What would make a “middle-class university student from Jordan” decide to go to Iraq and become a soldier, even though he was never in the military before? He says it was the Qur’an.
“In a rare interview with a foreign fighter battling U.S. troops in Iraq, a middle-class university student from Jordan described this week how he has spent months launching attacks on American soldiers, after being smuggled across the Jordanian border during his summer recess, and trained at a guerrilla camp in central Iraq.
“The well-dressed, slight-built mechanical engineering student from the University of Jordan said he was drawn to fight in Iraq purely by religious conviction — not because of any link to al Qaeda or other terror organizations, and despite his intense dislike for Saddam Hussein’s supporters.”
In Onward Muslim Soldiers I explained that Muslims were traveling to Iraq for religious reasons. It’s good to see the Chronicle, at least, doing a bit of catching up.
“‘There’s no way for al Qaeda to contact us, and we don’t need al Qaeda to bring us here,’ he said during a 90-minute interview, sitting in a tiny village on the outskirts of Ramadi, about 70 miles west of Baghdad.
“‘If you read the Koran closely, it says you must fight against infidels who occupy your country,’ said the student, 25, who asked to be named in print as Abu Zobayer. ‘This is clear. There is no choice.'”
Now wait a minute. Moderate Muslim spokesman Jamal Badawi recently insisted that “a careful reading of the Qur’an leaves no doubt” that “Islam is a religion of peace and nonviolence.” How did Abu Zobayer get it so wrong? What can people like Badawi do to convince Abu Zobayer that he is misunderstanding the book?
The article also says that “for months, the Bush administration has said it believes American soldiers are facing terror operatives from seasoned organizations, including al Qaeda, who are now using Iraq as their main staging ground. A top U.S. military official told reporters in Baghdad last Sunday that about 300 foreign passport holders were in custody, among the 5,000 or so detainees arrested by coalition forces.
“At least for this urban transplant and his friends, that description did not appear accurate. Dressed in a patterned sweater with a pressed blue shirt collar peeking out, Abu Zobayer, who speaks a smattering of English, said he had had no military experience before arriving in July, and no experience in the rural living into which he has been thrust.
“He needed a weeklong crash course in combat before picking up a weapon. ‘I was never in the military,’ Abu Zobayer said. ‘I didn’t know how to fight.’
“He insisted that he and many intensely religious Muslims from neighboring countries supported the anti-American fight simply on Koranic grounds.
“Although U.S. officials have said the foreign fighters are not a serious threat, the prospect of a religious call to jihad could draw in many others, Abu Zobayer said.
“He said he wanted to dispute claims by U.S. officials that foreign fighters were paid to attack American soldiers: ‘We are not paid money,’ he said. ‘We are guests of Iraqis, staying in their homes.’ . . .
“He said he had been assigned to a cell of 15 men by an Iraqi trainer. Of those, two others were foreigners: one from Saudi Arabia, the other from Kuwait. . . .
“Abu Zobayer also said that it had become a growing challenge to smuggle foreign reinforcements into Iraq.
“‘Just in … the last one or two months, it has become much more difficult to cross the borders, with all the Iraqi police and border guards,’ said Abu Zobayer, who crossed over with four university friends, helped by a Jordanian intermediary in contact with Iraqi insurgents.
“Gen. John Abizaid, head of the U.S. forces in the region, told reporters in Baghdad on Tuesday that foreign fighters continued to infiltrate the borders.
“‘It is not correct to say that there are floods or thousands coming in. The numbers are small,’ Abizaid said, adding that they had captured some fighters from as far afield as Sudan.
“Abu Zobayer said he and his friends had met a Jordanian recruiter at their mosque in Amman during their summer university recess. He said he did not think the man was affiliated with a terrorist organization.
“‘He told us people in Iraq needed help,’ he said.
“Abu Zobayer said he had been inspired to fight by watching accounts of the occupation on television from the comforts of his family’s living room in the Amman neighborhood of Jabal Al-Hussein.
“‘I saw on the news the American treat Iraqis like animals, like slaves,’ he said. ‘We are Muslim brothers.'” . . .
“In a living room hidden from the road, the student sat huddled over a gas heater, nursing a heavy cold that had turned his voice hoarse. When the prayer call began from the mosque next door, he excused himself, and stood in a corner of the room praying for 10 minutes, before resuming the interview.
“Over the months, Abu Zobayer said he had come to believe he would not return home — or at least not alive.
“With increasing risk of being arrested by Iraqi police or American soldiers while trying to cross back into Jordan, he said he was determined to stay in Iraq.
“‘I don’t need to return,’ he said. ‘I’ll stay here until the Americans leave or until we become shaheeds (martyrs). If they are here for years, God willing, we will be here too.'”