Friday, August 15, 2008

American and Jihadist training compared

The ethicist Elshtain describes the sort of training a modern American soldier receives, including being told that he should “refuse to obey illegal orders under the code of restraints called the ‘laws of war,’ derived in large measure from the historic evolution of the just war tradition and its spin-offs as encoded in international conventions and arrangements.”

Then she asks us to “Consider, by contrast, a training video now being used to recruit Islamist radicals. An analyst for the British newspaper The Observer, which obtained a copy of this training video, found it ‘worse than anything expected.’ It emanated from the Groupe Salafiste pour Predication et Cobat (Salafist Group for Preaching and Fighting, or GSPC), ‘the most radical of Islamic terrorist groups who have been fighting the Algerian government for more than ten years.’ This film has been screened in various sites but is routine fare in a particular mosque in Finsbury Park, North London, where young men who come for spiritual guidance are subjected to a course in radical terror instead. (This is the mosque through which Richard Reed, the would-be ‘shoe-bomber,’ passed and where Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called twentieth hijacker, used to worship.)

“The video shows enemies being decapitated with knives after they are disarmed – something strictly forbidden by the laws of war. The film’s narrator intones: ‘You have to kill in the name of Allah until you are killed. Then you will win your place forever in Paradise. The whole Islamic world should rise up to fight all the sick unbelievers. The flag of Jihad will be forever held high. Our enemies are fighting in the name of Satan. You are fighting in the name of God.’

“The viewer is subjected to ‘exited shouting as the militants notice that one soldier is still alive. ‘He is moving, he is moving,’ calls out a fighter. A militant calmly bends down and runs a knife across the wounded conscript’s throat. The image of the blood pumping from his severed carotid artery is shown five times during the video.’ Another scene shows ‘ordinary young men doing their national service’ being killed. These Algerian soldiers are tarred with the same brush as all ‘enemies of Islam,’ including the ‘Jews and the Christians.’ Some, reading this description, will say, ‘But this is extreme.’ Yes, it is. That is the point. Terrorism is extremism. And Islamist fundamentalism is an extreme repudiation of modernity itself – another reason why it is impossible to negotiate and split the differences between its adherents and those immersed in the Western politics of negotiation and compromise.”

Elshtain wrote her book in late 2002. I wonder if the Finsbury Park Mosque is still in business.

Lawrence Helm

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