Total despair! The last Black Friday attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka has left 20 foreigners dead. Images of the smiling terrorists, snuggling a Kalashnikov 22 brings me down to earth.
‘Are they the dregs of society? ‘Are they the face of the Holy War or Jihad? ‘Are they brainwashed dropouts? ‘Are they not people who could have become doctors, engineers, lawyers but ended up butchering foreigners, religious minorities and secular bloggers?’
During the same time,
I started reading Tabish Khair’s Jihadi Jane. It reveals the horrific price of religious fanaticism in a scary tale set in scarier times—two teenagers Ameena and Jamilla adjust to life in a high-school of England. One is a small lonely girl puffing away fiercely at a cigarette behind the slide in a damp, grey, littered school playground, the other takes the straight and narrow path leading her to the local mosque in the Yorkshire suburbs.
A love affair goes awry leaving Ameena shattered and alone, she turns to the mosque for solace, believing that she has to do something good, something for a cause. They turn to the Internet and find the modern day Tele Guru—a preacher—Hejjiye, out there in the Middle East supporting what seems to be a war against the ‘unbelievers’. radicalised and brain-washed, they abandon home and hearth, and run away to join the Islamic State in Syria with just ‘one book, that’s it; no frills and philosophies’.
Soon after their arrival, Jamilla discovers: “Evil, I am certain now, arises whenever a person believes that only what he considers purely good has the right to exist.” The road to ‘My way or the highway’ leaves everybody lost in the mirages of the desert. Reality kicks in hard.
The orphanage housing them is no orphanage at all. It’s a halfway house, more like a waiting room for stranded older women of fallen jihadi families; a rest house for jihadi brides and a recruitment centre for prospective female suicide bombers. Their images on the Internet as Western jihadi trophies are reduced to mere propaganda. They are brutalised into mere cogs: cooking, cleaning, and grinding grain, cutting old clothes into bandages for a senseless war machine.
In his brave little book, Tabish Khair brings us as close as possible to the religious falsehood and artifice of one of the all-consuming fanaticism of our times, born of prayers recited many times a day.
Wrapped in Himalayan mist, sitting at my desk, Edmund Burke’s admonition rings so true: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to remain silent.”