Here yet again we see the direct connection: a secular Muslim becomes devout and then turns to violent jihad. Does this mean that every devout Muslim will become a violent jihadist? Of course not. But despite attempts to deny and obscure this, every violent jihadist is a devout Muslim. Bland assurances that jihad terror doesn’t have anything to do with Islam don’t do a thing to address or remedy this fact.
“The boy from Kosovo who grew up to be a suicide bomber,” by Linda Pressly, BBC, October 7, 2014 (thanks to Anne Crockett):
In Kosovo it used to be the case that families were culturally Muslim, but rarely devout believers. Recently though some young people have become radicalised. Up to 200 are thought to be fighting in Syria and Iraq causing heartbreak for those left behind.
“In these pictures of him as a little boy, his eyes are so innocent.”
Arieta is leafing through a pile of photos of her younger brother, Blerim Heta. She does this every day, and cries a little.
“My brother had a wonderful life. He had money. He didn’t have a Mercedes, he had an Opel, but we were a happy family. And I can’t understand why he did that.”
Blerim was 24 when he left Kosovo on 7 August 2013, without a word to his family. Two days later Arieta got a text – he said he was in Turkey. She didn’t worry, because after becoming a devout Muslim, he often travelled to hear different imams preach. Then she called his number and a message flashed up on her screen – “Welcome to Syria.”
When Arieta talked to Blerim on Skype, he denied he was in Syria – he insisted he was in Turkey, learning Arabic and looking for a wife who wore the hijab. Arieta wanted to believe him, but then her mother found a postcard Blerim had written and left in his bedroom.
“It was a goodbye postcard. He had written that he was on a journey and that he wouldn’t come back,” Arieta says.
Like many Kosovans, her family identifies culturally as Muslim, but was never religious. Then Blerim started going regularly to the mosque. He began travelling to Macedonia across the border, and to mosques in other Kosovan towns….
In his last three months in Kosovo, Blerim Heta changed. He grew a beard. He wore his trousers shorter, like some Muslim men in the Middle East. And he watched a lot of YouTube videos of imams preaching. Then he was gone.
“He wore his trousers shorter, like some Muslim men in the Middle East.” This is not confined to Muslim men in the Middle East. It is true of many devout Muslim men everywhere, because a hadith has Muhammad saying, “The part of an Izar which hangs below the ankles is in the Fire” (Bukhari 7.72.678)
Eventually, on Skype, Blerim Heta confessed to Arieta that he was, indeed, in Syria.
“He told me he’s fighting for his religion and that other people are bad. He said he wanted to die for Allah, and that it would be a great pleasure for him. I started to cry and scream and say to him what kind of religion do you have to kill people, to kill yourself? And he said if you speak to me like that, I will never call you again.”
“I started to cry and scream and say to him what kind of religion do you have to kill people, to kill yourself?” This kind: “Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah, so they kill and are killed.” (Qur’an 9:111)
Arieta did not tell the family that Blerim was in Syria – she did not want to alarm them, and part of her still believed he would come home….
The authorities think 200 Kosovans may be fighting with militant groups in Syria and Iraq. “We know there are quite a large number of Albanian families over there with the wife and children too,” Saud says.He believes often Kosovans with extended family in Syria, remain silent. There is a stigma now in Kosovo at being associated with radical Islam. And there is also fear: Perhaps you could lose your job if it is known your son has gone to join IS militants?
About 70 people have been detained by police in connection with investigations into Islamic extremism as Kosovan authorities become increasingly alarmed….
Erion’s family were all aware his father was becoming more religious. But it was only after her son’s disappearance that Pranvera told them her husband asked her to wear a hijab, and talked about going to Syria….
On 24 March this year, Blerim called his family in Kosovo.”I asked him – are you coming home? Mama wants to see you and she’s very sad,” remembers Arieta. “He said to me, ‘You don’t know what you are doing, you people. Only Islam is the right thing.’ And he said, ‘Maybe today or tomorrow I will meet Allah.’ Then he talked to my mother and he said, ‘Just forgive me… Forgive me all I’ve done?”
On 25 March Arieta’s brother killed himself and 52 Iraqis in a suicide bombing.
Arieta struggles to comprehend how and why her brother changed.
“When he was in Kosovo, Blerim said that suicide bombers, they’re not Muslims. But when I talked to him in Syria, and I asked him, ‘Is it good to kill people?’ He said, ‘If they’re not Muslim, yes.‘”