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'Jihadi John' and the Wider Problem of Jihadist Ideology on British Campuses

27/02/2015 15:17 GMT | Updated 28/04/2015 10:59 BST

Since "Jihadi John" - real name Mohamed Emwazi - graduated in 2009 from the University of Westminster, the anti-extremism group Student Rights noted that the university's Islamic Society (ISOC) promoted several videos admiring Al Shabaab. Al Shabaab's dream is to establish An Islamic State: a caliphate ruled from their base in Somalia.

Emwazi himself was noted by UK authorities to have associated regularly with East African-based Islamic extremists involved in Somali terrorism, and previous ISIS captives noted that Emwazi is a man 'obsessed' with Somalia. John would make them watch Al-Shabaab videos while in captivity. Emwazi was stopped from entering Tanzania by authorities in 2009, on suspicion that he was seeking to join up with Somali terrorists.

Of course, this information does not prove a link between Emwazi's pro-Al Shabaab activity, and the pro-Al Shabaab views of the University of Westminster's Islamic Society discovered after 2009. However, what this does show is that Emwazi studied in an environment where his sympathies for jihadi terror were considered "the norm", and therefore unremarkable; praiseworthy, even. Here, his perverse ideas could be nurtured by his surroundings, rather than flagged up as a concern.

Cage UK were the first to take up Emwazi's case in 2009, claiming Emwazi went to Tanzania for a safari holiday rather than to join Al-Shabaab. Cage argued that Emwazi was the victim of an "inquisition" at the hands of the British authorities, and that he had been subjected to "racial profiling."

This week, Cage has caused outrage for claiming that Emwazi  was "extremely kind", and that Britain is responsible for his radicalisation. Today, Cage's spokesman Cerie Bullivant walked out of an interview with Sky News, when asked if he condemned Jihadi John's actions, refusing to answer Yes or No.

In 2006 at the University of Westminster, the ISOC Annual Dinner from that year featured the Al Qaeda recruiter, Anwar Al Awlaki. It also featured hate preachers Murtaza Khan and Haitham Al Haddad - both of whom support Islamic terrorists killing those deemed "apostates" - and a presentation from Cage UK (then "CagePrisoners"). These three preachers would all speak freely, telling impressionable young students that God wants them to create An Islamic State, run according to Sharia Law.

In the wake of the Jihadi John news now, the University of Westminster has hastily postponed - and not cancelled - a talk scheduled for this week from Haitham Al-Haddad. Again, Emwazi was not a student at the time of this dinner, but that is not a point. The point is that he walked into a university which had welcomed hate preachers dreaming of An Islamic State.

Frankly, the main conclusions we can draw from all this are stark and dire. Emwazi returned to the UK in 2007 determined to enable Al Shabaab, and was able to link up with others would see Al Shabaab's terrorist fighters as heroes fighting infidel apostates. Emwazi could hear hate preachers telling him God wanted him to set up An Islamic State. Jihadi John took these ideas he was able to develop relatively unchallenged into The Islamic State, where he was finally able to demonstrate the practical outworkings of his theology.

But we must admit that extremism in the Islamic Society at the University of Westminster is not an isolated case. When it comes to freedom of speech and extremism, British universities are in an unhealthy position. Up and down the country, Islamists interested in murdering all those they deem "apostates" are welcomed on campus to preach unopposed, whilst pro-life campaigners, secular humanists who want to wear Jesus and Mo T-shirts, 'whorephobic' feminist comedians and pro-Israel students are intimidated into silence. This is all done in the interest of creating a "safe space".

So there will be a brief flurry of media interest in how Emwazi attended a university which hosted a leading Al Qaeda recruiter just before he joined, and in university extremism in general. When that dies down, Haddad's invitation to the University of Westminster may well be restored, and we will all go back to ignoring Islamist extremism on-campus, because it takes too much effort to solve, and it's too awkward to talk about in polite company.