Unsurprisingly the story dominating today's news agenda is the revelation of Jihadi John's real identity. The security service and the police do not come out of it well. Our splash is "MI5 blunders that allowed Jihadi John to slip the net".
Similarly, the Guardian has "Isis murderer is Londoner on MI5's radar since 2009" on its front page. The Times leads with "Isis butcher had been MI5 terror suspect for six years". The Daily Mirror focuses on the daughter of one of his victims, David Haines. "Please avenge my dad" is the headline. The Mail and the Sun both have a picture of a young Jihadi John on their front pages. "Jihadi Junior" is the Sun's take, while "Angelic schoolboy who turned into a reviled executioner" is the Mail's lead.
It all raises serious questions for the security services. Both MI5 and the police came into contact with Jihadi John at least a dozen of times. A botched attempt was made to "turn" Mohammed Emwazi after he was first intercepted six years ago, when they feared he was trying to join a Somali terrorist group. Despite this, he was able to slip out of the country and join Isis in Syria. It is likely that MI5 will face an Intelligence and Security Committee inquiry into its dealings with Emwazi and whether more should have been done. Presumably someone other than Sir Malcolm Rifkind will chair it.
Politically, we may well see yet anohter revival of the debate about security laws. Did weakened control orders help Emwazi leave the UK? Would the Snoopers' Charter (or something more far-reaching) prevent a repeat of this sorry tale?
Meanwhile, the campaign group Cage has tried to put the blame for Emwazi's radicalisation with MI5. Cage's warped logic is the British security service was trying to prevent Emwazi from becoming a fully-fledged jihadist. In frustration at his treatment, Emwazi became a jihadist fighter. Ergo, the security services are responsible for Jihadi John. The sheer chutzpah of this argument is bewildering. There is, however, an audience for this warped logic. It has long been a popular narrative in the West to blame Islamist terrorism on Western foreign policy. The logic is that if Blair and Bush hadn't invaded Iraq, then these nice boys from west London wouldn't be chopping-off heads now. It is intellectually lazy and dishonest. Bin Laden's al-Qaeda, for instance, emerged originally from reactionary wars in central and eastern Asia, such as the battle for a separate Muslim state in the Philippines, the fighting in Kashmir, as well as the Uighur territories in China, and Afghanistan. In Nigeria, moreover, al-Qaeda off-shoot Boko Haram is fomenting civil war without mentioning Blair and Bush as their guiding inspiration. In short, we mustn't humour the line of argument that the West is to blame for Emwazi.
As our leader points out today, King's College London's International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation have stated: "Radicalisation… is not something driven by poverty or social deprivation. Ideology clearly plays a big role in motivating some men to participate in jihadist causes." The sooner we understand and appreciate the fact that many are simply attracted to jihadism because it gives them purpose, fulfilment and the promise of heavenly glory, the easier it will be to deal with the issue.
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