David Russell has kindly sent in this translation from the original French of an interview with Christian Chesnot, which appears in the print edition of Paris Match of 30 December-5 January; issue 2902, page 64.
In this part of the interview he is discussing various exchanges which he had with his captors:
C.C.- …They brought us to a big house which had a shower. “Mr. Big” arrived and said: “My boss wants to talk to you”. A young man steps in, about 35 years old, barefoot, dressed in a robe, a bodyguard at his side. He asks us what we know about Islam. I tell him that I live in Jordan, an Islamic country, and that Islam is a religion of tolerance which I respect. I have no idea where the conversation is leading. For the next hour we are treated to a course in the Islamic theology of its superiority over all other religions. For him, Islam is above all other religions…above Christianity and Judaism…because Mohammed is the final prophet. The Gospels are not the “true Book” because they were written many years after the fact. Certain passages are pure invention. He tells us that we are in error, and he says: “So why don’t you convert to Islam?” I answer him: “My father was born a Christian, so I am a Christian”. He laughs and says: “If your grandfather made a mistake, and your father made a mistake, and you made a mistake, why do you remain in your error? If you convert to Islam, it will help us to free you. Think about it…” Next he asked us how we imagined Heaven, death, purgatory, the Resurrection, etc…I really felt that he wanted to convert us, and I expected him to take out a gun to make us do it. I knew that if I accepted his offer, he would immediately record a cassette with me saying “I, Christian Chesnot, renounce my religion, and I am now a Muslim”. I slept very badly that night.
Paris Match – What happened in October?
C.C. – They sent us to northern Iraq, near Samarra, to a cell of 5 jihadists, followers of Ben Laden. A young man told us “I learned how to handle explosives in Afghanistan. We are weaker militarily, but we have to make the fear move to the enemy camp. Our goal is to divide the west, the United States from Europe, and to carry out strikes against the Western economies that are not only quantitative but qualitative”. He tells us that France is not on the list of bad countries, but he criticizes French action in Algeria and Afghanistan. Their top priorities are to overthrow the Egyptian and Saudi regimes. They train Palestinian commandos….They want to free Iraq from the Americans, but above all attack infidels, crusaders. They consider what they are doing legitimate self-defense: “All of the latest wars were wars started by Christians against us, in Bosnia and elsewhere”. For them, it is a true war of civilisations. This is their point of view. Iraq is just the beginning. What they want is Islam, from Andalusia to the border of China. Our guards thought that Bush attacking Afghanistan was the greatest thing: “Thanks to him, we have been able to grow and now we operate in 60 countries”. I tell him that it would be good for Kerry to win because he would remove US troops from Iraq. “Not that! We want Bush! With him there is confrontation, and over the next three years we’ll become stronger and recruit more fighters.”
And this is how the interview ends:
Paris Match: What do you think of these people?
C.C. – They are killers.
Paris Match – Do you forgive them?
C.C. – Yes, as a Christian I forgive them. But what they did is unforgiveable. Our captors don’t want to be thought of as terrorists, but that is how they act. At the same time, they are resistance fighters. I know that if I had been an American journalist, I would have been killed, like the Italian hostage. I would say, like Jesus, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”.