are copying some real journalism here, this needs to be spun asap!
Reading the recent reports demonstrates evidence of media spin once again, where the (government) spin-doctors are in full-swing to skew the story of “Jihadi John”, or Mohammed Emwazi. The focus of the media rapidly shifted to the conveniently government-narrative-compliant “ideology” as a causal factor. The Daily Fail began its campaign against CAGE and Asim Qureshi who were cited in the original Washington Post article, after perhaps realising the implications of the initial report. CAGE became smeared across the papers for suggesting that a person as violent as Mohammed Emwazi could actually have been a normal human being. Media outlets usually pointing the finger at mental disorders in “white terrorism”, began pointing the finger at CAGE for attempting to “contextualise” the man’s actions, forgetting that the government has been imposing its own academically-wanting contextualisation of belligerent actions on the Muslims community for decades. The academically-wanting conveyor-belt theory to terrorism has been the go-to theory for the government, counter-extremism “experts” from the Quilliam Foundation and the bigoted Henry Jackson Society.
Roll Out the Government Guardians
Once again the journalists – those responsible for holding the state to account – have assisted in the mental paralysis when it comes to ensuring accountability. The stories have buried the actions of the Mi5 as they focus on the fact that Mohammed Emwazi had been “associated” with “terrorists” prior to him travelling to Syria. Maajid Nawaz claimed “he tried to join al-Shabaab before being questioned by MI5, not afterwards” before the Mi5 intervened. Where did this blatant speculation treated as fact, come from?
No one has ever seen the evidence for these claims, and indeed if such associations existed, which warranted a call to action, why on earth was he not charged under the Terrorism Act? Instead right-wing papers basked in the opportunism of neocons, incidentally funded by hate-financiers. Quilliam researchers whitewashed damning allegations against the security services.
Shiraz Maher on Newsnight (26/02/2015) accused CAGE of making Emwazi a “poster boy” for their narrative. Perhaps he was jealous thikning CAGE were taking a leaf from the neocon book – after all, Michael Adebolajo is the government’s “poster-boy” for their PREVENT narrative. More pertinently, the Washington Post had approached CAGE and they provided the information on him. It was not as if CAGE was lobbying a paper to take their story on him – the details from his casefile was highlighted and their experience of him relayed.
The host on Newsnight went on to ask Cerie Bullivant of CAGE, why he had not gone on to become a terrorist despite the harassment he suffered. Really? Such shoddy questioning? Why on earth would any criminal commit a murder when the vast majority of society do not? Character traits and circumstances vary; Muslims and terrorism, though, are being treated as a monolith. “Simplifying” the narrative a little too much perhaps? Or is that only allowed when Western media perpetuate this?
A “Simplistic Narrative”?
CAGE has been accused by RUSI’s Shashank Joshi of postulating a “simplistic narrative of an innocent man radicalised by the British state.” He states that, “there is evidence to show he was associated with a jihadi network early on and the security services had good reason to watch him.” This has then been repeated elsewhere as highlighted above and on social networks, as the people try to come to terms with the alleged wrongs perpetrated by the security services. Let’s deal with the first part of this claim.
The “simplistic narrative” has been pumped by the government through the PREVENT Strategy, which assumes the world’s ills are caused by ideology, whilst completely ignoring actions of Western governments, both domestically and internationally. On the contrary, CAGE’s Asim Qureshi was emphatic in stating that the State’s actions were contributory, not absolute, in the culmination of the cold brutality witnessed around the world.
Nevertheless, let’s actually recap the accounts that CAGE was able to garner to determine if it was well and truly “simplistic”. As the media began focussing on discrediting CAGE, the following details were ignored:
- He was physically manhandled in Tanzania whilst being told to search for answers in the UK for his treatment,
- He was threatened by a Mi5 agent in Tanzania, whilst being accused of going to Somalia (more on this part later)
- He was threatened again by the same Mi5 agent, this time for not agreeing to work with him:
“You’re going to have a lot of trouble … You’re going to be known … you’re going to be followed … life will be harder for you.”
- He was harassed and cryptically threatened again at Dover, with assertions that he went to Tanzania to fight in Somalia. As a result of their direct actions Emwazi’s marriage was called off.
- After moving to Kuwait he was harassed again by Mi5
- He was stopped and checked at Heathrow upon his return
- His family was harassed in his absence
- He was violently treated in his interrogation in the UK, with the Qur’an being disrespected in the process.
- He was then slammed against the wall, gripped by his beard and strangled.
- The UK blocked his entry in to Kuwait, as a result of which his second marriage fell by the wayside and his job was lost.
- He exhausted all legal and democratic avenues to put an end to his ordeal.
- He was unable to start a new life again, despite changing his name and taking new courses. In 2013, in his final attempt to leave for Kuwait, he was refused entry again and questioned again by the security services.
Having exhausted recourse to the justice system, advocacy group CAGE described his life as being made into that of a prisoner. During this period, in a more detailed account published by CAGE, he also sent videos of Muslims being oppressed; an indication towards the synergy he was beginning to feel between the treatment of Muslims globally and his own predicament.
Travel to Tanzania
His travel to Tanzania has been used to discredit CAGE further and reinforce the “simplistic narrative” allegation. On the contrary, CAGE, as any lawyer would do, highlighted the evidential and logical conundrums in this suggestion. However, this reasoning has been comprehensively ignored.
When interrogated in Tanzania, the allegation was made against him that he intended to fight in Somalia. However, his travel documents (return ticket, booking of a safari trip), his clothing and the logistical difficulty of getting into Somalia whilst cutting across Kenya rendered such an allegation tenuous at best. As CAGE note, the intelligence officers seemed to have accepted this given that they swiftly moved onto attempting to recruit him. One does not recruit terrorists. Such persons are reported to the authorities to be dealt with. The only other option is the suggestion that Mi5 is recruiting would-be terrorists, inherently unstable and already posing a threat to UK public. Surely they wouldn’t, would they?
Furthermore, at Dover, he was told that,
“oh by the way Mohammed, we spoke to your fiancée.”
This reinforces Elemwazi’s account that he wished to start a new life, with a new job and family in Kuwait. It further reinforces the indication that the security services knew he had no intent to “join extremists in Somalia” at that point in time, and clearly wanted to recruit him.
All this did not happen in isolation, “all of sudden”, as has been insinuated in various discussion programmes in the media. This harassment and psychological torture occurred over a three to four year period. If all the Mi5 were doing was “merely” recruiting informants, why were the security services continually hounding Emwazi and making his “life harder”? If they had evidence of his criminality why wasn’t he charged? This isn’t recruitment. This is beyond recruitment. This is punishing a person extra-judicially for non-compliance. If he was known to the security services, how on earth did they allow him to travel across borders, especially given the fact that the security services were preventing his return to Kuwait. If they had control over travel to Kuwait, they certainly would have control over his travels elsewhere. It is as ridiculous as allowing underage girls through the airport without checks; any Muslim can relate to how draconian and invasive the “checks” are for Muslims at airports.
The same set of “failures”, intentional or otherwise, occurred with Michael Adebolajo, who was tortured in Kenya (beaten and threatened with rape and electrocution), allegedly with Mi6 complicity. He was again heckled in the UK. David Cameron has recently ordered another inquiry into the alleged mistreatment of Adebolajo at the hands of the Mi6.
A similar set of questions apply to the case of the Muthana brothers. The security services had met the brothers in Turkey. Why were they allowed to travel to Syria? What was discussed in their meeting in Turkey?
There are many Muslims who have been bullied by the security services. It usually ends up with the “person of interest” meeting said individuals in hotels, or other ominous places and culminates with the person being asked if he is willing to be a spy. Many have been harassed for refusing. It is this latter part which requires attention from the sleeping media. How can one expect the security services to operate within the law, when the Snowden revelations reveal persistent perversion of law. Why is there such a nonchalant dismissal of a suggestion, that Mi5, through its methods, is exasperating radicalisation, when allegations of complicity in torture continue to mount?
“Apologists”! Shooting the Messenger
Raising these questions is not “apologism”; if harassment and bullying of teenagers online can lead to psychological breakdown resulting in suicide, then the security services, fully versed in human psychology and interrogation, serve for a much more dangerous combination of resources and ability. I can’t understand why this has been so difficult for the British public, journalists and hosts to comprehend. This is not finding excuses for the accused, this is trying to understand the factors involved in leading someone down such a destructive path.
Instead the right-wing media has focussed on CAGE’s description of him prior to his “radicalisation” by Mi5 with hilarious headlines suggesting CAGE is describing the killer, as he is now, with positive epithets. Such is the ridiculously blatant skewing of reality by the likes of the Daily Fail and other media outlets.
The claim is to stop radicalisation, yet when uncomfortable facts are presented, which points the finger towards the State, there is dysfunctional peristalsis in swallowing the information.
Emotions are superseding rational discussion and conclusions are being based upon a combination of emotive public perception and selective information. The only cogency in the discourse has been that of CAGE’s position, which has relied on information it has gathered before the revealing of the identity of “Jihadi John”, and taken a position of due process, rule of law, and evidence-based rational argument.
A monster has been created, which frankly is doing little to ease the difficulty of Muslim minorities in the West. A common thread between Emwazi and Adebelajo is harassment and torture. The psychosis being experienced by Western media means that the drastic effects of torture, harassment, and creating an atmosphere of helplessness is being ignored, whilst the context of such actions is shifting to a deflective discourse which is eschewing the root-cause analyses. The Home Office’s RICU department must be working overtime to engineer the rapidly prevailing narrative.
Such alleged invasive, threatening, and continued harassment by the security services – despite a refusal to cooperate – can agitate a situation. It fosters belligerent behaviour born from desperation. This is certainly not keeping Britain safer. If anything, it is endangering our country. Perhaps “harassment by security services” should now be placed in the Channel vulnerability framework as a “signifier” of a person’s propensity toward radicalisation.