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‘Jihadi John’ was able to join IS for one simple reason: from Quilliam to al-Muhajiroun, Britain’s loudest extremists have been groomed by the security services. Every time there’s a terrorist attack that makes national headlines, the same talking heads seem to pop up like an obscene game of “whack-a-mole”. Often they appear one after the other across the media circuit, bobbing from celebrity television pundit to erudite newspaper outlet.

A few years ago, BBC Newsnight proudly hosted a “debate” between Maajid Nawaz, director of counter-extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation, and Anjem Choudary, head of the banned Islamist group formerly known as al-Muhajiroun, which has, since its proscription, repeatedly reincarnated itself. One of its more well-known recent incarnations was "Islam4UK".

Both Nawaz and Choudary have received huge mainstream media attention, generating press headlines, and contributing to major TV news and current affairs shows. But unbeknown to most, they have one thing in common: Britain’s security services. And believe it or not, that bizarre fact explains why the Islamic State’s (IS) celebrity beheader, former west Londoner Mohammed Emwazi – aka “Jihadi John” - got to where he is now.

A tale of two extremists

After renouncing his affiliation with the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), Maajid Nawaz co-founded the Quilliam Foundation with his fellow ex-Hizb member, Ed Husain.

The Quilliam Foundation was set-up by Husain and Nawaz in 2008 with significant British government financial support. Its establishment received a massive PR boost from the release of Ed Husain’s memoirs, The Islamist, which rapidly became an international bestseller, generating hundreds of reviews, interviews and articles.

In Ed Husain’s book - much like Maajid Nawaz’s tome Radical released more recently to similar fanfare - Husain recounts his journey from aggrieved young Muslim into Islamist activist, and eventually his total rejection of Islamist ideology.

Both accounts of their journeys of transformation offer provocative and genuine insights. But the British government has played a much more direct role in crafting those accounts than either they, or the government, officially admit.

Government ghostwriters

In late 2013, I interviewed a former senior researcher at the Home Office who revealed that Husain’s The Islamist was “effectively ghostwritten in Whitehall”.

The official told me that in 2006, he was informed by a government colleague “with close ties” to Jack Straw and Gordon Brown that “the draft was written by Ed but then ‘peppered’ by government input”. The civil servant told him “he had seen ‘at least five drafts of the book, and the last one was dramatically different from the first.’”

The draft had, the source said, been manipulated in an explicitly political, pro-government manner. The committee that had input into Ed Husain’s manuscript prior to its official publication included senior government officials from No. 10 Downing Street, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the intelligence services, Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Home Office.

When I put the question, repeatedly, to Ed Husain as to the veracity of these allegations, he did not respond. I also asked Nawaz whether he was aware of the government’s role in “ghostwriting” Husain’s prose, and whether he underwent a similar experience in the production of Radical. He did not respond either.

While Husain was liaising with British government and intelligence officials over The Islamist from 2006 until the book’s publication in May 2007, his friend Nawaz was at first in prison in Egypt. Nawaz was eventually released in March 2006, declaring his departure from HT just a month before the publication of Husain’s book. Husain took credit for being the prime influence on Nawaz’s decision, and by November 2007, had joined with him becoming Quilliam’s director with Husain as his deputy.

Yet according to Husain, Nawaz played a role in determining parts of the text of The Islamist in the same year it was being edited by government officials. “Before publication, I discussed with my friend and brother-in-faith Maajid the passages in the book,” wrote Husain about the need to verify details of their time in HT.

This is where the chronology of Husain’s and Nawaz’s accounts begin to break down. In Radical, and repeatedly in interviews about his own deradicalisation process, Nawaz says that he firmly and decisively rejected HT’s Islamist ideology while in prison in Egypt. Yet upon his release and return to Britain, Nawaz showed no sign of having reached that decision. Instead, he did the opposite. In April 2006, Nawaz told Sarah Montague on BBC Hardtalk that his detention in Egypt had “convinced [him] even more… that there is a need to establish this Caliphate as soon as possible.” From then on, Nawaz, who was now on HT’s executive committee, participated in dozens of talks and interviews in which he vehemently promoted the Hizb.

I first met Nawaz at a conference on 2 December 2006 organised by the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) on the theme of “reclaiming our rights”. I had spoken on a panel about the findings of my book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, on how British state collusion with Islamist extremists had facilitated the 7/7 attacks. Nawaz had attended the event as an audience member with two other senior HT activists, and in our brief conversation, he spoke of his ongoing work with HT in glowing terms.

By January 2007, Nawaz was at the front of a HT protest at the US embassy in London, condemning US military operations in Iraq and Somalia. He delivered a rousing speech at the protest, demanding an end to “colonial intervention in the Muslim world,” and calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate to stand up to such imperialism and end Western support for dictators.

Yet by his own account, throughout this very public agitation on behalf of HT from mid-2006 onwards, Nawaz had in fact rejected the very ideology he was preaching so adamantly. Indeed, in the same period, he was liaising with his friend, Ed Husain – who at that time was still in Jeddah – and helping him with the text of his anti-HT manifesto, The Islamist, which was also being vetted at the highest levels of government.

The British government’s intimate, and secret, relationship with Husain in the year before the publication of his book in 2007 shows that, contrary to his official biography, the Quilliam Foundation founder was embedded in Whitehall long before he was on the public radar. How did he establish connections at this level?

MI5’s Islamist

According to Dr Noman Hanif, a lecturer in international terrorism and political Islam at Birkbeck College, University of London, and an expert on Hizb ut-Tahrir, the group’s presence in Britain likely provided many opportunities for Western intelligence to “penetrate or influence” the movement.

Dr Hanif, whose doctoral thesis was about the group, points out that Husain’s tenure inside HT by his own account occurred “under the leadership of Omar Bakri Mohammed,” the controversial cleric who left the group in 1996 to found al-Muhajiroun, a militant network which to this day has been linked to every major terrorist plot in Britain.

Bakri’s leadership of HT, said Dr Hanif, formed “the most conceptually deviant period of HT’s existence in the UK, diverting quite sharply away from its core ideas,” due to Bakri’s advocacy of violence and his focus on establishing an Islamic state in the UK, goals contrary to HT doctrines.

When Bakri left HT and set-up al-Muhajiroun in 1996, according to John Loftus, a former US Army intelligence officer and Justice Department prosecutor, Bakri was immediately recruited by MI6 to facilitate Islamist activities in the Balkans. And not just Bakri, but also Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was recently convicted in the US on terrorism charges.

When Bakri founded al-Muhajiroun in 1996 with the blessings of Britain’s security services, his co-founder was Anjem Choudary. Choudary was intimately involved in the programme to train and send Britons to fight abroad, and three years later, would boast to the Sunday Telegraph that “some of the training does involve guns and live ammunition”.

Historian Mark Curtis, in his seminal work, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, documents how under this arrangement, Bakri trained hundreds of Britons at camps in the UK and the US, and dispatched them to join al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya.

Shortly before the 2005 London bombings, Ron Suskind, a Wall Street Journal Pulitizer Prize winning investigative reporter, was told by a senior MI5 official that Bakri was a longtime informant for the secret service who “had helped MI5 on several of its investigations”. Bakri, Suskind adds in his book, The Way of the World, reluctantly conceded the relationship in an interview in Beirut - but Suskind gives no indication that the relationship ever ended.

A senior terrorism lawyer in London who has represented clients in several high-profile terrorism cases told me that both Bakri and Choudary had regular meetings with MI5 officers in the 1990s. The lawyer, who works for a leading firm of solicitors and has regularly liaised with MI5 in the administration of closed court hearings involving secret evidence, said: “Omar Bakri had well over 20 meetings with MI5 from around 1993 to the late 1990s. Anjem Choudary apparently participated in such meetings toward the latter part of the decade. This was actually well-known amongst several senior Islamist leaders in Britain at the time.”

According to Dr Hanif of Birkbeck College, Bakri’s relationship with the intelligence services likely began during his “six-year reign as HT leader in Britain,” which would have “provided British intelligence ample opportunity” to “widely infiltrate the group”. HT had already been a subject of MI6 surveillance abroad “because of its core level of support in Jordan and the consistent level of activity in other areas of the Middle East for over five decades."

At least some HT members appear to have been aware of Bakri’s intelligence connections, including, it seems, Ed Husain himself. In one passage in The Islamist (p. 116), Husain recounts: “We were also concerned about Omar’s application for political asylum… I raised this with Bernie [another HT member] too. ‘Oh no’, he said, ‘On the contrary. The British are like snakes; they manoeuvre carefully. They need Omar in Britain. More likely, Omar will be the ambassador for the khilafah here or leave to reside in the Islamic state. The kuffar know that - allowing Omar to stay in Britain will give them a good start, a diplomatic advantage, when they have to deal with the Islamic state. Having Omar serves them well for the future. MI5 knows exactly what we’re doing, what we’re about, and yet they have in effect, given us the green light to operate in Britain.”

Husain left HT after Bakri in August 2007. According to Faisal Haque, a British government civil servant and former HT member who knew Ed Husain during his time in the group, Husain had a strong “personal relationship” with Bakri. He did not leave HT for “ideological reasons,” said Haque. “It was more to do with his close personal relationship with Omar Bakri (he left when Bakri was kicked out), pressure from his father and other personal reasons which I don’t want to mention.”

Husain later went on to work for the British Council in the Middle East. From 2003 to 2005, he was in Damascus. During that period, by his own admission, he informed on other British members of HT for agitating against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, resulting in them being deported by Syrian authorities back to Britain. At this time, the CIA and MI6 routinely cooperated with Assad on extraordinary rendition programmes.

Husain then worked for the British Council in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from late 2005 to the end of 2006.

Throughout that year, according to the former Home Office official I spoke to, Husain was in direct contact with senior Whitehall officials who were vetting his manuscript for The Islamist. By November, Husain posted on DeenPort, an online discussion forum, a now deleted comment referring off-hand to the work of “the secret services” inside HT: “Even within HT in Britain today, there is a huge division between modernisers and more radical elements. The secret services are hopeful that the modernisers can tame the radicals… I foresee another split. And God knows best. I have said more than I should on this subject! Henceforth, my lips are sealed!”

Shortly after, Maajid Nawaz would declare his departure from HT, and would eventually be joined at Quilliam by several others from the group, many of whom according to Nawaz had worked with him and Husain as “a team” behind the scenes at this time.

The ‘ex-jihadists’ who weren’t

Perhaps the biggest problem with Husain’s and Nawaz’s claim to expertise on terrorism was that they were never jihadists. Hizb ut-Tahrir is a non-violent movement for the establishment of a global “caliphate” through social struggle, focusing on the need for political activism in the Muslim world. Whatever the demerits of this rigid political ideology, it had no relationship to the phenomenon of al-Qaeda terrorism.

Nevertheless, Husain and Nawaz, along with their government benefactors, were convinced that those personal experiences of  “radicalisation” and “deradicalisation” could by transplanted into the ongoing “war on terror” - even though, in reality neither of them had any idea about the dynamics of an actual terrorist network, and the radicalisation process leading to violent extremism. The result was an utterly misguided and evidence-devoid obsession with rejecting non-violent extremist ideologies as the primary means to prevent terrorism.

Through the Quilliam Foundation, Husain’s and Nawaz’s fundamentalist ideas about non-violent extremism went on to heavily influence official counter-terrorism discourses across the Western world. This was thanks to its million pounds worth of government seed-funding, intensive media coverage, as well as the government pushing Quilliam’s directors and staff to provide “deradicalisation training” to government and security officials in the US and Europe.

In the UK, Quilliam’s approach was taken up by various centre-right and right-wing think-tanks, such as the Centre for Social Cohesion (CCS) and Policy Exchange, all of which played a big role in influencing the government’s Preventing Violent Extremism programme (Prevent).

Exactly how bankrupt this approach is, however, can be determined from Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to express his understanding of the risk from non-violent extremism, a major feature of the coalition government’s Orwellian new Counter-Terrorism and Security Act. The latter establishes unprecedented powers of electronic surveillance and the basis for the “Prevent duty,” which calls for all public sector institutions to develop “risk-assessment” profiles of individuals deemed to be “at-risk” of being drawn into non-violent extremism.

In his speech at the UN last year, Cameron explained that counter-terrorism measures must target people who may not “encourage violence, but whose worldview can be used as a justification for it.” As examples of dangerous ideas at the “root cause” of terrorism, Cameron pinpointed “conspiracy theories,” and most outrageously, “The idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy.”

In other words, if you believe, for instance, that US and British forces have deliberately conducted brutal military operations across the Muslim world resulting in the foreseeable deaths of countless innocent civilians, you are a non-violent extremist.

In an eye-opening academic paper published last year, French terrorism expert and Interior Ministry policy officer Dr Claire Arenes, noted that: “By definition, one may know if radicalisation has been violent only once the point of violence has been reached, at the end of the process. Therefore, since the end-term of radicalisation cannot be determined in advance, a policy intended to fight violent radicalisation entails a structural tendency to fight any form of radicalisation.”

It is precisely this moronic obsession with trying to detect and stop “any form of radicalisation,” however non-violent, that is hampering police and security investigations and overloading them with nonsense “risks”.

Double game

At this point, the memorable vision of Nawaz and Choudary facing off on BBC Newsnight appears not just farcical, but emblematic of how today’s national security crisis has been fuelled and exploited by the bowels of the British secret state.

Over the last decade or so - the very same period that the British state was grooming the “former jihadists who weren’t” so they could be paraded around the media-security-industrial complex bigging up the non-threat of “non-violent extremism” - the CIA and MI6 were coordinating Saudi-led funding to al-Qaeda affiliated extremists across the Middle East and Central Asia to counter Iranian Shiite influence.

From 2005 onwards, US and British intelligence services encouraged a range of covert operations to support Islamist opposition groups, including militants linked to al-Qaeda, to undermine regional Iranian and Syrian influence. By 2009, the focus of these operations shifted to Syria.

As I documented in written evidence to a UK Parliamentary inquiry into Prevent in 2010, one of the recipients of such funding was none other than Omar Bakri, who at the time told one journalist: “Today, angry Lebanese Sunnis ask me to organise their jihad against the Shiites… Al-Qaeda in Lebanon… are the only ones who can defeat Hezbollah.” Simultaneously, Bakri was regularly in touch with his deputy, Anjem Choudary, over the internet and even delivered online speeches to his followers in Britain instructing them to join IS and murder civilians. He has now been detained and charged by Lebanese authorities for establishing terror cells in the country.

Bakri was also deeply involved “with training the mujahideen [fighters] in camps on the Syrian borders and also on the Palestine side." The trainees included four British Islamists “with professional backgrounds” who would go on to join the war in Syria. Bakri also claimed to have trained “many fighters,” including people from Germany and France, since arriving in Lebanon. Was Mohammed Emwazi among them? Last year, Bakri disciple Mizanur Rahman confirmed that at least five European Muslims who had died fighting under IS in Syria had been Bakri acolytes.

Nevertheless in 2013, it was David Cameron who lifted the arms embargo to support Syria's rebels. We now know that most of our military aid went to al-Qaeda affiliated Islamists, many with links to extremists at home. The British government itself acknowledged that a “substantial number” of Britons were fighting in Syria, who “will seek to carry out attacks against Western interests... or in Western states”.

Yet according to former British counterterrorism intelligence officer Charles Shoebridge, despite this risk, authorities “turned a blind eye to the travelling of its own jihadists to Syria, notwithstanding ample video etc. evidence of their crimes there,” because it “suited the US and UK’s anti-Assad foreign policy”.

This terror-funnel is what enabled people like Emwazi to travel to Syria and join up with IS - despite being on an MI5 terror watch-list. He had been blocked by the security services from traveling to Kuwait in 2010: why not Syria? Shoebridge, who was a British Army officer before joining the Metropolitan Police, told me that although such overseas terrorism has been illegal in the UK since 2006, “it’s notable that only towards the end of 2013 when IS turned against the West’s preferred rebels, and perhaps also when the tipping point between foreign policy usefulness and MI5 fears of domestic terrorist blowback was reached, did the UK authorities begin to take serious steps to tackle the flow of UK jihadists.”

The US-UK direct and tacit support for jihadists, Shoebridge said, had made Syria the safest place for regional terrorists fearing drone strikes “for more than two years”. Syria was “the only place British jihadists could fight without fear of US drones or arrest back home… likely because, unlike if similar numbers of UK jihadists had been travelling to for example Yemen or Afghanistan, this suited the anti-Assad policy.”

Having watched its own self-fulfilling prophecy unfold with horrifying precision in a string of IS-linked terrorist atrocities against Western hostages and targets, the government now exploits the resulting mayhem to vindicate its bankrupt “counter-extremism” narrative, promoted by hand-picked state-groomed “experts” like Husain and Nawaz.

Their prescription, predictably, is to expand the powers of the police state to identify and “deradicalise” anyone who thinks British foreign policy in the Muslim world is callous, self-serving and indifferent to civilian deaths. Government sources confirm that Nawaz’s input played a key role in David Cameron’s thinking on non-violent extremism, and the latest incarnation of the Prevent strategy; while last year, Husain was, ironically, appointed to the Foreign Office advisory group on freedom of religion or belief.

Meanwhile, Bakri’s deputy Choudary continues to inexplicably run around as Britain’s resident “terror cleric” media darling. His passport belatedly confiscated after a recent pointless police arrest that avoided charging him, he remains free to radicalise thick-headed British Muslims into joining IS, in the comfort that his hate speech will be broadcast widely, no doubt fueling widespread generic suspicion of British Muslims.

If only we could round up the Quilliam and al-Muhajiroun fanatics together, shove them onto a boat, and send them all off cruising to the middle of nowhere, they could have all the fun they want “radicalising” and “deradicalising” each other to their hearts content. And we might get a little peace. And perhaps we could send their handlers with them, too.

Nafeez Ahmed PhD, is an investigative journalist, international security scholar and bestselling author who tracks what he calls the 'crisis of civilization.' He is a winner of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian reporting on the intersection of global ecological, energy and economic crises with regional geopolitics and conflicts. He has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.


As reports identify ‘Jihadi John’ to be Londoner Mohammed Emwazi, concern is being raised over the effects of his treatment at the hands of the British security services, prior to his alleged transformation to ISIS poster-boy. This comes as it is revealed that Emwazi contemplated suicide as a direct result of his ordeal in shocking email exchanges with a Mail on Sunday journalist, where he states, “Sometimes i feel like im a dead man walking, not fearing they (MI5) may kill me…Rather, fearing that one day, I’ll take as many pills as I can so that I can sleep for ever!! I just want to get away from these people!!!’

David Cameron has condemned “reprehensible” comments by campaign group Cage after it blamed MI5 for radicalising Jihadi John.

The campaign group was criticised after accusing the British security services of “systematically” harassing young Muslims, leaving them with no legal avenue to redress their situation.

However, when historical and contemporary cases are observed, we see that disproportionate and heavy handed tactics of security forces consistently ferments anger, unfortunately a key contributor to further criminal violence. The government and mainstream media’s attempt to provide cover for institutional misconduct and divorce the connection between state harassment and violence simply fails to account for the available information.

If lasting security is to be achieved, a sincere study must be conducted to understand whether the aggressive approach by security forces solves the problem of  “radicalisation” or exacerbates it.

Irish ‘Troubles’ and Internment

Blowback from individuals and communities who suffered from unjust policies is not new. During the early hours of August 9,1971 British authorities launched “Operation Demetrius”, marking the reintroduction of internment to Northern Ireland. Internment was the imprisonment or confinement of enemy citizens in wartime or of terrorism suspects. In a statement made to the BBC later that day, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland Brian Faulkner said that the government was “quite simply at war with the terrorist…the terrorists’ campaign continues at an unacceptable level and I have to conclude that the ordinary law cannot deal comprehensively or quickly enough with such ruthless violence. I have therefore decided…to exercise where necessary the powers of detention and internment vested in me as Minister of Home Affairs.”

Throughout Northern Ireland, police and members of the military rounded up 342 men suspected of being republican terrorists.  Those arrested could be held indefinitely without trial.  According to Faulkner, who explained that the decision to reintroduce internment to Northern Ireland was in response to the “escalating violence and increased bombing in the province and the threat to Northern Ireland’s economy,” the main focus of Operation Demetrius was the Irish Republican Army.  The action, however, would prove to be a complete and total failure.

Internment sparked four days of violence in which 20 civilians were killed and thousands were forced to flee their homes. Seventeen civilians were killed by British soldiers – 11 of them in the Ballymurphy Massacre. No loyalists were included in the sweep and many of those arrested were ordinary Catholics with no IRA links. Many also reported that they and their families were assaulted, verbally abused and threatened by soldiers. The operation led to mass protests and a sharp increase in violence over the following months. Internment lasted until December 1975 and during that time 1,981 people were interned.

The New York Times called the level of violence “the worst in the miserable recent history of Northern Ireland,” saying “the factors that produced the gunmen are all still there – and probably made worse by the new security measures.”

‘Jihadi John’

Despite such a tragic period in recent British history, it is peculiar to see that in the new “War on Terror”, the contributing factors between oppressive security measures and violence by Muslim individuals is disregarded.

In a damning indictment of the mass surveillance measures and policy to criminalise Islamic ideas, years of MI5 monitoring of Emwazi failed to identify him as a potential threat. As with any study in criminology, how can the trajectory of events prior to Emwazi’s radicalisation be ignored?

Emwazi first came to CAGE in 2009 after being detained, interrogated with attempts to recruit him by MI5 on what was meant to be a safari holiday to Tanzania. Thereafter, the harassment continued and intensified which led to him losing two fiancée’s, his job and new life in Kuwait. The harassment and abuse he suffered, was all without criminal charges ever being brought against him, with the legal remedies available to him failing, he attempted to start a new life abroad in Kuwait only to be blocked by the UK security agencies continually.

He was told: “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.” In 2013 he was missing, suspected of being in Syria.

While making it clear that “nobody is apologising or trying to make an excuse” for Emwazi’s alleged beheadings, Cage’s Cerie Bullivant said it was important to debate the causes of radicalism. He added that British discourse on the issue had “failed to look at the causes of radicalisation in an honest manner” for years, and said perpetrators of attacks often quote foreign policy as “the key pushed“, as well as harassment and domestic policy.

“We keep on ignoring that, it’s not about justify it, its about looking at the causes of it so we can make everybody safer, both here and abroad,” he said.

However, we are being presented with a picture of the world which continues to defend and inculcate the economic, social and political agendas of the privileged groups that dominate the domestic economy, and who therefore also largely control the government.

In her response, Mr Cameron’s official spokeswoman attacked the comments by Cage in the strongest possible terms. Effectively shutting out any room for criticism or accountability of the intelligence services, she said: “It is completely reprehensible to suggest that anyone who carries out such brutal murders – they are the ones responsible and we should not be seeking to put blame on other people, particularly those who are working to keep British citizens safe.

“The people responsible for these murders are the people we are seeing in the videos.””

Road to Radicalisation

Unfortunately, Emwazi’s story is not unique.

A case which has been cited frequently in the press and groups representing Muslims is that of a Muslim man who was detained by police in London. He was forced to prostrate with his arms in his cuffs, and asked ‘where is your God now?’ It is alleged that the detainee suffered over forty injuries including a black eye and severe bruising. Such treatment has the potential to push certain individuals to react unjustly through acts of violence.

Reports often point to MI5 officers falsely accusing Muslims of links to Islamic extremism. On each occasion the agents said they would lift the travel restrictions and threat of detention in return for their co-operation. When the men refused some of them received what they say were intimidating phone calls and threats. Some cases were brought to British MP Frank Dobson whereupon he concluded, “…it seems that from what I have seen some of their (security services’) methods may be counter-productive.”

More prominently, after Lee Rigby was killed in Woolwich, it was soon revealed that the murderer Michael Adebolajo had already been known to MI5 for eight years! Claims were made that “Michael Adebolajo was tortured in Kenya and harassed by MI5 – who asked him to spy for them” as reported by the Guardian Newspaper 25/5/13

The recent revelations have also led senior Conservative MP David Davis to accuse the British intelligence agencies of using “ineffectual” tactics.

He said,“Given the numbers who appear to have slipped through the net, it is legitimate to ask: how many more people must die before we start to look more closely at the strategy of our intelligence services?

“The problem is not new. The fact is that the intelligence services have long utilised tactics that have proved ineffective.

“The issue dates back at least to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, where the intelligence agencies relied on disruption and interference more than prosecution and imprisonment.”

Mr Davis went on to say that the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which will look into MI5’s handling of the case, had “shown itself incapable of holding the intelligence agencies to account“.

This understanding was compounded by a major study on the link between community relations and counterterrorism published in December 2006. In it the think-tank Demos concluded that the, “growing sense of grievance, anger and injustice (among British Muslims) inadvertently legitimises the terrorists’ aims”.

If the security services are blackmailing, bullying and alienating British Muslims who are then found engaging in brutal acts in Woolwich or Syria, it is counter-productive for British society to neglect the contribution and not prevent it.


Of course there are those who would prefer not to talk or even think about such things; who would rather continue with the divisive and dangerous policies like Prevent, anti-toddler radicalisation programs and Trojan horses; who only want to work with opportunists like the government’s pet Muslim think-tanks; who would prefer to talk about ‘death cults’ and ‘preachers of hate’ rather than consider that the actions of the British state may have contributed to the mess it is in.

With the anti-terror policy under fresh scrutiny, frenzied reactions and statements from the politicians and the media alike amounts to little more than the establishment absolving itself of any blame – whether they are foreign policy disgraces or the oppressive and unaccountable actions of their security services. Sincere attempts to analyse the events leading up to Emwazi’s alleged transformation is depicted as empathy for ISIS. When reviewing the actions of the authorities it is claimed that only the people in the videos are responsible.

Yet how much time, energy and resources have been spent studying and dissecting the causes of radicalisation through government officials and self-styled ‘experts’ as long as the blame was fixed onto Muslims and Islamic values. It is the dominance of this discourse that has materialised into David Cameron’s much espoused “conveyor-belt” theory and draconian legislation which collectively punishes an entire community; a duplicitous approach, tied only to political expediency.

Unless a serious investigation is not undertaken to acknowledge the empirical data, the establishment will continue to have a role – intended or unintended – in the unsavoury paths of many would-be Jihadis. Any calls for perpetuating heavy handed security measures only echo the disastrous policies of Northern Ireland, which is widely recognised to have alienated communities and only promoted support for paramilitarism.

Sean Rayment, Sunday Telegraph

Deep inside the heart of the "Green Zone", the heavily fortified administrative compound in Baghdad, lies one of the most carefully guarded secrets of the war in Iraq. It is a cell from a small and anonymous British Army unit that goes by the deliberately meaningless name of the Joint Support Group (JSG), and it has proved to be one of the Coalition's most effective and deadly weapons in the fight against terror.

The JSG was formed in the '80s to tackle the IRA

Its members - servicemen and women of all ranks recruited from all three of the Armed Forces - are trained to turn hardened terrorists into coalition spies using methods developed on the mean streets of Ulster during the Troubles, when the Army managed to infiltrate the IRA at almost every level. Since war broke out in Iraq in 2003, they have been responsible for running dozens of Iraqi double agents.

Working alongside the Special Air Service and the American Delta Force as part of the Baghdad-based counter-terrorist unit known as Task Force Black, they have supplied intelligence that has saved hundreds of lives and resulted in some of the most notable successes against the myriad terror groups fighting in Iraq. Only last week, intelligence from the JSG is understood to have led to a series of successful operations against Sunni militia groups in southern Baghdad.

Information obtained by the unit is also understood to have inspired one of the most successful operations carried out by Task Force Black, in November 2005, when SAS snipers shot dead three suicide bombers.

The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq up until his death in June last year, followed intelligence obtained by the JSG, as did the rescue of the kidnapped peace campaigner, Norman Kember.

advertisement"The JSG is the coalition's secret weapon," revealed one defence source. "Their job is to recruit and run covert human intelligence sources or agents - we never use the term informer. The Americans are in awe of the unit because they have nothing like them within their military."

During the Troubles, the JSG operated under the cover name of the Force Research Unit (FRU), which between the early 1980s and the late 1990s managed to penetrate the very heart of the IRA. By targeting and then "turning" members of the paramilitary organisation with a variety of "inducements" ranging from blackmail to bribes, the FRU operators developed agents at virtually every command level within the IRA.

The unit was renamed following the Stevens Inquiry into allegations of collusion between the security forces and protestant paramilitary groups, and, until relatively recently continued to work exclusively in Northern Ireland.

The JSG recruits men and women of any rank from all three services up to the age of 42. Volunteers attend a two week pre-selection course where those not in possession of the unique set of skills required to handle agents successfully are weeded out.

Candidates who get through pre-selection then spend the next four months at the Intelligence Corps headquarters at Chicksands, Bedfordshire, being taught driving and close-quarter battle skills - operators must be capable of using a wide variety of weapons but must be expert shots with a pistol.

But most important of all, -volunteers must be able to befriend people they may actually despise, win their trust and persuade them to become agents, which in some cases will mean getting them to inform on friends and relatives. Those who eventually pass the course can expect to be posted to Baghdad, Basra and Afghanistan.

Sources have told The Sunday Telegraph that in Baghdad intelligence is obtained in a variety of ways. Some of it comes through phone calls to a confidential hot-line where callers can either talk to a member of the JSG or arrange a meeting inside the "Green Zone". It is too dangerous for operators to meet agents at a secret rendezvous in other parts of the city.

With so many Iraqis entering the zone every day, those who want to pass on information can do so with a certain amount of anonymity. But a risk still remains. All potential agents are warned that anyone suspected of being a coalition spy will be tortured before being murdered. If he is married, his wife will be gang-raped in front of their children, who will in all probability also be murdered, they are told. Despite the risks, JSG operators deal with dozens of Iraqis every week who are -prepared, for a variety of reasons, to become informers.

"Some Iraqis come to us because they are simply fed up with the violence," said one source. "They may have had -members of their families -murdered, tortured or kidnapped. Unlike much of the middle class which has already fled the country, they may be too poor to leave and so they come to us to see if they can make a difference.

"They may have a little bit of information or detailed knowledge of a planned attack. We also have to deal with terrorists and that presents us with a difficulty. We are happy for them to pass us information but it is made absolutely clear to them that as a member of a terrorist group they are criminals and they should cease all activity immediately - we have had cases where Shia or Sunni men have provided us with information and as part of the debriefing process we have discovered that they are terrorists themselves. We warn them that they are running the risk of being killed or captured and that they should get themselves into a position within the organisation where they will not be directly involved in murder."

To senior American officers in Baghdad, the JSG is playing a vital role in the most important theatre of the war on terror.

"In many respects, Afghanistan is a side issue and that is something the Americans understand better than British politicians," said a source. "Ask any senior officer in Baghdad, given a choice, which war would they be prepared to lose and they will say the war in Afghanistan.

"In many respects the war in Iraq has redefined insurgent warfare. Think of the very worst of Northern Ireland combined with the very worst of the Balkans and you are coming close to life on a daily basis in Baghdad. The situation is chaotic and bordering on being hopeless. The Iraqis have absolutely no faith in their army or police force because they are all or nearly all linked to militias.

"Only the coalition forces can bring real security - if the war is lost chaos will reign and the whole of the region will be dragged into a bloody and catastrophic ethnic war."


This joint statement expresses a position with respect to the ongoing demonisation of Muslims in Britain, their values as well as prominent scholars, speakers and organisations.

We, the undersigned Imams, sheikhs, advocates, activists, community leaders, community organisations and student bodies of the Muslim community, make the following points in this regard:

1) We reject the exploitation of Muslim issues and the ‘terror threat’ for political capital, in particular in the run up to a general election. Exploiting public fears about security is as dishonourable as exploiting public fears about immigration. Both deflect attention from crises in the economy and health service, but are crude and divisive tactics, where the big parties inevitably try to outdo each other in their nastiness.

2) We deplore the continued public targeting of Muslims through endless ‘anti-terror’ laws. There have been around ten pieces of legislation since the year 2000, all giving huge powers to the state, which have fuelled a media hysteria even though in most cases no crime was committed. This has created a distressing and harmful backlash towards Muslims, especially women and children.

3) We reject the portrayal of Muslims and the Muslim community as a security threat. The latest Act of Parliament, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, threatens to create a ‘McCarthyite’ witch-hunt against Muslims, with nursery workers, schoolteachers and Universities expected to look out for signs of increased Islamic practice as signs of ‘radicalisation’. Such a narrative will only further damage social cohesion as it incites suspicion and ill feeling in the broader community.

4) The expedient use of undefined and politically charged words like ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’ is unacceptable as it criminalises legitimate political discourse and criticism of the stance of successive governments towards Muslims domestically and abroad. We strongly oppose political proposals to further ‘tackle’ and ‘crack down’ on such dissenting voices in the Muslim community despite their disavowal of violence and never having supported terrorist acts.

5) Similarly, it is unacceptable to label as ‘extremist’ numerous normative Islamic opinions on a variety of issues, founded on the Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), implying there is a link between them and violence, using such labels as an excuse to silence speakers.

6) We affirm our commitment to robust political and ideological debate and discourse for the betterment of humanity at large. The attempts by the state to undermine this bring into question its commitment to its very own purported values and liberal freedoms.

7) We affirm our concern about peace and security for all. We, however, refuse to be lectured on peace-building and harmony by a government that plays divisive politics and uses fear to elicit uncertainty in the general public, whilst maintaining support for dictators across the Muslim world, who continue to brutalise and legitimate political opposition to their tyranny.

8) We affirm our intention to hold on to our beliefs and values, to speak out for what is right and against what is wrong based on our principles, whether that be on matters such as the securitisation of society, corporate hegemony, war and peace, economic exploitation, social and moral issues in society, nationalism and racism. Not to do so would be dangerous and leave our community unguided.

9) We call on all fair minded people in Britain – including politicians, journalists, academics, bloggers and others concerned about fairness for all – to continue to scrutinise the scare tactics, fear-mongering and machinations of politicians, which do not bode well for societal harmony and only increase the alienation felt and experienced by Britain’s Muslim community.

It is time that politicians stop diverting the attention of the British public away from its domestic crises and disastrous foreign policies by repeatedly playing the ‘Muslim’ or ‘national security’ card.


Abdurraheem Green, iERA
Anjum Anwar, Teacher/Chair of Woman’s Voice
Arzu Merali, Islamic Human Rights Commission
Dr Abdul Wahid, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Britain
Dr Musharraf Hussain, CEO and Chief Imam, Karimia Institute
Dr Reza Pankhurst, Author and academic
Dr Saeed Al-Gadi, Presenter at Islam Channel
Dr Shahrul Hussain, Birmingham
Dr Uthman Lateef, Hittin Institute
Hodan Yusuf, Journalist
Ibrahim Hewitt, Leicester
Ibtihal Bsis, Barrister, Broadcaster, Hizb ut-Tahrir
Imam Abdul Wahhab, East London
Imam Abdul-Malik Sheikh, Imam & Khatib, London
Imam Abdul Mateen, East London
Imam Aziz Ibraheem, Iman Trust Community Centre, St Helens
Imam Irfan Patel, Jamiah Masjid, Gillngham
Imam Shakeel Begg, Lewisham Islamic Centre
Jahangir Mohammed, Centre for Muslim Affairs
Lauren Booth, Journalist
Mahmud Choudhury – Secretary Poplar Shahjalal Masjid
Massoud Shadjareh, Islamic Human Rights Commission
Moazzam Begg, Director of Outreach for CAGE
Muhammad Mustaqeem Shah, Al Mustaqeem Centre, Bradford
Shaikh Abu Abdissalam, London
Shaikh Haitham Haddad, London
Shaikh Haitham Tamim, Chairman of the Utrujj Foundation
Shaikh Khaled Fekry, Imam, London
Shaikh Omer Hamdoon, Muslim Association of Britain
Shaikh Sulaiman Gani, South London
Shaikh Zuber Karim, Intelligence Finance Consultancy
Shaikh Tauqir Ishaq, CEO Hijaaz College
Ustadh Kamal Abu Zahra, Lecturer on Islamic studies, London
Yusuf Chambers – Freelance community activist
Yusuf Patel, SRE Islamic
Azad Ali, Muslim Safety Forum
Asghar Bukhari, Muslim Public Affairs Committee, UK
Roshan Muhammad Salih, Broadcaster and journalist
Ghulam Haydar, Director of Myriad Foundation
Shoaib Khalid Bhatti, Muslim Lobby, Scotland
Dr Daud Abdullah, British Muslim Initiave
Shaikh Chokri Majoli, Imam, London
Yvonne Ridley, Vice President European Muslim League
Muhammad Shafique, Ramadan Foundation, Rochdale
Hasan Alkatib, Journalist
Mazhar Khan, Manchester Muslim Forum
Saaqib Abu Ishaaq, Project Medinah, Rochdale
Omar Ali, Chair of Brighton and Hove Muslim Community
Sofia Ahmed, Activist & founder of Muslim Women Against Femen
Nalini Naidoo,  Newham Muslim Women’s Association
Irfan Hussain, Bradford Dawah Centre
Leyla Habibti,  humanitarian activist
Tasmin Nazeer, freelance journalist
Ali Anees, Eccles Mosque
Saeed Akhtar, Cheadle Mosque
Yousef Dar, Community Safety Forum, Manchester
Dr Shameel Islam-Zulfiqar, Humanitarian campaigner
Majid Freeman, Humanitarian aid worker, friend of Alan Henning
Laura Stuart, Humanitarian aid worker, journalist and activist
Fatima Barkatula, Scholar and Director of Seeds of Change
Salman Sayyid, Author and Academic
Shezana Hafiz, Humanitarian Activist
Abdus Samad, IQRA TV / TV Producer
Alomgir Ali, MDRF, London
Shamsuz zaman, CYCD Chairperson, Luton
Tahir Talati, Imam Zakariya Academy, London
Abdul Razaq, Principal Iqra Academy, Peterborough
Fahad Ansari, Human Rights Solicitor
Adullah al Andalusi, Muslim Debate Initiative
Yusuf Shabbir, Blackburn Muslim Association
Suhail Akubat, Imam, Masjid e Salaam, Preston
Bilal Toorawa, Imam, Blackburn
Councillor Salim Mulla, Blackburn
Mohammed Alsheikh Mousa Attari Alhijazy, Alhuda Prophetic Medical Centre, London
Haji Mohammed Walayat, Sunni Council of Mosques, Luton
Edris Seth, Political Activist, Bolton
Ali Ahmad, Imam, East London
Zahid Akhtar, Founder Documenting Oppression Against Muslims, Walsall
Shirajul Haque, Imam, London
Ismail Rawat, Preston Muslim Forum, Preston
Khaleel Ur Rahman, The Deen Project / Activist, Derby
Ilyas Abu Yusuf, Imam, Bolton
Yaseen Ahmedabadi, General Secretary, Nuneaton Muslim Society
Munir Aya, Volunteer, Zakaria Mosque, Bolton
Raheema Bux, Community Worker, Blackburn
Nasima Begum, Solicitor, Luton
Mustafa Mustafa, Youth Worker, South London
Amanpaul Dhaliwal,, London
Khaleel Ur Rahman, The Deen Project / Activist, Derby
Tahir Alam, PHD Student, SOAS, London
Dr Ajmal Hussain, GP, Stoke on Trent
Hafiz Kasim Javed, Community Activist, Rochdale
Ahmed Desai, Imam, Bradford
Muhammad Hansrot, Imam, Croydon, London
Muhammad Rahman, Teacher, Ilford, London
Rizwan Ahmed, Imam, Sheffield
Abdul Rehman Saleem, Khateeb / Activist, London
Inamul Hussain Yusuf, Teacher, Bolton
Dr Suhel Ahmed, GP, Bolton
Nasar Khan, Quran Project Volunteer, Birmingham
Asad Zaman, Imam & Chair Inter-Mosque Sports Association, Cheadle
Dr Siema Iqbal, GP, Manchester
Professor Yasin Patel, Senior Professor and Academic, London
Mohammed Makeen Salloo, Imam, Walsall
Qasim Asad, Community Voice, Blackburn
Ibrahim Bismillah, Director of Darul Ihsan Academy, Bradford
Faisal Mahmood, President, UKIM Peterborough

Joint UK Muslim Statement

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