Why do Westerners join terrorist movements like ISIS (Islamic State / Daesh)?

This text is a translation of the article originally written here by Michael muhammad knight on 03.09.2014.

the Islamist state recently posted another gruesome video showing yet another beheading, once again perpetuated by a jihadist of Western descent. As is often the case, I have received messages asking for an explanation.

I am the jihadist who never became a

I was one step away from being part of the Islamic State.

Twenty years ago, I left my Catholic high school in upstate New York to study at a Saudi-funded madrassa in Pakistan. As I recently converted, I had the opportunity to live in a mosque and study the Quran all day.

This happened in the mid-1990s, when violence escalated between Chechen resistance militias and Russian military forces. After class we turned on the television and watched shows from there full of pain and suffering. The videos were terrible. So terrible that I quickly found myself thinking about giving up my religious education to take up arms and fight for the freedom of Chechnya.

It was not a verse that I read in our Quranic study circles that made me want to fight, but my American values. He had grown up there in the 1980s under Reagan. I learned from GI Joe cartoons to (in the words of its main theme) “Struggle for Freedom, Wherever in Danger”. I have adopted the idea that individuals have the right – and the duty – to intervene in any part of the planet where threats to freedom, justice or equality are perceived.

For me, wanting to go to Chechnya was not reducible to my status as a Muslim or as “hatred of the West”. It may be hard to believe, but I thought of the war in terms of compassion. Like many Americans who enlist in the military, driven by love for their country, I wanted to fight oppression and protect the safety and dignity of others. He believed this world looked bad. I put my faith in somehow magical solutions. I claimed that the world could be mended through a revival of genuine Islam and a truly Islamic system of government. But I also believed that the fight for justice was worth more than my own life.

Finally, I decided to stay in Islamabad

And the people who came to convince me not to go to battle were not the kind of Muslims the media can label as liberals, reformist friends of the West and the like. They were deeply conservative, some would call them “intolerant”. In the same learning environment in which I was taught that my mother, not being a Muslim, would burn forever in hell, I was also taught that she would bring more good to the world as a student than ‘as a soldier, and that he had to fight to be more than a body in a ditch. These traditionalists reminded me of Muhammad’s saying that the ink of schoolchildren is more sacred than the blood of martyrs.

The media often draw a clear line separating our categories of “good” and “bad” Muslims. My brothers in Pakistan would have made this division much more complicated than many can imagine. These men, whom I had as pious superheroes, speaking to me as the legitimate voice of lore itself, said that violence was not the best I could offer.

Some guys in my situation seem to have received very different advice

It is easy to assume that religious people, especially Muslims, act simply because their religions demand it. But when I think of the impetus I had when I was 17 to go far and become a fighter for the cause of the Chechen rebels, I consider things more than religious factors. My scenario imagined on the the liberation of Chechnya and the transformation of the country into an Islamic state was a purely American fantasy, Based on American values ​​and ideals. When I hear from Americans who are flying across the planet to engage in freedom struggles that are not theirs, I think “what is this American action”.

And here is the problem

We are raised to love violence and see military conquest as a benevolent act. The American boy who wants to intervene in another nation’s civil war owes his view of the world both to American idiosyncrasy and to fundamentalist interpretations of writing.

I grew up in a country that glorifies military sacrifice and is allowed to rebuild other societies from its own perspective. I internalize these values ​​before I even think about religion. Before I even knew what a Muslim is, let alone concepts like “jihad” or “Islamic State,” my American life had taught me that this is what brave people do.

  • Source: The Washington Post

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