Monday, March 02, 2015

The campus of hate: How terrorist butcher Emwazi's murderous alter-ego was created in the heart of Britain's capital city

So we finally know who was behind the executioner’s mask; those merciless eyes glaring defiantly at us and his victims; that chillingly familiar London accent; the Timberland boots underneath the black robes, the arm wielding a serrated dagger.

They belong to a young man who, once upon a time, embraced British life to the full.

Mohammed Emwazi, 26, was a member of a local five-a-side-football team. He supported Manchester United, wore Nike-branded clothing, listened to music by pop group S Club 7, attended a Church of England school and was the beneficiary of a British university education.

Could his chilling reincarnation as Jihadi John, the psychopath who beheaded Western hostages, be a greater betrayal of everything this country has done for him and his family?

Mohammed Emwazi might have been born in Kuwait. But his murderous alter ego was made in Britain.

With hindsight, the road to Raqqa — the Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold — was clearly signposted.

He grew up in the streets around Ladbroke Grove, in the inner suburbs of West London — an area that has become a breeding ground for Islamic militancy and home-grown terror suspects.

He was befriended by Cage, the so-called campaign and human rights group, whose leading light is someone who has expressed support for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate and for the principle of death by stoning for adultery.

And, perhaps most significantly of all, he went to the University of Westminster, where, according to a report published yesterday, no fewer than 22 events have been held since March 2012, providing a platform for speakers with a history of extremist views or involvement with extremist organisations.

Proof, if any were needed, of how our much cherished, and deeply entrenched, tradition of free speech is being abused and corrupted on our own shores.

Still, those who knew him during his adolescent years could be forgiven for failing to understand that a man given so much by Britain could commit such atrocities against the West.

Consider how much this country did give Jihadi John. His parents arrived in London in 1993 with their son and his younger sister, now a young professional with a bright future ahead of her, in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

Four more siblings would be born in the UK. During those early years, the family were happily ensconced in West London, in an area bordering the wealthy and influential Notting Hill.

His father ran a taxi firm and his mother brought up the children. The Emwazis frequently moved, swapping one rented property for another in the affluent Maida Vale area.

Emwazi wore Western clothing and became popular with his classmates at St Mary Magdalene C of E primary school in Maida Vale before enrolling at Quintin Kynaston, a successful academy in St John’s Wood.

‘He was a diligent, hard-working, lovely young man; responsible, quiet,’ recalled a former teacher. ‘He was everything you could want a student to be.’

Emwazi did well enough in his A-levels to gain a place on the computer programming course at the University of Westminster in 2006.

Campuses across the country have faced questions about their links between their student unions and extremists. But few could have more controversial track records than Westminster.

Only this week, the university was forced to postpone an invitation to radical cleric Haitham al-Haddad — who was due to address the Islamic Society — due to ‘increased sensitivity and security concerns’.

Haddad serves as a judge for the Islamic Sharia Council and is chairman of the Muslim Research and Development Foundation.

This organisation says it is ‘devoted to the articulation of classical Islamic principles in a manner that provides a platform for Islam to be the cure of all humanity’s ills.’

Al-Haddad has been branded homophobic and is alleged to have described homosexuality as a ‘scourge’ and ‘a criminal act’.

He has also stated that a ‘man should not be questioned why he hit his wife, because that is something between them’.

He has also claimed that Jews are descended from pigs.

The proposed visit by such a divisive — and poisonous — figure at the university was far from unusual.

This was laid bare in a report by the Henry Jackson Society, a think tank which works alongside Student Rights, an organisation set up to combat extremism in universities.

Only last year, an equally unsavoury figure, Murtaza Khan, was invited to speak at the Islamic Society’s annual dinner. The title of his speech was ‘The Day of Judgment’.

Khan has a history of encouraging communal division, once asking: ‘For how long do we have to see our mothers, sisters, and daughters having to uncover themselves before these filthy non-Muslim doctors?’

He has also encouraged British Muslims to turn their back on our customs and rituals.

On his website, he says: ‘...any of their pagan rituals and celebrations... it is not befitting for the Muslim to participate in them … this is what you call a contamination, an epidemic.’

In 2012, the Student Rights group found a number of videos featuring convicted terrorists and members of terrorist organisations overseas (in some cases with slide shows of insurgents involved in attacks) had been shared with students at the university via Facebook.

Four years ago, a student connected to the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir was elected president of the Students’ Union. His vice-president also had links to the group, raising concerns that the union had been taken over by extremists.

‘Universities across the country, the University of Westminster in particular, are being targeted by radical recruiters,’ said former Westminster student and Student Rights campaigner Raheem Kassam this week. ‘They tried it with me and they try it with any Muslim.

‘I remember very vividly how I would get cornered by three or four Somali guys — students in class with me who were dressed in non-Western clothing — and they would say I must come along to the Islamic Society meetings, otherwise I am not a proper Muslim.

‘When you’re 18 years old and a practising Muslim you feel inclined to go. I went along and it absolutely disgusted me.

'I once walked into a meeting of the Islamic Society where they were clapping and cheering the events of 9/11.’

Yesterday, the University of Westminster Islamic Society (ISOC) posted a Facebook message denying it had any links with Emwazi.

‘The ISOC would like to clarify it has nothing to do with an individual who has come to be known as Jihadi John who recently identified as Mohammed Emwazi. It is not associated with any extremist organisations and that should be obvious and not need stating.’

Shortly after he graduated in 2009, Mohammed Emwazi boarded a flight — with two ‘close friends’ — for Dar es Salaam, the Tanzanian capital.

They claimed they were going on safari but there was a much more sinister reason for the trip, it transpires.

On landing, the trio were met by border police, denied entry to the country, and put on a plane back to Amsterdam.

It was here in the basement of Schiphol airport that Emwazi later claimed he was interrogated by MI5 who accused him of being a terrorist planning to join the Al Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

He strenuously denied the accusation, insisting he had only been a tourist heading for safari and bragging that he would not take a designer Rocawear sweater in his luggage if he was intending to join up with Somalian rebels.

In emails to campaign group Cage, he said the MI5 agent, ‘knew everything about me, where I lived, what I did, the people I hanged around with.’

The agent, he said, then tried to recruit him before finally handing him a piece of paper with the agent’s number on it and the words ‘We’ll see you in London mate.’

And over the next four years or so the security services and police questioned him or members of his family on a dozen occasions in an attempt to ‘to turn him.’  ‘Harassment’, Emwazi called it.

‘The constant stream of extremist speakers and material uncovered since 2011 [at Westminster University] and the fact that Emwazi is alleged to have travelled to Tanzania to join Al-Shabaab after his graduation shows he was very likely to have studied in an atmosphere highly conducive to radicalisation,’ said Students Rights director Rupert Sutton yesterday.

‘It is vital that other institutions learn from his example, and ensure they are actively challenging extremism wherever it appears on their campuses.’  In fact, there can be little doubt Emwazi was en route for Somalia.

Court documents relating to a Home Office control order — supposed to keep a terror suspect under close supervision — reveal that Mohammed Emwazi was part of an established network of extremists around Ladbroke Grove, most of them well known to the security services.

A number have gone to fight in Syria, but others trained with Al-Shabaab in Somalia or were involved in the ‘provision of funds and equipment to Somalia to undertake terrorism- related activity.’

Emwazi also moved in the same circles as Ibrahim Magag, a Somali-born former train conductor from London involved in ‘financial support for Al Qaeda’.

At the flat in West London where Emwazi most recently lived with his parents and two of his sisters, a neighbour said: ‘They are strange people — not like other people around here. He [Emwazi] would not say hello — he was unfriendly.’

Emwazi vanished sometime in 2013. His parents reported him missing after three days but claimed it was four months before police arrived on their doorstep and told them they had information he was in Syria.

His father, 51, told police they were wrong, that his son was in Turkey, helping refugees from Syria.

The family are said to continue to deny that he is the IS masked executioner, who first introduced himself to the world on August 19 last year. In the now infamous video, he was dressed from head to toe in black.

Next to him, kneeling in the desert terrain was American journalist James Foley, who was about to become his first victim.

Mohammed Emwazi may have wielded the dagger that killed him and five other Western hostages — but let’s be in no doubt that he learned the hate for non-Muslims which consumes him on British shores.


Outrage as six-year-old boy is forced to eat lunch alone behind a screen after his parents dropped him off late to school

Parents have expressed their outrage at how a six-year-old boy was forced to eat his school lunch alone behind a screen after his parents dropped him off late.

Lincoln Elementary School in Grants Pass, Oregon has been forced to change its tardiness policy after an image of the punishment was shared thousands of times on Facebook - sparking hundreds of complaints.

In the photograph, Hunter Cmelo, a first grader at the school, can be seen sitting alone behind a cardboard divider at a cafeteria table. Close by is a cup with a large letter 'D' for 'detention'.

His grandmother, Laura Hoover, shared the image to her Facebook page on Wednesday.  'This is my grandson, Hunter. He's a little first grader,' she wrote. 'His momma's car sometimes doesn't like to start right up. Sometimes he's a couple of minutes late to school.

'Yesterday, he was 1 minute late and this is what his momma discovered they do to punish him! They have done this to him 6 times for something that is out of his control! They make a mockery of him in front of the other students.'

She said that his mother found Hunter crying and took him home. His parents said they were devastated when they found out what their son was going through.

'They are shaming him for something that's not in his control,' his father, Mark Cmelo, told KOIN6. 'It is our fault that he is late.'

His mother, Nicole Garloff, said the punishment has left her son anxious about going to school, and that a few days ago, he began 'flipping out' because they were running late.

She said that she has experienced car troubles and suffers from osteoporosis, which can set her back in the mornings.  'It causes a lot of pain and in the mornings it's especially hard for me to get going,' she said. 

The boy is unable to ride the school bus because they live within a mile of the school, but they are unable to walk because the road is too busy.

School superintendent John Higgins and principal Missy Fitzsimmons started receiving threatening calls after the photo was shared on Facebook, according to Newswatch 12.

Higgins told the channel he believes the system gave students a chance to catch up on missed work.

The 'protocol was communicated to parents via newsletter and is intended to provide the students with an above average level of tardiness, supervised additional learning time in a non-distracting setting,' the district said in a statement. 'It was never intended to isolate or stigmatize students.'

The principal immediately reached out to the parents after receiving complaints. They met on Thursday and agreed to stop using the partition as a punishment.

'We are pleased to report the meeting was productive,' the district said. 'The parents' concerns were politely discussed and, ultimately, the issues were resolved to the satisfaction of both parents and the school. All parties involved believe that an appropriate resolution has been reached.


Is This Any Way to Reform Education?

As kids break free of school for the weekend, the House is scheduled to vote Friday on the next iteration of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the 2001 legislation that replaced the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and exponentially expanded the reach of the federal government into the classroom.

Republicans introduced the Student Success Act (SSA), a bill aimed at scaling back Uncle Sam’s increasingly outsized role in the classroom. But two major groups that are in agreement more often than not – Heritage Action (affiliated with the Heritage Foundation) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) – have come down on opposite sides of this bill, with AEI backing it and Heritage not. As is often the case with legislation aimed at reining in a runaway government, the core issue comes down to whether the bill goes far enough in returning the federal government to its constitutionally authorized role in education. Incidentally, that role is “none.”

According to AEI, SSA offers several “fixes” to NCLB, including eliminating or consolidating 65 programs, promoting school choice by allowing Title I funds to follow low-income children to the district or charter school parents choose, repealing adequate yearly progress (AYP, which, as we’ve previously noted, has done more harm than good), eliminating the “highly qualified teacher” mandates, and preventing the federal government from pressing states to adopt Common Core or other national academic standards.

Heritage, however, holds that some of the bill’s claims are misleading. For example, according to Heritage, those 65 programs are not eliminated but only consolidated, and the consolidation does not mean spending is reduced. Similarly, while AYP disappears, the requirement that states develop state-level accountability structures does not; instead, SSA “direct[s] the state to establish a single uniform assessment, limiting the ability of local schools to determine their own curriculum.” And while Title I funds can follow the child to district and charter schools, they may not be used for private schools.

Further, Heritage notes of the SSA, “The suggestion that Congress needs a 616-page bill to reduce the federal education imprint is implausible.” Siding with those who believe SSA doesn’t go far enough, Heritage supports the A-PLUS (Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success) option, referring to an amendment offered by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) that “enables states the flexibility to completely opt out [of federal education programs] and dictate how to best utilize federal education funding.”

AEI is less than convinced by A-PLUS, however. Max Eden and Michael Q. McShane explain that the actual wording of the amendment may encourage, not curb, federal involvement as A-PLUS opt-out requests could require the subjective approval of the secretary of education. Barack Obama’s current secretary, Arne Duncan, isn’t exactly someone conservatives should trust.

If the committee vote is any indication, the Student Success Act will pass the House on party lines and head to the Senate. Already, Obama threatened to veto the bill. He claims it “abdicates the historic federal role in elementary and secondary education of ensuring the educational progress of all of America’s students.”

Obama must have studied Common Core history. Yes, the federal government has a history of interfering in education, but a “historic role” doesn’t mean it’s a constitutional one. In truth, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was first passed only in 1965, and the Department of Education didn’t become a Cabinet-level agency until 1980. Shockingly (ahem), all this “historic” involvement has failed to yield the stellar results promised.

Perhaps America’s Founders were actually onto something when they didn’t delegate to Congress the power to regulate education and, by the Tenth Amendment, reserved it to the states and the people. Of course, when Washington runs the classroom, this is a “historic” fact many students will never hear – and that suits politicians just fine.


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