By Robert Verkaik (Oneworld Book – 2016)
This book caught my attention because the author actually met and interviewed Mohammed Emwazi in London years before the young Muslim went to Syria and shocked the world as the butcher who beheaded the American journalist James Foley on video.
Mr. Verkaik had many personal contacts and conversations — both in the security establishment and among many of the young Muslims targeted by the security officials — which certainly strengthens his credibility and the narratives he shares, making this book an incredible read.
He focuses on Mohammed Emwazi, Jihadi John, and provides the only indepth background to this man who wasn’t born a terrorist.
From the book’s jacket:
“In the aftermath of the US air strike that killed Emwazi in November 2015, Verkaik’s investigation leads him to deeply troubling questions. What led Emwazi to come to him for help in the first place? And why do hundreds of Britons want to join Islamic State? In an investigation both frightening and urgent, Verkaik goes beyond the making of one terrorist to examine the radicalisation of our youth and to ask what we can do to stop it happening in the future.”
I learned many facts (ie. there are 78 separate terror groups now trying to set up an Islamic caliphate in the Levant) and the British security officials are focused on 4 strategies: (1) prepare for attacks, (2) protect the public, (3) pursue the attackers, and (4) prevent their radicalization.
The author’s message is focused on #4. He acknowledges how complex the job is to combat the very real and serious threat of terrorism abroad and at home, but he questions whether the security agencies might actually be radicalizing some by their tactics and harassment of young Muslims in the UK.
At the risk of letting the cat out of the bag, I’ll share a snippet of the author’s conclusion.
“There is no such thing as a perfect counter-terrorism policy and I accept that it is inevitable that some innocent feathers will have to be ruffled while Britian faces such a serious terrorist threat. So I propose the creation of a ‘surveillance ombudsman’, someone who can command the trust of both the security services and the Muslim community, directly appointed by the prime minister, to help settle grievances. The post should have the power to informally investigate complaints and concerns raised by members of both communities. I don’t see any need for this work to be done in public. But it would be a credible forum for grievances to be fully aired and taken seriously. The ‘ombudsman’ should not be without teeth and whoever has the job should be able to correct mistakes or issue warning notices.” (p.254)
My friends who are demonizing Western intervention while promoting a lovefest with the Syrian President Assad, will probably not like this author’s perspective of the Syrian crisis, but it dovetails with my understanding of the situation and he certainly backs up his opinions with historical facts.
A quick read, an important read, and a thought-provoking read. “Mohammed Emwazi may have been killed, but Jihadi John can be replaced.”