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“Of course I feel good here. Jihad in our time is a personal commandment. I can’t recommend anything to you, but the blessed Allah told Muslims to follow in his path, ” Abu-Turab, a 26-year-old American told me. Turab is fighting in Aleppo, in Syria, together with the Islamic State (IS) forces.
I approached Abu-Turab under the name Abd-Alsalam Afifi, 26, from Paris. I added him as a friend in a messaging application, and asked how I could join the combat forces and what the organization’s intentions were. “First of all, get to Turkey, and then I can give you a telephone number to contact, and they’ll do the rest. It’s that simple, ” he said.
Dozens of young Americans and many hundreds of young people from various countries in Europe have already made it to Syria and Iraq and are fighting for various factions, chiefly IS, which has won a name for itself thanks to its swift and cruel conquest of territories they call the Islamic Caliphate, and thanks to the photographs and video clips that vividly document their mass murders of Shia, Kurdish, and Yazidi heretics and of anyone who fails to meet their strict standards in observing the religion of Muhammad.
Since many of the fighters in the organization come from the US and Europe, there is plenty of information about it on the Internet, from training videos, forums and chats, to contact details. These young men give the impression of being committed to the cause, and they work hard to recruit more fighters.
I found Abu-Turab on a European social network for surfers’ questions and answers. Abu-Turab is a star on this network, with hundreds of detailed answers to questions from surfers from all over the world interested in his activities and in the possibility of joining up.
“What happens if Assad’s dogs catch you, ” one surfer asked.
“They haven’t caught me yet, and I pray to Allah that it won’t happen.” was the reply.
In a personal chat, I asked him what IS’s plans were after setting up the Islamic Caliphate. “Allah willing, we’ll expand the Caliphate, ” he said, and declared “The Jews and Hezbollah’s time will come, soon.”
What makes a young person from a Western country leave his home and travel to a battle zone in the name of religion? A video recently released running on sites connected to Jihadist movements in the Middle East features three young British men in Syria holding rifles and calling on others to join them.
One of them turns to the viewer and says, “Are you prepared to sacrifice your job, your big car, your family? Are you prepared to sacrifice this for the sake of Allah?”
“My brothers in the West, ” he says in the clip, “I know how you feel, I live there too. In your hearts, you are depressed. The treatment for this depression is Jihad. My brothers, come to Jihad and feel the honor that we feel, feel the joy that we feel.”
“These young people have a severe sense of alienation from the environment in which they find themselves, ” explains Prof. Meir Litvak, Associate Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, “They are attracted to something that is as much as possible opposed to what they see before them, and fundamental Islam represents that, something diametrically opposite to America, which they see as rotten and corrupt.”
The easiest explanation for the attraction that Jihad holds for these young people is an economic one, but Prof. Litvak says that this is not the case. “Most of them are not poor; it’s not that an economic breakdown pushes them into despair. Not at all. These are young middle class people, like the British youths of Pakistani origin who carried out the attacks in London, it’s the same thing. There are marginal types, Americans or Europeans who have converted to Islam, but for the most part they are young people from bourgeois Muslim families who feel alienated from society.”
Dr. Muhammad al Atawneh of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev says that these young people do not understand Islam, and that organizations like IS are not based on religious sources. “As far as these young people are concerned, it’s a protest. They see radical Islam as the ultimate alternative to the failure of the nation states. They go from one extreme to the other, talk about a Caliphate, but none of them knows what a Caliphate means.
“There is tremendous ignorance about the subject, ” he says, “They are very confused about religious matters. The distortion and the knowledge gap are so deep, that it’s impossible to understand on what texts those who behead people rely.”
Back to Abu-Turab. “When I made up my mind to do Jihad, I left college, and I said that I would be honest with myself and leave the land of the unbelievers and find a way to do Jihad, ” he relates, “The idea came to me in Ramadan. A friend of mine said he dreamt the he and I were sitting with a Sheikh in Syrian, Palestinian or Iraqi dress, doing Jihad and talking in Arabic. A year later at the end of Ramadan I reached Syria.
“I urge everyone to hurry here to do Jihad if they can, or to give us honor through Jihad in the West, ” he answered to one American who asked him if it was worth coming to Syria even though he had only recently started training. “Any hesitation, especially for reasons connected to the pleasures of this world, is only a trap by Satan.”
He is not prepared to say where he comes from in the US, or to give his full name. He is prepared to say that he reached Syria with $80, 000 dollars and sports shoes. He seems to prefer the companionship of fighters from the West, “otherwise I’ll lose my talents in English, ” he says jokingly. What about getting married. “Someone from America would be good. There aren’t many American women here, you know.”
And what does he miss? McDonald’s, of course.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com