by Ghassan Kadi
In the closing article of “The Daesh Chronicles”; The Prognosis, I raised the alarm about the high likelihood of Daesh attacks increasing in frequency and domain of activity. I even warned that they may become daily events that the West will one day have to contemplate.
In hindsight, I did not expect the escalation of those attacks to reach this threshold so soon, because daily attacks are already a reality in the West; especially Europe.
Western nations feel like they are fighting a ghost. Their massive armies and nuclear power have been designed to fight regular armies. And whilst they use those armies to stir up trouble and instigate unrest in different corners of the globe, they are totally useless and powerless when it comes to confronting home-grown terror. After all, the Nice attack proved that terror does not need a weapon of mass destruction, and not even a hand-held weapon, because if one has a criminal mind, he can turn a truck into a massive weapon.
And how did President Hollande respond? By dispatching France’s only aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle to the Middle East. French fighter jets have also bombed the Syrian town of Manbij killing more than a reported hundred innocent Syrian civilians and maiming hundreds others. As a matter of fact, some local sources put the number of casualties in the 300 hundred mark. This is not how to stop further acts of terror. This retaliation is revenge killing in its worst form. And of course, the hundred or so citizens of Manbij who perished are not news worthy. They did not make headlines in the West. And it is in retaliations like these that recruitments drives are lubricated and more terrorists will be generated; not exterminated.
But why France? Some ask, probably even Hollande himself asks this question. France has played a huge role in assisting the Islamist/Jihadists/Takfiris in Syria in their “struggle” to topple President Assad and establish a fundamentalist Muslim state. So why would those same militants reciprocate a French “favour”, as it were, with a seemingly endless wave of terror?
Many analysts and observers are pointing the finger at the refugees that France and other EU nations have taken in recently. And certainly, ultra-right wing EU politicians are riding on this band-wagon that suits their xenophobic anti-migration policies. However, in pointing the fingers at those recent migrants, analysts, observers, and right-wing politicians alike are ignoring the basic fact that some of the attackers, in fact most, are not recent migrants.
Salah Abdeslam, the main man behind the Paris November 2015 attacks, is a Belgian born French national of Moroccan descent. Mohamed Lahoueiej, the Nice attacker, had lived in France for a long time.
More significant perhaps is the fact that most of the perpetrators were not known to have a history that associates them with Daesh. Unlike Abdeslam, Lahoueiej was not known to the police as a potential terror threat, and as many in the EU would be blaming the security apparatus for allowing individuals “known to the Police” to roam free instead of detaining them pre-emptively, the identity of the perpetrators thus far reveal that even such draconian measures would not work effectively.
The above, among many other reasons, is why security personnel and experts in the West and the EU in general are feeling totally and utterly non-the-wiser in knowing how to deal with this situation and how to identify a potential killer.
Few anti-terror experts and analysts seem to realize that by focusing at individuals with history only, they are most likely not looking at the entire picture. And the reason they don’t know what to do is perhaps simply because they do not fully understand the Daesh mind and what fuels it.
Much has been said about the “quick radicalization” of Lahoueiej. The man has been known for womanizing, indulgence in alcohol and taking drugs and all sorts of activities that are not allowed in Islam. This is not quite what a Jihadist would normally be involved with. However, in trying to understand how would someone like Lahoueiej turn almost overnight from a lifestyle that is seen, from a Muslim perspective as being debauched, to become a person who was prepared to kill others (and himself) for “the cause” in the most heinous and criminal manner possible, many are unable to put two and two together. They therefore resort to find explanations in what does not meet the eye, including conspiracy theories. Many theories, some of which are very valid, were put forward to explain this rather strange phenomenon of overnight changeover. In simple reality, new converts to Daesh are perhaps much more dangerous than seasoned ones.
Daesh has only been around for two years or so, and there are no such members who can be described as old-timers or veterans. However, the “recent” Jihadi craze is in fact a few decades old, given different names in the past, but they are all the same monsters in different cloaks and guises. To this effect, an old “veteran Jihadist”, say one who is forty years old and over, one who has been an indoctrinated Jihadist for say ten years or so, whether under the banner of Daesh or any other banner, is one who has virtually outlived the test of succumbing to suicide bombing. Had he been the suiciding type, he would have done already. What stopped him?
In reality therefore, we should expect suicide killers to be younger Jihadists, and ones who have joined the “force” relatively more recently, say from a few days to perhaps a maximum of five years or so.
What makes recruits who have virtually just joined a few days ago or so more dangerous is related to many issues:
1. First of all, those of them who had a debauched past will feel very resentful for the environment that they see responsible for leading them in the “wrong” direction.
2. Secondly, they will hate their own past and feel a huge urge for following their distorted belief system.
3. Thirdly, they may feel worried that should they not die NOW as “believers”, they may later on fall victim to temptation and go back to the bad old ways of drinking and womanizing.
4. Last but not least, and most importantly perhaps, it is their belief that the best way for redemption is to die in battle fighting and killing as many infidels as possible. This form of “martyrdom” as they see it, assures forgiveness from all previous sins and guarantees entry to heaven “ bila hisab”, ie without judgement.
Jihadists believe that they are on a daily D-Day mission, the timing of which is a question of when; not what if. This is the essence of the dilemma.
In the final analysis however, terrorist Jihadi suicide bombers are not far different from addicts who prostitute themselves to support their habit. To stamp out drugs, government agencies need to focus on the so-called elusive “Mr. Big”. In the case of Jihadis, those in the position of Mr. Big are the recruiters, not the actual suiciders. The street workers do not operate alone.
And even though the infamous Lahoueiej used a truck as a weapon, and even though he proved that one does not need a weapon of mass destruction, and not even a pistol in order to be able to inflict mass casualties, he most certainly did not radicalize himself. Someone must have been in his ears and brain.
The French Prime Minister is now planning to ban foreign funding of mosques. This step will only be seen as a diplomatically-incorrect move and it will not stop terror. The Nice massacre did not need funding apart from the few Euros needed to hire a truck. Even if French or other western governments monitor the teachings inside mosques, this won’t solve the problem either. To begin with, it is only a low percentage of mosques who actually promote terror overtly. And if the preachers in those mosques are put under some form of surveillance, they will find secret places to meet with their “disciples”.
In more ways than one, the horse has already bolted. In more ways than one, sweet little can be done to undo what has already been done to the minds of the “suiciders-in-waiting”. This is a sad and horrific predicament that the whole world is now contemplating.
I do not profess to have the answers and ways to find a resolution. But the danger of recent recruits is something that anti-terror personnel should be aware of. It may help to urge citizens to report any change in behaviour of people they know. The change can include all aspects of demeanour, dress code, demanding the veiling up of women family members and even growing a beard. These are early tell-tale signs. They are not to be taken lightly.
Tough calls call for tough decisions, and the big onus here, as I said in the past, is on wise and knowledgeable Muslim clerics to push for reform within Islam and to utterly reject the Jihadi drive that feeds Daesh and similar organizations. The West has also a big role to play, not only because it has to, not only because Daesh is attacking the West almost on daily basis, not only because the West has Muslim citizens many of whom are Western born, but also because the West has a moral obligation to undo what it has done in creating the Jihadi drive which it initiated when the USSR invaded Afghanistan.
If the West found a gap in certain distorted Muslim doctrine and capitalized on them in order to gain some mileage without thinking too much ahead, it must now find a way to reverse what it had done.
Just like the West previously fostered violence, financed it, armed it and trained it, it must now work on educating Muslim youth. And just like the West has been successful in the past in finding and identifying radical Muslim preachers and mosque Imams who rounded up Muslim youth to pump their minds with hatred and violence, the West must now identify Muslim clerics who are capable of undoing this indoctrination. And, just like in the past radical clerics were successful in identifying individuals to push to go and fight in places like Syria, they must now be able to identify them once again, be able to look for early signs and ”symptoms”, but this time the objective will have to be to find a way to lure them into reform and rehabilitation schools; as virtually impossible as it may be.
The new wave of Muslim schools and sermons must be based on the understanding that the Quran does not call for murder, it does not open the gates of heaven for people who blow themselves up killing others.
As virtually impossible as this task may be, what other options does the West and the rest of the world have? What better option are there? After all, indoctrination cannot be stopped and reversed by guns.
This may not solve the problem entirely, not as swiftly as we all desire, but it may plant a new seed, one that has the potential to reduce the number of potential Jihadi terrorists and a new trend may gradually be inaugurated.