Many young Muslims in London grow up in fractured environments that we ignore at our perilby Ismail Einashe / March 13, 2015 / Leave a comment
The world of Mohammed Emwazi, the man alleged to be the IS executioner nicknamed Jihadi John, was not an easy one to grow up in. Emwazi was born in Kuwait in 1988. His family are from Jahra, a town near Kuwait City. He’s of Bedoon origin, which in Arabic literally means “without.” Bedoons in Kuwait are marginalised with no citizenship rights, a situation that has not changed in over 50 years—making them effectively stateless. And, despite living in one of the richest nations in the world, they are poor. Emwazi’s family moved to Britain in 1994 and received asylum in 1996. He grew up in various parts of West London, most recently on the infamous Mozart Estate in Queen’s Park—a pocket of urban poverty nicknamed “crack city” in the 1990s. It has since suffered from drive-by shootings, drug wars and gang violence. Housing nearly 12,000 people in two square kilometres of high-density accommodation, the area including the Mozart Estate ranks 624th out of 625 on the Greater London Authority’s wellbeing index. Emwazi’s family were neither poor nor wealthy. His father, according to reports, was a mini-cab driver. Poverty does not appear to have driven his son’s radicalisation. But the areas in which Emwazi grew up sit alongside pockets of extreme wealth.
He is alleged to have been a member of the “London Boys”, a gang focused on north-west London, which carried out violent robberies to raise funds for the militant group al-Shabaab in Somalia. He is said to have once kidnapped two teenagers at gunpoint in retaliation for a gang attack on his younger brother Omar, dumping them beside the M1 in their underwear. (This has been disputed.)
A number of extremists in recent years have had links with gangs, such as Bilal Berjawi, an alleged member of the London Boys. He came to Britain as a child from Lebanon, but had his British citizenship revoked, and was killed in a US drone strike on the outskirts of Mogadishu in 2012. Mohamed Sakr, British-born with Egyptian parents, was a friend of Emwazi who lived next…