The Problem With The Good Vs. Bad Guy Mentality In the Case of Jihadi John

Calling ISIS recruits evil might be true, but is it a solution?

orange jump suit, beheading, mohammed emwazi, london uk native, jihadi john, radicalized, muslim, islam, ISIS


A British citizen, Mohammed Emwazi, has been identified as the British voice behind the video-taped beheadings released from ISIS.

An independent advocacy organization called CAGE posted an essay and held a press conference blaming the UK security services for playing a part in the radicalization of Emwazi, nicknamed Jihadi John. The director of the group has received condemnation for characterizing Emwazi as “extremely kind, extremely gentle, extremely soft spoken, was the most humble young person that I knew.”

The Huffington Post called the “farcical,” posting outraged tweets from the community.


CAGE asserts that Emwazi had been harassed several times by UK authorities, and thus became radicalized.


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The three UK girls who disappeared and have reportedly being radicalized also comes to mind. People are asking, how big a problem is this? Are Muslims everywhere becoming radicalized? How is ISIS effectively recruiting these seemingly normal people?

CAGE’s assertations may have huge problems and misleading information, but it does lead me to see how uncomfortable it is for anyone who is against ISIS to see these radicalized recruits as human.

Our discomfort with the idea that someone who does such horrific, unforgivable actions was once human and empathetic is the heart of the problem.

Our inability to see people who have committed monstrous atrocities anything but monsters is what perpetuates conflicts like this. In the end, there will be no ISIS versus Team America. There will be no radicalized versus reasonable. It will not look like good versus bad guy. It will only look like us versus them, humans fighting humans.


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My intent is not to campaign for good feelings toward ISIS or even sympathy for the group. Far from it. It is to see everyone as people. Only then can we understand our enemies’ motivations and even stand a chance at being successful against their cause. Yes ISIS is the enemy, but if we continue to marginalize Muslims and dismiss everything done by the disenfranchised as animalistic, then ordinary people will continue to be radicalized and terrorist organizations will continue to gain followers. The radicalization of seemingly ordinary Muslims may not be our fault, but the solution is within our grasp, and thus is within our responsibility.

This cartoon made my John Sacco following the Charlie Hebdo tragedy comes to mind.

muslim, radical, islam, terrorist, comedy, comic, parody, joe sacco, charlie hebdo, je suis hebdo, jihadi john

Sacco brilliantly illustrates the point that yes, the actions were inexcusable. But beating our chest and sounding the war drums don’t actually create solutions. It is the easy way out to call our enemy evil. Instead, can we look at these people being radicalized and ask ourselves the hard questions: what can I do personally, what can we do as a community, and what can our governments do as a nation to create a solution and not just a response? 


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