The Islamic State’s (ISIS) notorious butcher-in-black was revealed as Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born Londoner. The throat-slitting man, who the media dubbed as ‘Jihadi John,’ was an aspiring rapper. This left US Sen. John McCain scratching his head as he had posited that the ISIS phenomenon was the result of a ‘power vacuum’ in the Middle East, after the local tyrants were felled by America.

However, what compels West London dwellers, like Emwazi, to go rogue is an ‘ideological’ vacuum, not a geopolitical one. Humans like conflict; it fuels art, feeds media and generally keeps us entertained. Since the end of the Cold War and Communism, the world does as western capitalism pleases. There are bored young men everywhere; many are rebels looking for a convenient cause.

In his memoir ‘Radical,’ former extremist-turned-humanist Maajid Nawaz writes that Jihadist recruiters convinced him, that the troubles he faced as an individual were not isolated, but part of a major conspiracy against Islam by the West. This ‘clash of civilizations’ narrative is what Al-Baghdadi peddles to bring in money and men. Most are converts or people raised in atheist households. Mathieu Guidere, from the University of Toulouse, calls them “disillusioned idealists and revolutionaries.” What makes ISIS particularly dangerous is its use of Islamic symbolism. This differentiates it from other militant groups selling a similar spin on theology.


Islamabad, March 14.