The Blog

Jihadi John May Not Be a Victim, But He Is a Consequence

Those who assert that there is no connection with the West's foreign policy and the cancer of IS as its reach spreads ever wider throughout the Middle East are either ignorant or mendacious.

The sympathetic portrayal of Mohammed Emwazi (Jihadi John) by Asim Qureshi of the campaigning group CAGE inevitably and understandably met with short shrift in a society that is rightly repelled by the brutality of IS. Mr Qureshi was guilty of the heinous crime of raising his voice in dissent against the mainstream, and both he and CAGE have experienced an avalanche of vilification as a consequence.

While I can admit to the the courage of Asim Qureshi in attempting to humanise a man that most consider a monster, it seems unconscionable he would do so. Emwazi is a medieval sectarian beast who, along with his acolytes within the so-called Islamic State, is embarked on a mission to turn the Middle East into a graveyard of those whose only crime is to practice a different religion than them, or practice the same religion in a way they disapprove of.

Sawing off people's heads while they are still alive, being filmed while doing it, and glorying in the event can be described as many things, but the actions of a 'beautiful man' it is not. Nothing can justify such butchery - just as nothing could justify Hitler's project to destroy Europe's Jews, gays, gypsies, and other minorities; and just as nothing could justify Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge and their mission in Cambodia to turn the clock back to year zero. The only place for an ideology that fuels such barbaric movements and sanctions such grotesque carnage is the grave, along with those who adhere to it. The threat such ideologies pose to the very foundations of civilisation, their violation of the most fundamental belief in the sanctity of human life, demands nothing less than their complete and utter destruction.

But those who assert that there is no connection with the West's foreign policy and the cancer of IS as its reach spreads ever wider throughout the Middle East are either ignorant or mendacious. In fact it is as absurd as attempting to deny a link between sex and pregnancy.

One flows inexorably from the other.

This is what we as a society need to confront. The scale of the damage 'we' have inflicted on the Middle East over the past 13 years is immeasurable. The problem is that we are cocooned from its full effects and impact by news coverage that is sanitised and with few exceptions compromised by its attachment to the prevailing orthodoxy of those responsible - i.e. our own governments.

Afghanistan is broken, Iraq is broken, and Syria - where we have given succour, inadvertently or otherwise, to IS with our staggeringly insane support for a moderate opposition that does not exist - is on fire. As for Libya, four years after David Cameron was in the country congratulating its anti-Gaddafi rebels for "choosing democracy", it is now officially a failed state in which competing factions and gangs are vying for territory and power. The resulting chaos has provided the space for IS to emerge, which it did recently in dramatic fashion with the mass beheading of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt on a Libyan beach.

When will we ever learn?

We are living in an age of extremes. Wherever we look it seems that humanity is struggling to hold on to any last vestige of reason. A West intoxicated with power has lurched from one part of the world to another like an out of control juggernaut, destroying everything in its path, producing its own monsters in the process.

Mohammed Ewazi is not a victim of this juggernaut and its effects, but he is a consequence whose actions are leaving a vast trail of victims behind him and are leading to evermore disastrous consequences. And whether we are comfortable about admitting it or not, the only difference between the brutal violence unleashed by IS and the violence we have unleashed and/or supported by proxy in recent years, is that theirs would not have erupted without ours creating the conditions for it to erupt. Just as the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia in the aftermath of the US carpet bombing of the country in 1975, so IS has spread and its ideology proliferated on the back of the destruction of Iraq and the unquantifiable trauma suffered by the Iraqi people, radicalising the entire region and young Muslims across the world at the same time.

This is why it is true to say that we have met the enemy and he is us.