Moazzam Begg was imprisoned without charge in Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and then in Guantanamo Bay.
He suffered torture and has been hounded by the state for years—and knows what it is like to be vilified by the media.
Moazzam is director of Cage, an organisation which campaigns for detainees.
The media has attacked Cage for saying that “Jihadi John”, now named as Mohammed Emwazi, was radicalised after persecution by the British security services.
But Moazzam is defiant—and says it is important to understand the context of the situation.
“I personally believe that while he was clearly pushed and alienated by the way he was treated in Britain, that that is not enough,” Moazzam told Socialist Worker.
“In the end he is responsible for what he did in Syria.
“The nine people he beheaded were innocent from whatever angle you look at it.‘Jihadi John’s’ orders didn’t come from Britain, they came from Isis.
“And where did Isis come from? Who produced the conditions that allowed Al Qaida to flourish in Iraq?”
Moazzam said the West’s war in Iraq and the brutality of the occupation led to the creation of Al Qaida and later Isis.
“America and Britain invaded Iraq on the basis of information they got from torture,” Moazzam explained. They used it as an excuse to do what they wanted to do.
“There was no Al Qaida in Iraq in 2003. So the intelligence services may not be responsible directly for ‘Jihadi John’s’ actions, but they are responsible indirectly.”
The US and Britain invaded Iraq to reassert control over the region.
A unified resistance looked likely to push the imperialist invaders out so they used divide and rule tactics to set different groups of Iraqis against each other.
Moazzam has experienced the West’s brutality firsthand.
When he was held at Bagram he was stripped naked by soldiers, spat at, punched and kicked. Dogs were also brought in to salivate over prisoners.
And last year he was thrown into prison accused of supporting terrorism—when he was working for the release of Isis hostage Alan Henning.
“Jihadi John” first became known when he executed the British aid worker.
“The foreign office refused to allow me to make a televised appeal on his behalf,” Moazzam said. “It thwarted my attempts. It said that it sent my letter through private channels to Isis. What private channels did it have to Isis?”
He said that the racist backlash in the media is part of an Islamophobic agenda that goes right to the top.
“The Islamophobic, racist, anti-immigrant media is milking it,” he said. “It is suggesting that the terror threat is much worse than it is. They are using the language of fear. Racists have now put on suits and are slowly getting more acceptable.”
But Moazzam is confident that we can take them on if we refuse to let them divide us.
“We must expose them as the racists they are, as the Islamophobes they are and as the supporters of the ruling elite that they are,” he said.
“This government understands the politics of divide and rule.
“They are trying to turn us against one another.
“People showed how to respond in Newcastle last weekend when they came together against the racists in Pegida.
“It reminds us that they are few and we are many.”