But but but but they were moderates. Until. they. weren’t.
Proving yet again, as if further proof to the lie were needed, that poverty, disaffection, illiteracy yada yada yada are not the motivators behind Muslims going Islam.
The leftist/Islamic lie that is rammed down our throats by Islamic supremacists like Hamas-CAIR and Islamic apologists like President Obama, John Kerry, the media and academics across the world that this has nothing to do with Islam is absurd on its face. They will attribute jihad to poverty, illiteracy, culture — anything but its true origins.
Thousands of Muslims from Europe, North America, Australia, et al who are flocking to the Middle East to wage jihad grew up in the West, went to good schools and came from affluent homes.
At the risk of repeating myself for the umpeenth time, this war is ideological. It’s religious and political. Because Islam is political. Nationality, race, sex, ethnicity, borders, hair color, shoe size are irrelevant. It is Islamic jihad. That is the common thread. Holy war. Period.
Rappers in Germany, doctors in Glasgow, chemical engineering students in Canada, heart surgeons in Saudi Arabia, university students in Britain, imams in America, herdsmen in Nigeria and so forth – what brings these wildly different people together? Jihad. From the Sahara to the Kalahari, London to Lisbon, Manhattan to Madrid, Bali to Boston, Tiananmen Square to Thailand, Myanmar to Malaysia, Nairobi to Nigeria ….. no matter what the background, upbringing, schooling, wealth or poverty, color, what have you, it doesn’t matter. The understanding of Islam and jihad is the same, and it is the motive, the incitement to this monstrous war on the West and the East and all points in between.
If the world was as concerned with the mass slaughter of non-Muslims by jihadists as they are about the fictional narrative of “islamophobia,” we might begin to defeat this enemy of humanity.
“School of Jihadis: Why have six former pupils of the ‘Eton of comprehensives’ been linked to terror?,” by Paul Bracchi and Tim Stewart, Daily Mail, October 11, 2014
Holland Park School, in the heart of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea — a catchment area that includes some of the wealthiest addresses in the capital — is known as ‘the Eton of comprehensives’.
Indeed, the building itself resembles a plush hotel or advertising agency with minimalist sofas and bespoke chairs for both teachers and pupils, created by one of Britain’s leading furniture designers, not to mention a sweeping glass atrium, stylish walkways, a roof terrace with panoramic views over the city and a swimming pool in the basement.
Even before the Grand Designs-style refurbishment two years ago (funded by selling part of the campus to housing developers), it was regarded as one of the top state schools in the country.
‘Outstanding’ was the verdict of a 2011 Ofsted report that praised the ‘exceptional’ leadership of inspirational and dynamic headmaster Colin Hall, who was appointed in 2001.
Currently, 96 per cent of students sitting GCSEs achieve five or more A* to C grades. Five have won places at Oxbridge in the past two academic years.
Bear this in mind when you consider the next ‘statistic’. In the same two-year period, up to six former Holland Park pupils left Britain to became Islamic jihadists in the Middle East or were linked to Islamic terrorism.
Today, following a Mail investigation, many of these individuals — the youngest is 21, the oldest 27 — can be identified. Three of them are now dead.
One appeared on a video in the summer appealing for more recruits from the UK to join Islamic State’s ‘golden era of jihad’. He is still in the Middle East, where Islamic State (IS) is engaged in a bloody and barbaric struggle to establish a caliphate, or Islamic empire, ruled by Sharia law. A second died in battle after joining up with IS in Syria. A third was killed while waging ‘holy war’ for an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria. The fourth on our list also died in the Syrian conflict.
A fifth, a woman, was found guilty in August of fundraising for terrorism (the money was destined for IS) and is awaiting sentence; her female co-defendant, who was in the same year as her at Holland Park, was cleared of the same offence.
Until now, the ‘Holland Park link’ between these home-grown jihadists has gone unreported.
There is no evidence, it should be stressed, to suggest radicalisation took place directly inside the school, which attained academy status in 2013 and is alma mater to the likes of Hollywood actress Anjelica Huston and the late Tony Benn’s children.
Nevertheless, we now know that of the reported 24 jihadists from London who have joined IS or taken up arms with other Islamic fanatics, around a quarter of them went to the same school.
Mohamad el-Araj, pictured, ran away from home to Syria where he was later killed fighting for jihadis
Could there be a more extraordinary — or chilling — revelation? Or, indeed, a greater betrayal of everything this country has done for them and their families?
Betrayal is, of course, a charge that could be levelled against anyone from Britain who has joined a terror group such as IS that is murdering Britons abroad in the name of Islam and actively conspiring to do the same here.
But it is especially true of those who were afforded the opportunity of going to one of the best schools in one of the most affluent boroughs.
Around 60 per cent of pupils at Holland Park School come from ‘a wide range of ethnic backgrounds’, according to Ofsted, and speak English as a second language.
Many former pupils also came from the Ladbroke Grove neighbourhood, where one of the biggest mosques in West London is situated and where many of those you are about to read about, we have learned, went to pray. Among them, 23-year-old Mohammed el-Araj.
Hamzah Parvez, pictured, asked fellow British Muslims ‘Are we content with eating Nandos?’ on a terror video
One morning last year, he left the family flat in Blenheim Crescent, an elegant Victorian terrace in Ladbroke Grove, not far from David Cameron’s Notting Hill residence, to go to a local college where he was studying to be a mechanical engineer. At least, that is what his parents thought.
Their son never returned, however. His father, an antiques dealer of Palestinian descent, would later discover that he had never gone to college at all; nor had he ever even enrolled on a course.
The next time Mohammed’s family saw him, in fact, he was staring out from a propaganda photograph on the internet wearing a paramilitary uniform and brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle in war-torn Syria, where he was fighting President Assad’s forces alongside terrorist and extremist groups under the name ‘Abu Khalid’.
Mohammed Nasser was killed fighting for IS earlier this year also attended the school
Not long afterwards, Araj was fatally wounded. He received many tributes from his ‘friends’.
Araj’s short life and brutal death made a few paragraphs in the papers at the time. Only now has it emerged that he went to Holland Park School. He flourished during his five years there, leaving in 2006.
‘Mohammed was a lovely young man, very intelligent and humble,’ said a family friend. ‘He was always studying.’
His two younger sisters also went to Holland Park School. One was among ten GCSE dance students from the school who were chosen to perform in a production at the Royal Albert Hall a few years ago, and the other was a box office assistant for Opera Holland Park, a company which receives financial backing from the council to produce an annual season of operas in the summer holidays, staged under a temporary canopy in the eponymous local park.
The contrast between their lives and the path chosen by their brother — they were, incidentally, brought up in a non-religious household — is both striking and profoundly disturbing.
Mohammed el-Araj’s time at Holland Park School overlapped with that of two other boys, two years below him, who both lived a few streets away in the same corner of Ladbroke Grove. Their names: Mohammed Nasser and Hamzah Parvez. Nasser — unlike Parvez and Araj — was from a devout Muslim family; his mother and late father were originally from Eritrea in the Horn of Africa.
‘They only associated with other Muslims,’ said a neighbour. Even so, he and Parvez became good friends at Holland Park, a friendship which deepened after they left in 2009.
Over the past few years, Nasser, a business undergraduate at the University of Roehampton, and Parvez, who worked in a hotel in Shepherd’s Bush, became increasingly close.
What followed obeyed a familiar pattern. It is documented in an article in the Huffington Post online newspaper by journalist Tam Hussein, himself a former Holland Park pupil.
On May 15, the 21-year-old friends vanished. They had flown out from Gatwick before making their way to Turkey and crossing the border into Syria, where they joined up with IS fighters. The two, according to Hussein, were later separated and placed in different IS battalions.
In August, three months after they left home, Parvez, his face covered by a black scarf, appeared in an IS video. He asks the camera: ‘What are we doing sitting in the UK? Sitting in the land which kills Muslims every day . . . it’s not the land for us. Are we content with eating Nando’s every week? Come to the land of Allah.’
Parvez, whose family comes from Pakistan, then revealed, matter-of-factly, that his schoolfriend Mohammed Nasser had been killed in fighting. Pointing to his forehead, he said his comrade in arms had died after a piece of shrapnel hit him in the head a few weeks earlier, on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.
Amal el-Wahabi, pictured, wanted to send cash from London to the Middle East to fund terrorists
Nasser’s family, devastated by their loss, left the country for Mecca, the online news report said, ‘consoling themselves in pilgrimage’.
Only with hindsight did Parvez’s family begin to question the change in his behaviour in the period leading up to his carefully planned exit from the UK with Nasser.
At one point, Parvez’s mother bought him a top from Primark which had the American flag stitched on to it. He refused to wear it because, he said, it was the ‘symbol of oppression’.
Amal el-Wahabi, 27, harboured similar feelings.
The daughter of a London bus driver, she also went to Holland Park School and worked hard in class, passing GCSEs and taking part in a Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, before leaving in 2003 and studying for NVQs in health and social care.
In August, she and another Holland Park contemporary, university student Nawal Msaad, 27, both of Moroccan descent, appeared in the dock of the Old Bailey.
Miss Msaad was caught with £16,000 in euros stuffed in her underwear at Heathrow as she attempted to board a flight to Istanbul back in January. Police believed she was going to hand over the cash to Wahabi’s husband, a Muslim convert who was fighting with Islamic insurgents. The jury, however, decided that Miss Msaad was tricked into being a mule by Wahabi, who had given her the money.
Wahabi claimed, in her defence, that she thought her husband was helping an aid convoy in Syria. But extremist videos sent to her from him, then found in their flat, painted a very different picture.
One message featured the flag of IS, with the slogan: ‘Allah prefers the Mujahideen over those who remain behind.’ To which Wahabi responded: ‘Be beside you until the day you die.’ Also found on her phone were pictures of her husband posing with an AK-47 and other fighters. Wahabi was convicted of fundraising for terrorism.
There is something else you should know about Amal el-Wahabi. You might call it another coincidence.
She was living in Portobello Road, a short stroll from Mohammed el-Araj, Hamzah Parvez and Mohammed Nasser, but only a few doors away from one Nassim Terreri. The pair not only went to Holland Park School, they were in the same year.
Nassim Terreri was killed in Syria in a hail of bullets although his family deny he was a terrorist
One night in March 2012, Terreri, 25, a British Algerian, died in a hail of bullets on a Syrian mountainside fighting alongside another British Algerian from London. The Syrian government later named him on a list of ‘terrorists’ sent to the UN.
His family said he had gone to the country as a freelance journalist, and denied he was a terrorist. But reports at the time revealed how a YouTube account in Terreri’s name advertised links to videos featuring extremist preachers who advocated violence against the West, including one film by al-Shabaab, the Somali affiliate of Al Qaeda.
A Twitter account, also in Terreri’s name, contained links to videos advocating radical indoctrination and Islamist-inspired violence.
Colin Hall, the headmaster of Holland Park, said: ‘We take a very strong stance that this is a secular school and whatever you believe or might think, it stops at the school gates when you come in.
‘We’ve got a very strong line on secularity and a very strong line on zero tolerance to any kind of fundamentalism from any religion.’
Yet even under the widely praised leadership of Mr Hall, up to six pupils, that we know of, passed through his school and were later linked to Islamic terrorism. Whatever other influences they were subjected to after they left, it remains a tantalising connection.