Captured in the limitless digital universe, the videos will remain forever as bloody testimony to one of mankind’s ancient evils—the cruelty of man to man in the name of religion. In both, a young American wearing an orange jumpsuit is kneeling at an unknown location somewhere in Syria. The black flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) flutters in the distance like a grim omen. Behind him, clad in black from head to toe, face masked like some dark ninja from a medieval age is a man holding a serrated knife. In the first video released on August 19, the executioner is speaking in a southeastern English accent from east London, Kent or Essex. He blames America for what is about to happen to his prisoner. “You are no longer fighting an insurgency,” the militant says in the 4½-minute video. “We are an Islamic army.” He then starts sawing at the captive’s head with a knife. The video has since been taken off YouTube. The second macabre footage broadcast a similar warning: stop airstrikes against the jihadists, or more Americans will pay. The West fears that the remaining Americans and British hostages held by IS in undisclosed locations could face the same fate.
Both the men in the orange jumpsuits were American journalists, Steven Sotloff and James Foley. Their murderer has been identified as a 23-year-old London rapper Abdel Majed Abdel Bary, whose Egyptian-born father was extradited from London to the United States in 2012 for being an alleged associate of Osama bin Laden and planning the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Africa. Last year, Bary joined ISIS, now shortened to Islamic State (IS) jihadis who are fighting in Syria to establish a caliphate that stretches all the way from Africa to Gujarat.
After Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was beheaded in Pakistan on February 1, 2002 by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Sotloff’s and Foley’s murders highlighted the spreading ruthlessness of the IS desire for world domination. Bary was part of a gang of three from London, which included 20-year-old Abu Hussain al-Britani from Birmingham, and 23-year-old Abu Abduallah al-Britani from Hampshire who, ironically called themselves the ‘Beatles’. Last week, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah warned that the IS will hit Europe in a month and America after another month.
Just when the US had boasted that the al-Qaeda was finished, a greater threat to the non-Islamic world emerged in the form of ISIS. After the Arab Spring, hailed so naively by the West as a reawakening of the Middle East’s soul, collapsed into insurgency and jihad, young men and women are flocking from all over the world to join Islamist fundamentalist guerillas fighting in Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Palestine. Many of them are dirt poor, uneducated with little employment prospects or disillusioned with their irrelevance in society. Spurred on by radical preachers financed with mainly Saudi and Qatari money, they are part of a growing legion that hates anything that goes against their twisted version of religion. They have been at war in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq for years enforcing their bleak interpretation of faith with guns and ritual executions. Shaykh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, spiritual guide of the Hizbullah movement in Lebanon said he was horrified at the cruelty of the jihadis. “Besides the fact that they are forbidden by Islam, these acts do not serve those who carried them out but their victims, who will reap the sympathy of the whole world… Islamists who live according to the human values of Islam could not commit such crimes.”
GROWING NEW THREAT
The US has publicly fingered the IS as the greatest terrorist threat to America since 9/11, and has said that fighting it will take more than airstrikes in Iraq. British Prime Minister David Cameron warned that the “threat is growing” from Britons travelling to fight with IS, admitting that there were “gaps in our armoury”. Britain is on a state of high alert, declaring the risk of an attack on the UK as “highly likely”—the second highest rating of five possible UK threat levels and the highest since 2011. Western intelligence agencies have discovered a laptop belonging to a Tunisian IS jihadi, Mohammed S—a former chemistry and physics student—with details of a plan to unleash the bubonic plague on the West and non-Islamic countries. A document noted: “The advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge”, and suggested “grenades filled with the virus be set off in public spaces.” It said: “Best do it next to air-conditioning.”
The Islamic world, however, is divided on terror. Shaykh Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi, imam of al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, Egypt, had declared that “attacking innocent people is not courageous, it is stupid and will be punished on the day of judgement… It’s not courageous to attack innocent children, women and civilians. It is courageous to protect freedom; it is courageous to defend oneself and not to attack.” However, the fundamentalist strategy is succeeding by generating distrust and perceptional distortion towards Muslims at large. Hence, the divide between the Islamic world and the rest is slowly expanding, generating unrest and suspicion in Europe, Britain, the US and also India—about the efforts of extremist preachers not just exhorting young Muslims to become jihadis in Syria and Afghanistan but also to convert women of other faiths to Islam, giving even liberal Muslim communities a bad name.
CONVERSION BY SEDUCTION
Massive scandals regarding sexual grooming, whereby young Sikh, Hindu and white girls are first seduced, converted and kept as sex slaves by Muslim men have rocked the United Kingdom. In India, the ‘love jihad’ controversy, which is raising political passions, threatens to deepen the communal divide further as more and more details of Hindu girls being converted to Islam emerge. In Pakistan, nearly 1,000 Christian and Hindu women are forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men every year, says a Movement for Solidarity and Peace (MSP) report, which gives the dismal breakup as 100 to 700 Christian girls and 300 Hindu girls. The ‘Clash of Civilizations’ that political scientist Samuel P. Huntington envisaged is happening today, with cultural and religious identities being engaged in a conflict that could engulf the world. Historian Bernard Lewis had originally earlier used the phrase in an article titled “The Roots of Muslim Rage”.
Britain is the latest breeding ground of fundamentalist Islamic rage aimed at the West and against immigrants from Indian faiths such as Hindus and Sikhs. In September last year, Sikhs attacked a Muslim-owned restaurant in Leicester after a 16-year-old Sikh girl was sexually abused by a group of Muslim men. Six were jailed for internal trafficking, facilitating child prostitution, inciting child pornography and paying for the sexual services of a child. BBC ran a documentary on the “sexual grooming of six young girls by Muslim men” which interviewed young Sikh girls who were ‘sexually groomed’—a politically correct euphemism for pedophilia, to sexually harm children and young people by getting close to them, and often their families to gain their trust—by Muslim men. The traumatised Sikh girls on camera confess to being victims of ‘love jihad’ by Muslims, posing as Sikhs first to win their confidence. The Times, London, quoted Ashish Joshi, chairman of the Sikh Media Monitoring Group, as saying that such gangs typically targeted girls “from outside their community… white, Sikh or Hindu girls because a small sub-section of the Muslim community holds the prejudiced view that non-Muslim girls are not to be respected like girls from their own community.”
Indian and Pakistani immigrants, who went to Britain in the early and middle 20th century, took with them cultural values like honour killings and incarceration that conflicted with Western mores. In the BBC documentary, Jaswinder, a young Sikh girl, speaks of her horror when she was first seduced, then date-raped and forced to have sex with other men. There is a 24-hour helpline for such cases run by the Sikh Awareness Society, which never stops ringing. The society was founded in 1998, as the Sikh community in the UK became aware of the organised nature of ‘sexual grooming’. Parents of a particular girl who was sexually groomed tell the BBC interviewer about the reluctance of the UK police to take action, inhibited by racial sensitivity and a lack of understanding of Asian cultural values. In 2005, British investigative journalist Clive Gresswell discovered a pamphlet being distributed to young Muslim men in Luton, UK. Excerpts:
“A Message to Moslem Youth
Real Khilafa – A Political Reality From Dr. K M Farukh.
For Private Circulation
We call upon our fellow youth to come and join us in our mission—universal and global Islam. The job is big but nothing is impossible. If the kafir non-believer does not accept by gentle persuasion or reasoning then other methods which are allowed for in the holy Quran must be used such as—going to war with the kafir or converting them by manipulation. We need to send out our boys to bring into the umma or community of Islam. This task is getting easier by the day as the Sikh and Hindu girls are not taught (as is done in Islam) much about their religion at all. They have a westernized upbringing and the school college and university campus is the ideal place for our youth to carry out their duties easily in this way. It is easy to take the Sikh girls out on a date as they generally like a good drink and from these gradually they can be brought into Islam. This is not a hard job at all as the Kafir women they like Moslems. Hardly surprising as we are attractive and intelligent compared with Kafirs… Otherwise why would Indian films have so many Moslem actors. There is not a single Hindu or Sikh actor in Pakistani films. We need more funds desperately to carry on our job and we need volunteers from amongst the youth specially. We need your help at this crucial time when our Moslem brothers and sisters are being killed in countries all over the world.”
The newest scandal to rock Britain is the Rotherham Report, (see box) regarding 1,400 young girls sexually groomed, raped and prostituted by mainly Pakistani men, as the police preferred to look away. The report notes that the scandal was ignored because it specifically involved Pakistani (Muslim) men, which was a “politically inconvenient truth”. In May last year, seven members of a child sex ring from Oxford were jailed for sexually grooming under-age girls between 11 and 15 to commit acts of “extreme depravity”. They were given alcohol and drugs before being gang-raped and forced into prostitution. After the story broke, creating consternation among the liberal Muslim population in the UK, Dr Taj Hargey, imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, wrote in The Telegraph blaming the imams for denigrating women. He writes: “The view of some Islamic preachers towards white women can be appalling. They encourage their followers to believe that these women are habitually promiscuous, decadent, and sleazy—sins which are made all the worse by the fact that they are kafirs or non-believers. Their dress code, from miniskirts to sleeveless tops, is deemed to reflect their impure and immoral outlook. According to this mentality, these white women deserve to be punished for their behavior by being exploited and degraded.”
EUROPE ON THE BACKFOOT
Europe is experiencing a crisis of faith. Declining birth rates and indifference towards their own religion are leading to the rapid decline of Christianity in Europe. In Britain, Islam has left Anglicanism behind as the dominant religion: 930,000 Muslims attend a place of worship at least once a week, as opposed to 916,000 Anglicans. Around 10,000 churches have been closed in Britain since 1960, and Christian organisations predict that another 4,000 churches will be closed by 2020. Apart from more than 2,000 prayer halls, there are over 1,700 official mosques in Britain—many of them being abandoned churches. The prestigious Gatestone Institute, a non-partisan, not-for-profit international policy council, notes that there are more Muslims than Christians in many parts of Europe as Islam overtakes Christianity as the continent’s primary religion. There is growing clamour among Europe’s Islamic religious heads to convert abandoned Christian churches into mosques. In Germany, over 400 Roman Catholic churches and more than 100 Protestant churches have been closed since 2000 and 700 more Roman Catholic churches would be shut over the next several years. Germany is home to 200 mosques and 2,600 Muslim prayer halls; 128 more mosques are currently under construction. In France, home to Europe’s biggest Muslim community, where the burqa is banned, more mosques are being built than Roman Catholic churches. Their total number has doubled to over 2,000 in the past decade, according to the report, ‘Constructing Mosques: The Governance of Islam in France and the Netherlands’. The Roman Catholic Church in France has built only 20 new churches in the past 10 years, but has formally closed more than 60 churches. Islam is attracting celebrity admirers: Hollywood star Liam Neeson confessed about wanting to be a Muslim and former British PM Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lara Booth became one. In France, an estimated 70,000 French citizens have converted to Islam in recent years, in Sweden 5,000, in Germany at least 20,000 and in Spain, at least 50,000 native Spaniards became Muslims. Webislam.net, a Spanish-language website that promotes Islam in Spain, encourages Spanish women to marry Muslim men. Its article describes marriage to a Muslim as “multiculturalism is a rewarding experience for all concerned.”
In India, the ‘love jihad’ fear has gained massive traction. The case of national shooting champion Tara Shahdeo, who accused her husband of assaulting her with an intention of forcing her to convert to Islam, has put the spotlight on ‘love jihad’. Late last week, in Kanpur, a 17-year-old national-level table tennis player and a state-level Taekwondo champion was allegedly forcibly converted and bound in a staged ‘nikah’ and sexually abused by Waseem, who had wooed her posing as Raja. The police were strangely reluctant to act on her father’s complaint until senior officers intervened, and Waseem was arrested. In another case in Mumbai, Imran Masoom Khan seduced an undergraduate student, videotaped her in a compromising position with him, and forced her to have sex with other men. In Mysore, Karnataka, the police found that a minor girl from Bherya was allegedly kidnapped by Azeem Hafeez in Mangalore, who is alleged to have forcibly converted her into Islam. Intelligence sources say they are keeping a watch on ‘love jihad’ developments in six states, including Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. In 2012, Kerala’s Kala Kaumudi weekly had quoted from a Ministry of Home Affairs report on religious conversions: 3,902 conversions took place in Kerala from January 2009 to March 2012—3,815 to Islam with the majority being Hindus. Of these, 1,512 were women. The report said, 180 girls are being converted to Islam every month—an average of six girls a day. Meanwhile, the state’s chief minister Oommen Chandy in a written answer in the Assembly stated that between 2006 and 2012, 7,713 conversions to Islam took place. During 2009-2012, 2,667 young women converted to Islam, of which 2,195 were Hindus and 492 were Christians.
SEX FOR JIHAD
The charisma of Islamic terror as a liberating influence from the decadent West has morphed ‘love jihad’ into Jihad Al-Nikah, or sexual jihad. The IS is attracting Muslim women from many countries to become “comfort women” for their fighters, reported The Malaysian Insider. “These women are believed to have offered themselves in sexual comfort roles to ISIS fighters who are attempting to establish Islamic rule in the Middle East,” said a Malaysian intelligence official. Recently, Saudi cleric Nasser al-Umar issued a fatwa permitting jihadis in Syria to have ‘sex jihad’ with their sisters if no other women were available. Reports surfaced about 13 Tunisian girls who had travelled to Syria to become sexual partners for IS fighters. On September 19 last year, Interior Minister of Tunisia Lofti bin Jeddou stated that Sunni Tunisian women were having sex with 20, 30 and even up to 100 ISIS jihadists in Syria, and that some of them had returned home pregnant. ‘Sex jihad’ originated from a 2013 fatwa titled ‘Jihad ul Nikaah’ by Saudi Wahhabi cleric Sheikh Mohamad al-Arefe, exhorting Sunni women to sleep with mujahideen fighting the Assad regime in Syria. News reports indicated that Sunni women from Australia, Britain and Malaysia have voluntarily become IS comfort women.
The greatest fear of the US and Europe is of jihad coming home. Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche spent 11 months fighting with the IS group in Syria before returning to Europe. He shot four Jews at the Jewish Museum in central Brussels in a carnage that lasted 90 terrifying seconds. He was arrested only by chance. The Nemmouche Syndrome has got American and European counter-terrorism sweating. Thousands of Europeans and nearly 100 Americans have gone to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Chicago rapper Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, became the first American jihadi to be killed in Syria last week. Of the 38 nationalities fighting in Syria, there are Indians too. Arif Ejaaz Majeed, a young engineering student from Mumbai, became the first Indian Islamic fighter to be killed in Syria.
Terror is a universal franchise, and its agents have wreaked havoc through centuries with unforeseen consequences. The killing of Archduke Ferdinand by a Serbian nationalist sparked off World War I. The Russian Revolution was an ideological jihad that killed an emperor and started the Cold War. The Irish Republican Army’s (IRA) brutal tactics in Ireland inspired the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s bloody campaign against Israel. The Tamil Tigers embroiled India in a war that was to claim the life of a former Indian prime minister. The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and Hurriyat unleashed a wave of Pakistani-sponsored terror in Kashmir, to be succeeded by LeT and Indian Mujahideen, who target India from outside and within. The Congress party even coined the phrase ‘saffron terror’ as a counter to Islamic terror.
Intolerance has been around since the days the Jewish sicarii waged covert war against Roman conquerors. The plenipotentiaries of hatred have different affiliations but a single face: Herod, Hitler, Enoch Powell, the Klu Klux Klan and Boko Haram. Jihad is here to stay, in more faces than one. It is not just a war of weapons, but also of culture and mores. In an article in 1993, Huntington wrote, “It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.” Perhaps it is coming, what philosopher Francis Fukuyama calls, the end of history. Surviving it is the modern world’s greatest challenge.