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Flying Blind in Belgium

If you hijack an airliner, you can’t expect much sympathy, to say the least. Especially if you stab one of the passengers to death. If you use the hijacking to secure the release of terrorists who go on to commit further crimes, you are the worst of the worst.

Or the very best in extremist eyes. Look at this example in The Army of Madinah in Kashmir, a recruitment screed for jihad in that troubled land. The book was published in 1999 by Maktabah, a jihadi propaganda outlet in Birmingham run in those years by none other than Moazzam Begg. This “Final Update” appears on page 150:

December 1999 witnessed a great landmark in the Kashmiri Jihad, one that resounded internationally when revolutionary members of the Pakistan based Harkat-ul-Mujahideen group successfully co-ordinated a hijacking of an Indian airlines plane in the Kathmandu region in Nepal, managing to eventually steer it successfully to Khandahar in Afghanistan.

India has been dealt a severe blow and by its own admission feels that this will only serve to fuel mass resistance through militancy throughout the Occupied Territories. In the aftermath of this milestone only three Mujahideen clerics have been liberated. Therefore in the same breath, we cannot allow ourselves to be consumed by jubilation. There still remain enumerable Mujahideen locked up around India and Kashmir in the filthy dungeons as indeed they are the world round.

Indeed, the hijackers demanded the release of prisoners in India. One who was released was Omar Sheikh. He went on to join the group that abducted and beheaded the American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002.

By the way, the author of Army of Madinah was Dhiren Barot. He was jailed for life seven years later for plotting to murder thousands of people in the UK and the USA for al-Qaeda.

This story is what makes the latest news about Begg beyond bonkers. Later this month the Airports Council International will stage a “Security & Crisis Management Special Summit” in Brussels. The host will be Brussels Airport, which was itself attacked by jihadis earlier this year. And who is the “keynote speaker” on day two? Why, Mr Begg.

Here’s another aviation story. In 2007 the UCL Islamic Society held a “War on Terror” week featuring nasty speakers. They included Moazzam Begg and his sidekick at Cage, Asim Qureshi. Here’s the promotional video, plainly designed to stir up anger. You will see that it includes a segment of Asim Qureshi’s rant for jihad at a Hizb ut-Tahrir rally outside the US embassy – this video is jihadi propaganda, like Army of Madinah.

And who organised these events in 2007? A young man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, then a UCL student and Islamic Society leader. In 2009 Abdulmutallab became infamous as the “undie bomber” who tried to blow up an American airliner over Detroit.

Mr Begg dissembled about all this, as he so often does, but those who already knew him were not fooled. After all, and in addition to the rest of the long and sorry history, this was a man with a shocking record of promoting Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki was the al-Qaeda preacher and recruiter who Abdulmutallab and so many other terrorists found inspiring.

In fact, foreshadowing is a recurring theme with Begg and Cage. Recall that Begg worked with a charmer of a “charity worker” named Mahmoud Abu Rideh when both were in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. He too was of interest to the security system, and rightly so. By 2010 Rideh had returned to Afghanistan, where he was killed in an air strike on al-Qaeda fighters.

As for Begg’s Maktabah, in new hands it continued the jihadi tradition and met a predictable end.

Most notably, of course, Cage worked with Mohammed Emwazi when he was in London as a “beautiful young man” turning the heads of, ahem, the security officers who keep us all safe. Not long after that Emwazi went to Syria and became “Jihadi John”, Islamic State’s chief head chopper.

Really, Cage is an excellent early warning system. Follow its causes, find the trouble.

To sum up, the truth is that Begg and Cage have one mission in life: to help jihadis and wreck the entirely legitimate and supremely urgent security operations of Western democracies.

One would hope that aviation security professionals, of all people, would see this clearly and keep Mr Begg well beyond the political perimeter. Instead they appear to be flying blind.