Why would a Muslim from secular Turkey leave his job and travel to Chechnya to fight battles against Russian infantry?
Because the will to jihad is not born of poverty or desperation; it is not a disguised nationalistic impulse, despite the intimations otherwise in the article below. It is a religious impulse that is born of principles of traditional Islamic theology and law — principles that will continue to inspire jihadis until they are repudiated.
This is all clear in the adventures of Lomali, a Turk who, according to AP, “left his job in a Turkish factory and headed for Chechnya, where he volunteered as an Islamic fighter and fought alongside al-Qaida militants in pitched battles against Russian infantry.
“Lomali — or Ali the Lion, the name his Chechen comrades gave him — is one of hundreds of Turks who fought in Chechnya, Afghanistan or Bosnia, some as members of al-Qaida. Turkish police are focusing on these Islamic warriors as key suspects in a string of Istanbul suicide bombings that have left 57 dead.
“Police fear Turks who fought abroad were trained or influenced by radical groups like al-Qaida and may have been behind the Istanbul bombings, which shocked police in their sophistication.
“Lomali, a 28-year-old Turk, says he fought in Chechnya in 1996 alongside Chechen separatists seeking to break Chechnya away from Moscow, learning to use a heavy machine gun and plant land mines. . . . Like many Turks who went overseas to fight, Lomali said he was motivated by both Islam and nationalism. Like some 5 million Turks, Lomali traces his ancestors to the Caucasus, which includes Chechnya.
“‘I went there to help the struggle of our Muslim brothers against occupiers,’ said Lomali, a soft-spoken, athletic man.”
He may have been motivated by both Islam and nationalism, but the quote refers only to Islam. As the Chechen Sharia Council has affirmed, jihad is mandatory in such cases: “When the enemy entered a territory, a city or a village where Muslims are living, then everybody is obligated to go to war.” This would hold true as a principle whether Lomali were Chechen, or something close to Chechen, or not.
“In 2001, Lomali met al-Qaida militants on the Chechen-Georgia border, where many radicals were gathering to enter Chechnya.
“‘There were small cells of al-Qaida giving training’ after Quran classes, he said.” Evidently no one there saw a contradiction between the Al-Qaeda training and the Qur’an classes.
The Istanbul bombings? “Like many Islamic fundamentalists, he said he believes that Israel and the United States were behind the blasts and were trying to manipulate the tragedy to draw Turkey closer to the West and distance Turks from Islamic groups.”
Meanwhile, “Ankara police detained 10 suspected members of a little-known militant group, Warriors of Islam, the daily Hurriyet reported Tuesday.” On the other hand, “Lomali, however, said he has seen no evidence of a police crackdown against militants. ‘If there were such a crackdown, I would hear about it,’ Lomali said.” (Thanks to nicolei.)