An Interview With an Ex-Jihadi

Saif Rahman has an interview in the Telegraph with a man who used to be a reactionary, fundamentalist Muslim and a jihadi. That man is now an atheist and his identity is not given because he fears reprisals from his former compatriots. A lot of what he says is very revealing now that he has realized how tragically wrong he was.

Saif Rahman: In your jihadi phase, how did you feel about homosexuals?

Ex-Jihadi: I thought they were sexual deviants. People who lavished in sin and who were so perverted that they spend their sexual energy on all kinds of perverse ways (as you know for a Muslim ‘morality’ is almost completely identical sexual morality).

In my perception gays suffered from an extreme lack of manliness and were further characterized by debauchery, lack of sexual discipline, cowardice and worldliness. They were the polar opposite of what a Muslim man should be. I also regarded them as subversive and dangerous, a threat to the fabric of the Ummah. The presence of gays only spreads sin and vice in the Muslim community, and they corrupt Muslim youth by their example of being effeminate. In my mind a Muslim man had only one single purpose in life: he is a born soldier whose whole existence has no other purpose than to wage and to die in war. Gays are dangerous since they undermine national morale and give an example of cowardice. Being gay and soldier at the same time was simply unimaginable to me.

Next to that gays were a national security threat because I regarded them as people who commit excessive sins, thereby corrupting the Ummah by their presence and driving away the divine favor. In the worst case they would invite divine wrath and punishment to fall on the entire community. In jihadi circles for examples it is commonly excepted that Muslims lost Andalus because worldliness spread, homosexuality increased and men ceased being men. Therefore Allah withdrew his blessings and divine help and the Muslims of Andalus were destroyed.

Because of this we thought suppression and punishment for gays was fully justified. This only went for male gays by the way. As far as i can remember we never held similar view on female gays.

How familiar does that sound? It’s the exact same arguments made against homosexuality and equality by fundamentalist Christians. Every single argument is absolutely identical.

Ex-Jihadi: When I stopped hating, I realized how hate poisons you and distorts your world view.

For example, my views on women were never stable but always oscillated between extremes. Sometimes I regarded them as cunning devils that invited to sin, constantly lay traps for men and should be dealt harsh with. At other times I saw them as innocent, pure, angel-like children which were oblivious to sin and which should be locked up and protected in order to prevent them from being corrupted by the evils of the world (many extremists don’t talk about sex with women in order not to spoil their ‘purity’). At times I thought that women who were not docile enough should be raped as a way of disciplining them (the attitude that rape is a way of setting women straight, especially when they talk back is widespread among Islamists of Arab descent in my experience) , at other moments I found they should be treated more mildly then men when they sin, since they are ignorant and immature and thus less responsible for their actions (like children or the mentally ill).

I held all these conflicting beliefs at the same time, without ever coming to terms with them. Only when I shed the yoke of dogmas I could finally regard women as ordinary people (not as angels or demons) and responsible for their actions like men. The idea that women were big children soon also vanished.

Again, remarkably similar, this idea that women are simultaneously vile temptresses and innocent little children that must be protected from the corruption of worldly thoughts.

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  • Pierce R. Butler

    … lack of sexual discipline…

    Rather odd complaint coming from the guys who insist they not be held responsible for whatever they do at the unbearably provocative sight of an uncovered ankle, elbow, or nose.

    … cowardice…

    And for that very large subset of Muslim men unable to deal with women without their clitorises hacked off, can you even begin to imagine how inadequate the rest of us consider your masculinity?

  • chriswalker

    While I find the content interesting, I find the concept of “I interviewed an ex-Jihadi who happens to have renounced religion all together but I can’t give you any details about him at all” to be somewhat dubious. Any time an article has a source who totally exists but the writer can’t give you a lick of info about who they are or how they got their information (in this case, what country he’s from or what organizations he was a part), your bullshit detector should pin the needle. Especially when that source is telling you exactly what you’d guess they would say, down to the last detail.

  • Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    How familiar does that sound? It’s the exact same arguments made against homosexuality and equality by fundamentalist Christians. Every single argument is absolutely identical.

    I came to this realization mere months prior to 9/11/2001. That was via Karen Armnstrong’s book, The Battle for God. Ms. Armstrong didn’t merely provide convincing evidence that the fundamentalist mindsets amongst the Abrahamic religions were effectively identical, she provided sufficient evidence that what’s occurred with Islamists and conservative Christians since 9/11 can be easily explained. I.e., her thesis has demonstrated strong predictive powers. For example, why do jihadists and conservative Christians have the same mindset yet promote policy very differently? With jihadists leveraging the tactics of terror while U.S. conservative Christians leverage their political influence and use of the military.

    And liberals shouldn’t be too smug reporting on these facts. The rise of the Israeli state via Zionism was a predominately left-wing exercise. Here the common thread amongst all three religions was the same authoritarian thinking we encounter from fundie Muslims and Christians. Of course in the present tense, this psychological approach is predominately used by right-wingers within Zionism and amongst its followers – though not exclusively as we see from many Congressional Democrats who promote reactionary Israeli interests, even at the expense of humanity and U.S. interests.

    We also shouldn’t ignore populism. Much of al Qaeda’s arguments for taking on the west and Saudi Arabia are rooted in populism, with the western civilization providing plenty of fodder given we enabled a few clans to steal the resources of the Middle East at the expense of the common Mo (this doesn’t address Iran, where different dynamics were in play).

  • heddle

    chriswalker #2,

    I agree with you. It might be totally unfair–and often wrong–and surely an ex-muslim might have many legitimate fears. Still, when someone appears right out of central-casting–regardless of which side of a debate they are on, I am immediately suspicious.

  • garnetstar

    By losing “Andalus”, does he mean the conquest of Andalusia by Los Reyes Catolicos, back in the late 15th century? Gays did that too? That must be news to Ferdinand and Isabella, who attributed their victory to Jesus.

    Gays sure are powerful.

  • exi5tentialist


    … not exactly news, is it? We homos are used to that kinda thing.

    But what’s with gettin on the bandwagon now? Just another reason to be pro-war? Give the bombing programme a free pass?

    Some people do like keeping their war machine lubed.

    No to NATO: No new wars. Protest 30 August to 5 September. Demonstrate Sat 30 August, Newport, Wales (NATO leaders’ summit)

  • steffp

    @garnetstar, #5

    Historians today regard the “reconquista” as a mere narrative. In fact there never were only two distinct sides in that conflict, and the period from the 9th to the 15th century was one of extensive warfare of tiny kingdoms on the “Christian” side with one another, often in temporary alliance with the “Muslim” side. Similar disunity on the Muslim side, by the way. As all these wars, on all sides, were usually fought by mercenaries, it was not really as much of a religious war as one is inclined to believe.

    After the 13th century, the Muslim possessions in Spain had shrunk to the Emirate of Grenada, which, situated opposite Muslim stronghold Magrb al Aqsa, could count on logistic and military help from North Africa, thus being relatively safe.

    This Emirate was the only part of Spain their Most Catholic Majesties ever took from Muslim rule. Their questionable historic importance lay in the field of uniting the rivaling kingdoms and taifas of Spain later on.

    Explaining losses and defeat as acts of divine punishment for moral impurity is a common treat in all Abrahamic religions, from Jeremiah via Luther to Pat Robertson. In Islam, the crucial figure is Abū Hāmid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazālī, whose works led to the victory of Theology over Philosophy in Islam. He interpreted the (minor inconveniences) of the crusades as God’s wrath over Aristotle. Later, his victorious followers, when confronted with the Mongol invasions and the fall of Baghdad, interpreted them as a clear sign to return to the primitive, yet innocent, wilful ignorance of the Prophet’s days.

    Hanging the responsibility for all these military and administrative catastrophes on homosexuality seems a bit far-fetched, but so is the idea of a god interfering on the enemy’s side…

    Of course, homoerotic practices are pretty wide-spread in a society where the female element is constantly kept out of sight…

  • DaveL

    I’m with chriswalker and heddle on this one. We already know there are a handful of charlatans on the Christian rubber chicken circuit, making a living telling fundamentalists what they want to hear about Muslims and Islam, and even they give names.

  • anubisprime


    It’s the exact same arguments made against homosexuality and equality by fundamentalist Christians. Every single argument is absolutely identical

    Not a great surprise considering the root source of both religions.

    Judaism has similar hatreds and misconceptions.

    The triad of sheer evil and the bastion of self inflicted ignorance has enslaved and haunted a world for far to long.

    Religion as a concept and aspiration is fine…the people practising it …not so much!