In debunking the myths that glorify jihadis, Boris Johnson has certainly played his part. In the Daily Telegraph this week he carries on the good work. Boris begins: ” At first I couldn’t believe my ears. “Jihadi John” had finally been exposed as Mohammed Emwazi, and there on our screens was this knife-wielding assassin – a frame taken from one of those nauseating videos in which he swaggers and gloats and boasts about the ways in which he has subverted all decency and cut off the heads of a string of innocent aid workers and journalists. And there in the television studio was a man who seemed intent on exculpating the terrorist.He was called Asim Qureshi, the “research director” of a body called “Cage”, and he was determined to blame absolutely everyone except the killer himself. When Jon Snow gently asked him to condemn the murders, he started babbling indignantly about the deeds of Tony Blair and Dick Cheney.
When pressed again, he accused the newsreader of Islamophobia. When Snow – who did an excellent job – asked him again to assign blame where it lay, fully and squarely with the ghoul in Syria, he started incredibly to blame the security services.
Yes, the brutal security services had stopped Emwazi from going to Tanzania “to make a life for himself abroad”. Make a life for himself! He was going to join a terrorist group called Al-Shabaab, and at one stage tried to force himself on board a plane. This sick young terrorist – said Qureshi – was “a beautiful man, very caring, very compassionate towards others”. Tell that to the relatives who have seen him publicly behead their loved ones.
It was one of the most vomit-making TV interviews I have ever seen, and at first I simply dismissed it. Surely no one would believe such rubbish; and then I reflected – and of course I saw that Cage and other apologists are by no means idiotic. You and I can see through their lies, but there are thousands, if not millions, who are more suggestible and who are willing to see things that way. The Cage people are pandering to a section of the audience that is frighteningly large, and growing. We need collectively to demolish their myths; and to do it fast.
We need a proper security response. We need to be able to monitor these vipers nursed at the breast of the British state: their movements, their communications, and sometimes we need to be able to separate them from others who could aid and abet their plans. In so far as the Lib Dems are still being obstructive, they must be overwhelmed.
Then I am afraid that we must accept that Isil still has the charisma that goes with military victory. They have money, oil, huge tracts of land – flats and material comforts with which to bait the deluded girls from Bethnal Green, who think they are going out to meet a religious and gun-toting version of Brad Pitt. We need to come up with a way of beating them – and given the understandable public revulsion at the thought of British boots on the ground, we need to work harder at backing the Kurdish Peshmerga, and persuading the Sunni military that it is in their interests not to collaborate with the terrorists, but to drive them out.
Yet none of these solutions will be any use unless we also change the way these people are sometimes viewed, and especially by young Muslims growing up in this country, whether in London schools or anywhere else. We need to debunk these jihadists and their phoney ideology. There is nothing pure or honourable in their barbaric subculture – of rape camps, throwing gays off cliffs and burning people alive in cages.
They are not even religious: many are said to have a very sketchy knowledge of the Koran. They are hopeless hypocrites who claim to despise the West but who pathetically wear Nike trainers and daub their temples with expensive Chanel cologne (Egoiste, appropriately, the preferred aroma). Many of them are losers: twits, twerps and misfits who are hopelessly caught up in a mobile-assisted pornography of violence.
Above all, we must stop this fateful elision – encouraged by the likes of Cage – between this jihadism and Islam. The other day I pointed out that many of these young men are – according to the security services – heavy users of porn. I was astounded to be denounced, on the front page of The Guardian, by the Muslim Council of Britain. A spokeswoman said that I was somehow attacking Muslims as a whole. Why on earth would she say that? Why is the MCB effectively claiming these porn freak jihadists for mainstream Islam?
I believe – and I certainly want to believe – that this jihadi madness is rejected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims; and yes, I was dismayed by the recent BBC poll in which 27 per cent said they had “some sympathy with the motives behind” the Charlie Hebdo shootings. But, then, there was no control sample of the rest of the non-Muslim population, and I am afraid that there are plenty of non-Muslims who found the cartoons offensive, and plenty of readers of this paper who object (rather more than I would, perhaps) to needless insults to religion.
I seem to remember that Pope Francis himself was asked what he thought of the motives behind the shootings, and said: “If you swear at my mother, expect a punch.” That would put him pretty firmly, I think, in the 27 per cent. The point is that neither he, nor Telegraph readers who disliked the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, nor the overwhelming majority of Muslims would want to see that emotion – taking offence – translated into violence of any kind.
That is why it is vital to insist, time and again, on the difference between this sick jihadism and Islam; and that is why, conversely, we must do everything we can to stop the likes of Cage – and indeed the MCB – from eliding anti-jihadism with Islamophobia. You can loathe jihadists, in other words, and be perfectly sympathetic to Muslims.
It is obscene, looking at their defence of Emwazi, to think that Cage have been taking money from charities such as the Anita Roddick Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. They should stop apologising for terror, and start apologising to the victims.