Socialist Worker

State terror and West’s wars helped create an Isis fighter

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2443

Police outside a mosque following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in 2013

Police outside a mosque following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in 2013 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The revelation that the Isis executioner known in the Western media as “Jihadi John” was Londoner Mohammed Emwazi has unleashed a new flood of Islamophobia.

Emwazi moved to Britain with his family from Kuwait when he was six years old and grew up in west London.

He has achieved notoriety for beheading prisoners in videos for Isis. One former classmate said, “I don’t know what happened in his life to turn him into this.”

Emwazi’s family came to Britain after the Western victory in first Gulf war. But anyone who tried to point to the West’s wars or state persecution of Muslims to give context for his actions has been vilified.

The media singled out detainees’ rights organisation Cage for attack. 

A spokesperson said that Emwazi had been driven to violence after persecution from British intelligence and before this he had been “extremely gentle”.

It showed how MI5 had attempted to recruit him.

Cage had earlier revealed that Michael Adebolajo, who killed soldier Lee Rigby, had also been targeted for recruitment by MI5.


Emwazi was so distressed by his treatment that he told the Daily Mail newspaper in 2010 and 2011 that he was considering killing himself. 

He told the paper, “I’ll take as many pills as I can so that I will sleep for ever.”

Yet commentators including Labour’s Yvette Cooper have complained that stronger anti-terrorism laws are needed.

The media tried to decide whether he had been radicalised at school or university. 

The government has just passed its Prevent strategy against radicalisation into law. It has reaffirmed that it is banning people who promote “hate speech” in schools and colleges.

Mohammed Kozbar is vice president of the Muslim Association of Britain and chair of the Finsbury Park mosque. He told Socialist Worker. “They say that no one who promotes hate speech can talk. But what does that mean?

“Just last week I was at a meeting where someone got up and said I should not be allowed to speak. He didn’t know me or my views.”

Mohammed said this was an attempt to silence Muslims.

“Some people want to stop Muslims speaking regardless of their views on different issues,” he explained.

“Look at my mosque. Women are more active than men. The women’s committee has good relationships with women at the local churches. It has arranged visits to synagogues. But the media doesn’t want to know about this side.”

He urged people to take to the streets against racism.

“I think the Stand Up to Racism demonstrations on Saturday 21 March are important. 

“We don’t want to go back to things we’ve experienced before—against Jewish people or black people.”

Right tries to whip up a frenzy around migrants

The right wing press is outraged because the government has failed to meet its immigration targets. Net immigration rose to 300,000 last year, yet the government had promised it would fall. 

In 2011 David Cameron said immigration would be reduced to “tens of thousands each year, not the hundreds of thousands every year that we have seen over the last decade”.

The Tories want the advantages of more workers coming but also want to stir up racism to distract workers from blaming them for austerity. And Sun newspaper columnist Trevor Kavanagh spun together immigration and terrorism on Monday of this week. 

He admitted that most migrants are from the European Union but claimed “large numbers are Muslims with shadowy pasts and dubious loyalties.” He concluded that immigration is “the elephant in the room”.

A few days earlier the paper’s columnist Kelvin MacKenzie ranted, “The old saying that not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims has never been truer.” 

He managed to distort the finding of a recent poll showing that most British Muslims identify with Britain. 

He suggested that anyone who sympathised with the reasons why the Charlie Hebdo attackers were angry automatically supported the killings. 

Immigration and security minister James Brokenshire responded to the figures.

He said they were “disappointing” and that “Uncontrolled, mass immigration makes it difficult to maintain social cohesion, puts pressure on public services and can force down wages.”

But even a major study by the London School of Economics found last week that this was not true. It said that immigration did not force down wages or lead to unemployment.

Where has Isis come from?

The Islamist group Isis is a product of the West’s imperialist wars and the impact of counter-revolution in the region. Its reactionary, sectarian politics gained support in the aftermath of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. 

Sunni and Shia Muslims were played off against each other and a Shia-dominated government was installed.  

The Western-backed Iraqi regime crushed popular resistance and Isis emerged as the strongest Sunni opposition force. 

In Syria the rise of Isis has been fuelled by the success of the counter-revolution of dictator, Bashar al-Assad. Assad was happy to see Isis forces attack the popular revolt that posed a threat to his power. 

Isis had been backed by Gulf regimes desperate to see an end to revolution in the region. Now they support the West’s latest intervention by bombing Isis forces they all helped grow. 

‘We won’t spy on students’

The government’s Prevent strategy makes it a legal requirement for teachers, lecturers, landlords and benefits staff to report behaviour that could be related to “radicalisation”.

Sean Vernell is the secretary of the lecturers’ UCU union at City and Islington College in north London. 

He told Socialist Worker, “The government says it is stopping ‘hate speech’ in our universities and colleges. But what it is really asking is for lecturers to spy on their students. The Tory strategy is targeting Muslims. 

“UCU is completely opposed to scapegoating Muslims and UCU reps will be organising against it.” 

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.