by Mohamed Omar

*’Jihadi John’ was allegedly killed in an airstrike 12/11/2015. The following critique still stands

Finally, “Jihadi John” has been unmasked. He is Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born UK citizen. He was known to his teachers as a loner; a hard-working pupil who achieved the required grades to get into University. Mohammed performed relatively well at University – he passed all his modules and graduated with a lower second class degree. Mohammed has then secured employment as an IT consultant. His former employer describes him as “the best employee they ever had”. Since then, Mohammed has joined the (un)Islamic State (ISIS), and turned into a barbaric international terrorist and throat-slitter. ISIS play him like a piano for propaganda purposes. Since his exposure, Mohammed has enjoyed a great deal of media coverage. However, in all the analysis we have yet to decipher his influences and motivation that turned this young man who wasn’t a huge societal concern into a monstrous being.

keep-calm-my-name-is-mohamedMany Muslim men share his first name, and like him, many have migrated to, settled in, and have graduated in the UK. Unlike Mohammed Emwazi many contributed and continue to contribute significantly and positively in the UK. An overwhelming number of them condemn terrorism of any sort and have no desire whatsoever to join an extreme and odious political group that has nothing to do with Islam. Unfortunately – and, I fear, inevitably – the coverage of Mohammed Emwazi will have a detrimental impact on the rest of the Mohammed’s living in the UK. I foresee, for example, those unable to critically process information exploiting prima facie the Mohammed Emwazi case. Predictably, the Pegida type, the likes of the (luckily) now former UKIP councillor with “a problem with negroes” and her friends who enjoy racism will try to gather support by pointing out that all Mohammeds are the same – they benefit from our immigration and education systems to fight against us! This group will undermine the important role British Muslims play in the UK and the West. They will instead focus on the very few “bad apples” to paint all Muslims and immigrants with the same brush, in order to satisfy their hateful prejudices.

In order to address this worrying and unhappy trend, at a time when community relations are volatile and crimes of racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic nature are on the rise, the media and our leaders have a fundamental role to bring people together and report the news responsibly. Ideally, one would hope that we learn from our past. Imperialism and colonialism utilised successful “divide and rule” tactics to physically and mentally destroy indigenous populations. Furthermore, the only way extremists are able to benefit is by installing an “us and them” mentality at the micro and macro level. Therefore, while it is important to responsibly report on Mohammed Emwazi, it is also key to keep in mind the numerous Mohammeds who abhor his actions; and it is equally fundamental to foresee how this could be exploited by certain extreme right groups. It has been said that ISIS uses Mohammed Emwazi as a piano on which to play their propaganda. I am sure Mohammed Emwazi will be used by the extreme right groups to compose a piano piece akin to Chopsticks. Regardless, we should not dance to their tunes.

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Mohamed Omar is Somali born, presently based in Scotland. He is a Master of Laws graduate from the University of Aberdeen. Mohamed works for the UK Civil Service and is currently involved in Scottish Health and Social Care policy developments. Previously, Mohamed has worked at the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, the United Nation Environmental Programme and Save the Children UK. His interests include lnternational politics, Public International Law, Human Rights and football. Mohamed blogs and twits in a personal capacity, therefore his views and opinions are his own. Twitter: @09Mohamedomar

One thought on “‘Jihadi John’ media coverage: Worrying times for the “Average Mo”

  1. Sadly, I’m not sure the media do feel a duty to be responsible with their content. I’d really like it if they did feel a duty to society, and I think they should, but in reality I think their primary (and often sole) motivation is profit.

    We have seen the Islamist far right brazenly attempting to use Mohammed Emwazi for their propaganda purposes, as anyone who has watched any of the TV interviews with the despicable Asim Qureshi recently can testify too. Then as for the white nationalist far right, I don’t think Emwazi being identified will be that dramatic a boon for them. My personal feeling is that much of the general public has now attained a reasonable level of understanding around these issues. I do think that in all but the most boneheaded of our society, Muslims are no longer being negatively homogenised, at least not to the same extent as in previous times. I too am from Scotland, and I appreciate that the waters may be somewhat calmer up here.


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