What Jihadi John and CAGE said yesterday about how people are ‘driven to terrorism’

5:37 pm - February 27th 2015

by Sunny Hundal    

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Imagine this scenario. A white atheist kills a Muslim couple in cold blood. The media speculates endlessly about the “factors” that drove him to kill them: apparently he had a parking dispute with them; they dressed and talked funny; he was lonely and maybe they did something to provoke him? When this actually happened a few weeks ago, called the Chapel Hill shootings, Muslims were rightly horrified at the coverage looked like it was justifying the murders of several innocent people. So what if he liked cats and was polite to people? Why was his wife given so much time on air to defend her husband?

Or take another example. Imagine you’re a white working class kid who lives in a town like Luton. You’ve heard stories of Pakistani-gangs grooming young white girls and that the police is barely doing anything about it. The gangs make your life hell and, on top of that, they go around harassing gays and soldiers and saying they hate this country. They want to shariah law in town, the gangs say. So you join the English Defence League because you see them as the only people standing up against them. Is he a racist? Or is he a boy driven to join extreme groups in response to events around him?

By now you’ll know what I’m getting at, though some people will no doubt claim these are false comparisons. They’re not.

I’m sick of people who try and “contextualise” terrorism on the basis that someone else is to blame for what that person did. But yesterday, CAGE, which calls itself a human rights organisation (yes and Putin is a human rights activist), said the blame for the radicalisation of Mohammed Emwazi (aka Jihadi John) lay solely with the intelligence services.

Of course it did. Because saying anything else would require admitting that he was actually taught by other Muslims to hate non-Sunnis, be ok with the enslaving of Yazidi women, and behead aid workers. CAGE would never admit that. In their world, radicalisation only happens when the police or intelligence services question Muslims. As a caller to BBC radio yesterday put it: “I’m a black man. I’ve been stopped and searched by the Police on numerous occasions for no reason. That doesn’t give me an excuse to murder people.”

There is no doubt in my mind that CAGE were making excuses for a terrorist. Trying to paint him as a victim who was driven to his heinous crimes by security services (who, by the way, only half-heartedly tried to recruit him). And yet, many people who are normally outraged when the national media make excuses for white terrorists or EDL members, were silent yesterday or supporting CAGE, with a few honourable exceptions

Let’s be clear about a few things. The security services are not going to stop questioning Muslims who they think are involved in terrorism-related activities. I only wonder why they didn’t have Mohammed Emwazi under heavier surveillance earlier.

Secondly, CAGE did incalculable harm to the cause of people (like me) who think the security services do sometimes overstep the mark and harass people wrongly. If CAGE is their spokesperson then those people are fucked because they won’t elicit any sympathy whatsoever.

The media is inconsistent in how it covers murders by Muslims and non-Muslims – I agree with this. But Muslims can’t complain of bias in the national media and then fail to criticise a group like CAGE who want to “contextualise” how a man like him is driven to extremism (there were exceptions of course)

In fact I asked several times yesterday of the “context” that makes a man want to kill innocent aid workers (who were helping Syrians), and I got no reply. Funny that.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: a) Section ,Religion ,Terrorism

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Reader comments

It’s ridiculous that everyone is talking about CAGE excusing Jihadi John when the real story is that MI5 are, at best, completely useless, and yet we allow them to bug everyone and completely ignore the law, and god knows what else, given that those charged with ‘oversight’ misheard and thought we said ‘unequivocal support regardless of the facts’.

Paid for by your taxes.

This isn’t an abberation either, the reason most of the senior spooks at MI5 thought their boss was a KGB plant was because the agency have always completely failed at everyting they’ve ever attempted.

They had to claim that their top man was a traitor because no other excuse would cover it.

But no, you keep attacking CAGE, they’re the real threat.

So you do you remember when Gita Saghal complained about Amnesty International partnering with CAGE (or CAGEprisoners as it was)? And lost her job with Amnesty as a result? I do recall your site Pickled Politics laid into her and was totally on the side of Moazzam Begg. So have you changed your mind since then?

I agree with all that.

I wonder though if Sunny is as concerned about Guantanamo Bay as he was in 2009.


I never got that left/liberal campaign myself.
Many (or most) of the people in it were dangerous people.

i am getting sick to my teeth of this unholy leftist swp, john rees and co and islamist alliance of cage and co apologists for these brown and black skinned muslim mass murdering fascist isis islamists.sunny hundal and his lefty cronies bend over backwards to excuse the behaviour of these muslim supremacists,we hear this word alienation being banded about all the time as an excuse for terrorism.well there are plenty enough poor young white alienated unemployed out there who feel abandoned and have no stake in this soceity but they dont go out to join some group in somebody elses country beheading and commiting genocide and burning people in cages,why wont you lot ever in the media ever talk about what is the real driving force behind all this terrorism and modern day revert back to nazism in iraq and syria,it is religion,yes religion,jihadi(not john) mohammed and his supremacists brothers kill in the name of there religion called islam and to defend the prophet mohammed peace be upon him.stop making up excuses for terrorism because people are getting sick of it and it wont wash anymore.


“But no, you keep attacking CAGE, they’re the real threat.”

It’s a friend of CAGE, described by CAGE as a kind, gentle and beautiful person, whose chopping off heads of innocent people in Syria, not a former MI5 agent doing it. So yes, CAGE are the threat.

“the agency have always completely failed at everyting they’ve ever attempted.”

We’ll just have to take your claim to know everything about every single MI5 operation over numerous decades on trust, then.

Or possibly not.

Sunny, that guy in America never claimed to be acting for political reasons.

7. Mary Rowland Hill

Sunny, I usually agree with you but I’m afraid I think you’re way off the mark here. Suggesting which factors add up to produce a certain outcome is not the same thing as “justifying” that outcome. Children who are abused often go on to become abusers themselves as adults. This is an uncontroversial fact – and saying so is not the same thing as “justifying” crimes like rape. Now I don’t know to what extent, if any, MI5’s actions contributed to Emwazi’s radicalisation. What’s more, I’m uncomfortable with some of CAGE’s language – which seems to suggest that MI5 was the decisive factor in Emwazi’s decision to start cutting off heads. Clearly there must be other factors involved – in particular the influence of a monstrous form of radical Islam which persuaded this young man that murder was an acceptable response to his situation. But I don’t see any reason in principle why we shouldn’t also ask whether MI5’s actions played a role in pushing this man further down the road of radicalisation by making his life unbearable and persuading him to seek refuge in a group of people who seemed to have answers and who seemed to have his interests at heart. Maybe MI5’s actions were appropriate and wise, maybe they weren’t. But surely this is a debate we ought to be having. If MI5’s job is to make us safer, it is absolutely appropriate for us to ask whether their tactics sometimes have the opposite effect. You seem to be saying that ANY attempt to even DISCUSS such questions is illegitimate and flirting with “justification”. I just think that’s absurd. And this isn’t just about Emwazi and MI5: our government and much of the mainstream media is attempting to erect a taboo around ANY consideration of the ways in which OUR actions play a role in fostering the conditions where terror takes place – in short, to ensure their actions enjoy impunity and are not scrutinised. It’s vital we resist those efforts.

Emwazi already had links with the 7/21 bombers and had gone to Tanzania to join up with Al Shabaab, Mary. That is why he was stopped in the first place by MI5. He was already a nasty extremist. It’s 2015. Take your head out of the sand.

Cage are an advocacy group which help to work with groups impacted on the war on terror. Is there an impact on the war on terror and do they have an understanding of that impact? Two of their employees were victims, one a gitmo detainee, not charged and the other absconded a control order and was cleared by the high court. Also, Emwazi went to the group for support as did other people. So they are well established to advocate on this matter, as they observe firsthand the impact of counter-terrorism policies. If they believe something should they discard that because it is expedient, you may say yes, but they are not a political group but an advocacy group so principle is important, no matter how unpopular it makes them.

Proportionality is important. Your first case is facetious because it lacks proportionality. In the Chapel Hill shootings, the media did not just speculate but some determined that it was a parking dispute. Spitting or punching can arise out of disputes not following someone into the house then killing.

Your second case is more interesting. Being a part of the EDL does not automatically you a racist but if you embody its values and do and say the stuff they say, you are in all likelihoods a racist. Is it expected that some people saw that in Luton and joined the EDL? Yes. Does it still make them a racist? Yes. Is the context of Luton important in understanding what drives young white males into the EDL? Yes. Does that understanding make it easier to counter the EDL? Yes.

The differences between al-muhajiroon in Luton and Emwazhi is that one involves the a fringe group unrepresentative of the wider population they are a part of and those unhappy with their activities have a recourse to the state and authorities. The other is continual harassment over a period of 3/4 years targeted towards an individual, not towards the state or wider society, by the state and authorities, with little recourse to the law. Did he feel persecuted? Yes, as the mail rendezvous show. Did it have serious impacts on him? Yes, barring him from returning to his home, his employment, and twice a potential spouse, and probably most importantly a feeling of persecution so that he contemplated suicide to get away from it, if the allegations are true. Did he try to seek recourse by accessing the authorities? Yes, the ipcc, mp, media, etc. There is an obvious differences between al-muharijoon and the security services, agencies of the British state. There are different expectations of the two.

So are his actions in Syria a proportionate or expected response? No, there must be other things going on. Is it possible his treatment led/ contributed to his fleeing to Turkey then Syria, his dislike/ hatred for the British state and Britain, and contributed to his radicalisation? Yes. Are MI5 solely responsible for his radicalisation? No. Do they play a part? Possibly. Is it right to ask questions? Yes. Was he travelling in these circles? Yes. Was it determined that he would have joined ISIS if not for the harassment? Can’t say, but it does look like he would have been in Kuwait with his family and working. Should MI5 question and track suspects? If they think they’re suspects, they’ll be obliged to. Should they harass them, particularly in this pernicious manner? I think not, and i do not think that this is something that would be acceptable to Parliament and the public.

You mock their claim to be a human rights organisation, you may have forgotten the praise showered upon lat king abdullah, and him being called a progressive, i believe, by Cameron and the US.

I doubt whether you watched the whole press conference and read the files. They campaign for those unduly affected by the security services, it is their remit to make these difficult points, they deal with these things daily. They say he should take full agency for his actions, full responsibility. They say all those committing crimes should face a court and punishment.

There are several confluences which lead to an output of terrorism. Foreign policy grievances, marginalization and exclusion, mental resilience, terrorism networks through ideology is spread. Do we expect people to support and spread terrorist ideology? Yes, and we expect the state to stop/ mitigate them within the law. Do we expect the state to contributing to a person’s exclusion and marginalization, and hence increase his propensity to radicalisation? No.

The security services have allowed muslims to travel to libya and syria to fight, in 2013 they changed tack. Western agencies have trained and armed syrian rebel fighters, including those who were or went on to join al-nusra and isis. The West armed and trained the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Russian, they did that with islamists against egypt, libya, aswell as those against syria and lebanon as a bulwark against the power of iran. There is evidence which shows the agencies in America, radicalised and armed suspects, in order to entrap them and to show they did their job.

Emwahi has full agency for his actions. He is responsible for his actions. He, if possible, should be tried and convicted for his crimes. Is he an isis pawn? Most likely. Has the actions of the British state contributed to him being more susceptible to joining isis? maybe. Should the tactics of MI5 be scrutinised? Yes. Can they make mistakes or have bad policies? Yes. Can they contribute to the problem? Yes. Have they? That should be checked.


2% of the IPCC are ex police,so the IPCC are ex police
3% of House of Lords are ex police,so the House of Lords are ex police,Doreen Lawrence is in the House of Lords,there fore Doreen Lawrence is ex police
A Ex cop ,shouldn’t advise on investigating police,Doreen Lawrence brought a private prosecution against individuals that failed, The lords is the highest court in the land, so Doreen Lawrence in her failed private prosecution,shouldn’t be in the lords as its a court for lords to judge appeals

11. douglas clark


I seem to recall, in a previous life, arguing that Moazzem Begg was innocent! The forces of darkness, aka as ‘Harry’s Plaice’, a fish out of water, never dented that defence. Not once.

So, where is the liberalism, the support for the underdog from you?

Not obvious in your opinion piece. He is guilty as charged and that is it.

Sunny, I expected at least a degree of circumspection from you.

Sadly, you know the answer before it is even debated…………..

Well said and summed up. Just because someone has been driven to some ‘assumed’ desperation doesn’t necessarily warrant such acts of violence to the innocents. No amount of excuses can ever bring any sort of sense to justify such horrifying acts of barbarism. Humanity in general seems to struggle with the simple word ‘tolerance’ at almost every turn throughout history. this is another case of just that…

13. lenatsider

This post s very usefu and informative.

14. Dave Roberts.

What all this shows Sunny is that you got it wrong all along and the evidence of that is now coming out. You are trying to deny positions that you took, along with others, for years, that people like Nick Cohen and contributors to Harry’s Place took apart.

In this article you have now completely rejected many if not all of those positions including ones that you were most admamant about especially the whole subject of grooming.

You rubbished Ghita Saghal and now owe her an apology, I doubt if she will get it but that will just destroy any credibility that you have left in Guardianista circles. As far as I am concerned you never had any credibility in the first place.

15. Shatterface

Sunny Hundal on Gita Saghal when she raised concerns over Amnesty and Cageprisoners:

It’s a shame that former Amnesty employee Gita Sahgal has not found something more useful to do with her time. Otherwise she wouldn’t be writing such lame diatribes against Amnesty International.

What the hell was openDemocracy thinking giving her space? I hope they’ll be offering space to someone pro-Amnesty to take apart that rubbish.

Listen Gita, we get it: you’re angry. No one rallied to your support other than a bunch of discredited neocons who are best known for their mealy-mouthed apologies for torture. Oh and Salman Rushdie, the man offering moral guidance after signing a letter supporting child-rapist Roman Polanski. I suppose not many sane people would be heartened with that kind of support. But Gita bravely kept giving more interviews to Christopher Hitchens so they could together take down Amnesty. Brave stuff. Meanwhile, Amnesty is not allowed to defend itself while it is being smeared all over the place.


16. Dave Roberts.

Thank you Shatterface, my point exactly. Let’s see Sunny talk his way out of that one. There is a reference to him on one of the articles on Harry’s Place, today.

17. Shatterface

Thank you Shatterface, my point exactly. Let’s see Sunny talk his way out of that one. There is a reference to him on one of the articles on Harry’s Place, today.

That was just one article among many by Hundal himself; there were far worse by his rabid Rottweiler, Earwigca. And the harassment went on for months.

18. Shatterface

More from Sunny’s Pickled Politics article.

I know plenty of Gita Sahgal supporters also read this blog (and I’m not referring to the neo-con nutjobs). Folks, the article doesn’t even make much sense. It reads like sentences copied and pasted together from Melanie Phillips, Hitchens and Nick Cohen articles. This episode is over. Please find her something useful to do in support of women’s rights. I hope she’s not going to spend the next ten years trying to find places so she can recycle that same article slagging off Amnesty Intl. It’s not even worth fisking, it’s that bad. When you’re desperately trying to pretend the Catholic Church has done nothing wrong then you know something’s gone awfully wrong.


19. Shatterface

From Saghal’s original article, which Sunny called a ‘lame diatribe… not even worth fisking’:

Like all tryrants – whether of the right and left, Amnesty International raised the spectre of an assault on human rights to avoid answering questions and to imply that Amnesty International was under attack. This helped shut down internal debate or demands for accountability from its own staff. At first the managers suggested that Begg only expressed his experiences of detention; and that they did not promote his views (suggesting that his views fell somewhat short of a belief in the universality of rights). Soon, they claimed that his views were indeed universalist but that he supported ‘defensive jihad.’ – which is, after all waged to establish systematic discrimination. Amnesty International felt that this view was not ‘antithetical to human rights. Although he published in a Muslim Brotherhood journal and has associated with the Jamaat I Islami the senior leadership decided to endorse him as a human rights advocate, which they had refrained from doing before the crisis.


20. Dave Roberts.

To be fair to Sunny he has recanted even if he hasn’t acknowledged, or has forgotten or ignored, previous positions on this matter.

What should not also be forgotten are those who also took his or even more extreme positions and either still do or are keeping their heads below the parapet in the hope that everyone will have forgotten, we should not allow this cowardice and amnesia to go unremarked upon.

The whole subject of Cage is a part of a wider failing of the left, both loony and liberal, to address what has been happening across the whole sphere of immigration and ethnic minorities in both this country and elsewhere.

It is now clear that a major part of the problem was false guilt on the part of those who should have known better which has allowed not only Cage to happen but a substantial section of opinion forming pressure groups and individuals to describe the criminal riots since 1981 in the inner cities of the UK as, amongst other things, “uprisings of the oppressed” instead of what they were, thugs and drug dealers rioting to steal.

This same cowardice prevented, until recently, the creation of a corrupt third world Islamist state in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is almost beyond belief that there is now a judicial enquiry that will take several months and millions of pounds of public money into the kind of corruption that was made history in this country by a number of statutes starting with the Reform Act of 1832.

That Lutfur Rahman created a feudal Islamic kleptocracy has never been in doubt to anyone except the mealy mouthed apologists that have ranged from Ken Livingstone through George Galloway to Michael Meacher, the Socialist Rapists Party and The Guardian. It is because of these opportunistic traitors that Cage, Rahman and the multiple fraudulent largely non existent black groups, and they were all black, which were funded by the London Development Agency under Lee Jasper got away with it for so long.

I really feel that the tide has turned and some kind of sanity has returned to public affairs. It has been a long time coming but I really believe that we can now talk with some sanity about Islam, immigration and race relations. Let’s hear from you Sunny.

It’s also worth a look at http://www.jrct.org.uk/grants-database.aspx for where a lot of their money goes.

21. the a&e charge nurse

None of the Liberal Conspiracy regulars ever seemed very interested in exploring the nature of Islamic extremism nor its apologists doing their bit for the propaganda war.

As I recall LC fretted about how much compo Abu Qatada was entitled to, or protecting the rights of certain communities to treat women as second class citizens.

In fact think wasn’t there one article applauding the deafening silence from feminists when it came to the lot of some muslim women in western countries.

22. douglas clark

Dave Roberts,

I rarely come back to this site anymore, but would you like to challenge me on the identifiable guilt of Moazzam Begg, circa Afghanistan 2003 + ?

Guilt of what (?) would be a good starting point.

You’ll lose.

All of Harry’s Place did.

23. douglas clark

I’ll check in in a week or so….

Plenty of time for you to create a case Mr Roberts.

I quite like the new slow, don’t you?

24. Dave Roberts.

Douglas Clark. I’m afraid you’ll have do those two posts again in English. I haven’t a clue what you are talking about. Does anyone else?

25. douglas clark

Dave Roberts,

This is not the only site that Sunny has run. In a previous life he ran a site called ‘Pickled Politics’, whereupon yours truly had an enormous ‘spat’ with the good folk from ‘Harry’s Place’ who assumed, wrongly, that the circumstances of Moazzem Begg’s case were so well won, that I was a fool to challenge them. Fact is, every well proven ‘fact’, is not.

The circumstances of his accusation in Afghanistan, his removal to Pakistan and his final destination in Guantanamo Bay do not represent a justice system I admire or have a concience for. Do you? Does a sequence of disallowing representation or challenge to the charges levelled equal justice for you?

Sadly, I think it does for you.

Something I found hard to stomach then, and I find hard to stomach now.


You say:

What all this shows Sunny is that you got it wrong all along and the evidence of that is now coming out. You are trying to deny positions that you took, along with others, for years, that people like Nick Cohen and contributors to Harry’s Place took apart.

In this article you have now completely rejected many if not all of those positions including ones that you were most admamant about especially the whole subject of grooming.

You rubbished Ghita Saghal and now owe her an apology, I doubt if she will get it but that will just destroy any credibility that you have left in Guardianista circles. As far as I am concerned you never had any credibility in the first place.

No he doesn’t, but I am no longer close to Sunny and I have no idea whether he would think whether that was right or not. I would hope not, but there you go.

What I do know is this Dave Roberts:

You and your ilk want him to be guilty of something.

Terry Pratchet, RIP said, there is no justice, there is just us.

I am happy to be on the other side of the fence from your good self. I am sure you find cat’s cute.

26. douglas clark

Sorry for this, the person that is Dave Roberts is, perhaps, a complete utter idiot.

Hmm….He said

’m afraid you’ll have do those two posts again in English. I haven’t a clue what you are talking about. Does anyone else?


I speak English, if you are so thick as to be beyond nuance or direct insult, well, you are the wee dafty…

Now that ain’t the Queens’ preferred language, but dafty is as dafty does.

Can I just conclude by saying that you are, perhaps, the worst arguementarian I have ever encountered? A Harry’s Place hero should not be denied, or summat.

Best wishes in your corner of the Universe Dave, hate everyone that ain’t a London metro luvvie? Fuck off.

Ooh, err, missus, that Dave Roberts has been insulted?

He deserves to be insulted. If you don’t know that then you know nothing at all.

Sorry to keep going on here. I more or less guarantee that I will stay away as long as the Labour Party stops pretending it’d left wing and comments by folk like Dave Roberts are OK.

Unchallenged by, apparently anyone but me, Sunny?

27. douglas clark


Saor Alba by the way!

sorry, there is correct video with english subtitles


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