If you haven't read part I and II of INSIDE AL-QAEDA'S BRAIN, you first might want to read part I here and part II here.
This feeling of loneliness and of isolation does not lead to any despair among the faithful. On the contrary. Over and over, Al-Qaeda-members are taught about the year 622. In that year, as the story goes, during the hijrah (the emigration), the prophet Muhammad was thrown out of Mecca by its city council. Muhammad and his followers – who literally were the fist muslims on earth – were banned from Mecca and fled to the city of Medina.
Two years later, the Mecca city council sent its army into the desert (towards a hamlet called Badr) hoping to permanently crush Muhammad and his, by then, army of a few hundred muslims. Although Muhammad was outnumbered by the Meccan attackers, the prophet of Islam won the Battle of Badr. This was of course the best PR Muhammad could have wished for. “Look,” he and his followers said, “God is obviously on our side! How is it otherwise possible that we defeated a much stronger enemy force?” Six years later, Muhammad – backed now by a much larger army – conquered Mecca and safeguarded Islam.
The Battle of Badr plays a crucial role in Al-Qaeda’s philosophy. It isn’t a coincidence that the perpetrators of the attacks of 9/11 were told by the leadership to mumble Badr-related verses from the quran right before hitting their targets
“This battle gives Al-Qaeda enormous inspiration,” according to Yosri Fouda, a journalist for Al-Jazeera and himself a muslim. He wrote a book about two of Al-Qaeda’s top commanders responsible for the preparation of 9/11. He writes: “They view themselves as a small group of fighters who, just like Muhammad, will be victorious against all odds and safeguard Islam.”
But, please, do not view Osama bin Laden as a primitive who still lives in the seventh century. He might be hiding in caves, for ever talking about the year 622 and using horse and donkey as means of transportation, but he isn’t the backward one.
The backward, the ignorant people are you – christians and Jews. Those who keep on living in the past, in a primitive state of rejection of the truth.
You still follow? Let me explain. Al-Qaeda fully understands that there weren’t any muslims before the year 622. Monotheistic, Abraham-inspired religion, starts with Judaism around 5000 years ago. Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) is considered a prophet in Islam and by Al-Qaeda.
Then, around 2000 years ago, Jesus showed up. In Islam, he is considered a prophet too (Isa in Arabic). With the appearance of Jesus, Jews should have made the “logical step” of becoming followers of Jesus (in other words, become christians). By refusing to do so, Jews rejected the prophet Isa (Jesus) and clung to their – by now – backward religion. Rejecting Isa turned Jews into ignorant people.
Only a handful of Jews did support Isa (Jesus) and they created, against all odds, a very successful religion called Christianity. No problem with that, Al-Qaeda says. But then, in the year 622, the prophet Muhamamd appeared. As Muhammad is considered the last prophet (and the one who received god's final words - the quran), this moment should have signaled an en masse conversion of christians to Islam. So while Jews made a catastrophic mistake by not accepting Christianity, christians made an, equally, crucial mistake by not converting to Islam. This, In Al-Qaeda’s worldview, makes Jews and christians backward, ignorant people. They, willfully, refuse to see the truth.
Actually, mainstream Islam in the Middle East considers Jews and christians very much the same. The main difference though between Al-Qaeda and mainstream Islam is seen in its response towards kaffirs or non-believers. While Al-Qaeda will actively hunt (and kill) for christians and Jews, the vast majority of mainstream muslims in the Middle East shrug their shoulders and have basically no real problems with local christians and Jews (which isn’t the same as lacking negative feelings towards The West or Israel of course. And there is more: Converting from Islam to any other religion is in all Middle Eastern muslim countries forbidden by law and - in most cases - punishable by death. And muslims will - hardly ever - marry a christian. Same the other way around by the way. "If my daughter ever marries a muslim - I will kill her," a maronite Arab told me recently here in Beirut. Don't forget, this is the Middle East).
That said; even to Al-Qaeda, christians and Jews – being monotheistic religions based on Abraham - are people of the book (mentioned in the quran). This is not the case with Hindu’s, Buddhists or – the worst – communists, secularists or atheists. Members of these religions or ideologies are, principly, Al-Qaeda's biggest enemies. To believe in the wrong god is one thing, to believe in no god, goes beyond their belief. If I ever will be captured by Al-Qaeda (which I sincerely do NOT hope), I’d rather tell them the story of how I attended a christian high school than how I, as a university student, worked for a semi-communist newspaper.
After the weekend: part IV