The Mohammed Emwazi I met in 2009 was indeed a polite and friendly young man as the author Robert Verkaik and man others attest to, but by the summer of 2014 he was executing innocent Muslims and non-Muslims in the name of the Islamic State and I could not recognise the man I had once known.
One year on from a difficult period my organisation and I encountered due to my inappropriate description of him once being a “beautiful young man” – one that I am regretful of due to the impact this insensitivity had on all families who were victims of his murders – we now finally have a book that is able to provide some balance to a story that must be understood.
When I introduced Verkaik, at the time a journalist at The Independent, to Emwazi, it was very much because I respected him – and still do – as someone who is balanced and fair-minded. Since before then, we had been orbiting around stories to do with security service harassment of young Muslim men and so developed a rapport where I knew that here was someone who would take the difficulties faced by these men seriously.
At that time, none of us could know that Emwazi would go on to become a murderer, but this was part of the problem with the information we were dealing with: there was no way to challenge their treatment, or put to test the allegations against them. Perhaps more than most people, I have been in anticipation of this contribution by Verkaik. Like him, it is only natural to think of possible other outcomes to Emwazi’s life.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)