British Government, University Respond to Criticism Stemming From ‘Jihadi John’

Mohammed Emwazi graduated from the University of Westminster in 2009. An alum claims the school may have been a factor in his radicalization.

Government and University of Westminster officials defended their institutions Monday night after facing criticism for their handling of an Islamic State jihadist known as Jihadi John.

A spokesperson for England’s University of Westminster says the school has policies in place to deter religious extremism and promote tolerance on campus. Home Secretary Theresa May passionately defended the country’s intelligence services and called the people working in the intelligence field “true heroes,” according to

Mohammed Emwazi, 26, was born in Kuwait but was a naturalized British citizen living in London at the time he attended the University of Westminster, where he graduated in 2009. Although British authorities had already identified Emwazi as a potential terrorist, he traveled to Syria in 2013 and was eventually identified as responsible for several brutal murders in the Middle East.

Last week, a Westminster alum wrote an editorial claiming “Westminster was probably a factor in [Emwazi’s] radicalization.” The British campaign group Cage is similarly claiming that MI5, England’s counterintelligence agency, pushed Emwazi to extremism.

The spokesperson for the University of Westminster, which is located in London and enrolls 20,000 students, says the school has many influences, and is working with other London universities to implement the government’s Prevent Strategy, which is designed to tackle extremism.

Religious extremism has captured the world’s attention in the wake of atrocities by Islamic terrorist groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State. With U.S. intelligence confirming at least 300 Americans were fighting alongside the Islamic State last summer, it’s possible schools in the U.S. have also enrolled future extremists. Both people accused of being responsible for the Boston marathon bombing in 2013 had attended colleges in the city.

About the Author


Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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