Mind of a Jehadi

30 05 2008

Mind of a Jehadi

By Amir Mir

(Appeared in Tehelka)

AL QAEDA chief Osama bin Laden has made jihad more central than ever before, sparking new global waves of inspiration to youth ready to give their all for the fight that he has come to symbolize. So blinded, often, is the commitment of the jihadi to the cause that those confronted with them are at a loss for counter-strategies.

He could be a dyed-in-the-wool product of a remote madarsa, bearded, aloof and intent on his purpose of establishing the Empire of the Faith. Or he could be a denim-clad graduate from a Western campus, modern to all intents and appearances, but equally single-minded in determination as his counterpart from the madarsa. He may have been part of the West and benefited from what it has to offer, but he also sees the “ills and injustices of its materialism, its determination to foist on the world an order and ethos it has created”; he is determined to fight it. As Giles Kepel, the leading French authority on Islamists, puts it in his important study, The War For Muslim Minds: “Al Qaeda was (and is) less a military base of operations than a database that connected jehadists around the world via the Internet… this organisation did not consist of buildings and tanks and borders but of websites, clandestine financial transfers and a proliferation of activists ranging from Jersey City to the paddies of Indonesia.”

In the final analysis, the jehadi is the same person, whether he comes from an ill-equipped madarsa or an affluent university, whether he comes from the poverty of the Orient or from the plenty of the West. He celebrates death in the service of Islam and resolutely believes that death in the service of the only cause worth serving is a one-way ticket to heaven. His biggest disagreement with the modern concept of democracy is that he does not believe religion is the private affair of a person but rather a complete way of life that necessarily includes politics.

Islam is his religion and his nation; it transcends boundaries, ethnicities, colour, creed and race. He rejects secularism and any social order other than that defined by Islam. He believes that Allah alone ——” is the sovereign and His commandments are the supreme taw of man. Of course, the theoretical reason why Islam had asked its followers to wage jehad was to create an egalitarian social order where the poor and the vulnerable would be treated with respect and dignity.

Jehad (struggle) never exclusively meant a holy war; it could have been a social, political, economic campaign as well. It was a fight against inequality, social injustice and discrimination. But today jehad has but one dimension — Kital, or violent struggle. And it has but one icon: Osama bin Laden, embattled with the Great West to establish the domination of his own realm of faith.

The mind of an Islamic terrorist is difficult for a non-Muslim to comprehend. What could lead a person to cause his or her own violent death is a question that is frequently raised. It is contrary to every human emotion that we have. Yet, we know there are hundreds of Islamic fundamentalists who are wilting to kill and be killed for Allah. An important reason is the promise that the gates of Paradise are under the shadows of the swords.

According to most leading Muslim scholars here, personally, spirituality, politically, intellectually and emotionally, the questions that an Islamic fundamentalist faces are stark indeed. Personally, he asks himself if he loves Allah more than his own life? Spiritually, he asks whether or not he is willing to sacrifice himself in Allah’s cause against the Shaytan’s power and the infidel’s military forces? Politically, he divides the nations of the world into two warring camps. The nations under Islamic rule are termed, the Land of Peace (Dar al-lslam) while the remaining nations are called the Land of War (Dar al-Harb). Intellectually, the answers to those questions are crystal clear to him. Emotionally, his only hurdle is the fear of death. Once this emotional fear is conquered, the person joyfully takes up the sword to kill and be killed in Allah’s cause, anticipating his entrance into the gates of heavenly Paradise. Thus, martyrdom is the only assured path to Paradise.

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