He has studied the Qur’an and speaks about waging jihad for Allah and thereby earning a place in Paradise. Obama, John Kerry, David Cameron and others say that his actions have nothing to do with Islam or jihad. The cognitive dissonance is massive, and growing.
“‘I Am Only Looking Up to Paradise,'” by Loubna Mrie, Vera Mironova, and Sam Whitt, Foreign Policy, October 2, 2014:
KASSAB, Syria — The path from Abu Mariam’s childhood home in Tolouse, France, to this mansion-turned-jihadist-safe house in northwestern Syria has been surprisingly quick. As an adolescent, he drank, took drugs, and had sex. To escape the pressures of the rough neighborhood where he grew up, he converted to Islam at age 19. Five years later, he carries an AK-47 and patrols the mountains on behalf of the Islamic State (IS).
We interviewed in French the man who goes by the nom de guerre “Abu Mariam” at the house he shares with a 28-year-old Saudi jihadist overlooking the Kassab mountains, in an Armenian town not far from the Alawite stronghold of Latakia. When we talked to Abu Mariam, in June, the jihadists were trying to take control of the strategically important territory — it sits between the Mediterranean, government-controlled territory, and Turkey — from the government’s forces.
The 24-year-old, French-born construction engineer sported the typical jihadist uniform: camouflage pants, a long shirt, a beard down to his chest. He says he is popular with the local population because he took on the dangerous job of patrolling the village’s perimeter.
Abu Mariam is only one of the estimated 3,000 European fighters in Syria and Iraq right now — up to 500 of them from France. He isn’t only working with the Islamic State, though. He has also fought alongside the Nusra Front. He’s a low-level fighter but is trusted by his commanders, thanks to his zealotry. He sometimes works as an unofficial ambassador for the Islamic State, making contact and trying to build bridges with other jihadist groups.
Moving to Syria has been a dream come true for him. “Now I am leading the best life, and I am so satisfied with it. Life is all about dignity and pride, which is something I am doing now,” he said.
“In the beginning of 2013, the Syrian crisis started, and I had already heard that the Levant is a holy place, recommended for protection by the Prophet (may prayer and peace be upon him). It was then that I flew to Turkey and then on into Syria,” Abu Mariam says. With nothing but a few family photos and about 250 euros, he went to the Syrian border pretending to be an aid worker. He refuses to talk about how he linked up with the jihadist militants once he arrived in Syria.
For Abu Mariam, the Syrian conflict is not a war, but a test of his faith and devotion to Islam. Jihad is the ultimate, purifying expression of faith, culminating in martyrdom and heavenly rewards. “I am but a contribution to the conquest of Islam,” Abu Mariam says, “and I also look forward to reach[ing] paradise via jihad for the cause of Allah. We [Muslims] are all promised paradise because we listened to the words of Allah. Islam is a really great religion. It includes all aspects of life. It gives meaning to human life.”
Abu Mariam’s voice cracks when he discusses his religion. “I have devoted my entire life to jihad,” he says. He claims that he is wounded, though his body doesn’t show any signs of it. “I am only looking up to paradise; is there anything better than this?”
“We believe in the afterlife,” Abu Mariam explains. “A blissful life in the vicinity of Allah. Martyrdom is probably the shortest way to paradise, which is not something I was told. I did witness my martyred friends, noticing contentment on their faces and the smell of musk coming out of their corpses, unlike those of the dead disbelievers, the enemies of Allah, whose faces only exhibit ugliness, and whose corpses smell worse than pigs.”
“I’ll give you the example of my friend, Abu Ahmed al-Maghrabi, who was martyred by my side,” he says. “From night till morning, his face still wore a bright smile and his corpse smelled pleasantly. How can we ever cast doubt? The only thing left for us to go through in order to reach paradise is death. We are praying Allah for victory and then martyrdom. We will conquer them, God willing, and we will liberate Syria from oppression. God willing, one day, Muslims will gain possession of this land.”
We asked if the deaths of his friends upset him. “I am not at all sad. I am rather extremely happy, a happiness that will double up once I get martyred and meet my friends. Thirty-seven of my friends have been martyred in 10 days, and I swear that I did not see anyone of them dying without a smile on his face!”
When Abu Mariam was 20, he moved to Morocco to learn Arabic and study the Quran….