Here is one of the most terrifying stories I have read this year, a feature by Elaine Sciolino of The New York Times that ran under the headline “From Tapes, a Chilling Voice of Islamic Radicalism in Europe.”
There is no ghost in this story. The raw religious fervor of the alleged terrorist profiled is pushed right out front for all to see.
That is, in fact, the point of this story linked to the aftermath of the 3/11 Madrid bombings (photo). Sciolino opens with Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed screaming “Go to hell, enemy of God!” while watching the beheading of Nicholas Berg and things stay pretty raw after that.
An Italian police report on Ahmed’s activities:
… (Charges) that he used cassette tapes, cellphones, CD’s and computers as recruitment tools, highlighting how the Internet potentially can transform any living room into a radical madrasa. The report says he downloaded hundreds of audio and video files of sermons, communiqués, poetry, songs, martyrs’ testimony, Koranic readings and scenes of battle and suicide bombings from Chechnya, Afghanistan, the Israeli-occupied territories, Lebanon, Bosnia, Kashmir and Iraq.
A onetime house painter who was able to take on new identities, hopscotch across Europe and dodge the police who had him on their watch lists, Mr. Ahmed is believed to have links to radicals in France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Saudi Arabia. The police report calls him a recruiter of suicide bombers for Iraq and at least one other terrorist operation, probably in Europe. For the Italians, Mr. Ahmed is emblematic of the new enemy in their midst.
There are fits of the rawest anti-Semitism you can imagine, and guest appearances online by a Saudi sheik: “In one question-and-answer session with a Saudi sheik who is asked what suicide operations against Jews are allowed under Islamic law, the sheik responds that Jews are ‘vile and despicable beings, full of defects and wickedness.’ God, he added, ‘has ordered us to wage war against them.’”
OK, so what is wrong with the story? The religion angle is there, after all.
I honestly wanted to hear this material discussed by voices on the other side of the Muslim world, as well as by the European experts and prosecutors. This is a case where the story offers a blunt, one-sided presentation of the most radical version possible of Islam and there is no real attempt to show this vile poison in any other context.
I think moderate Muslims have a right to be heard in a story of this kind. The Islamists are blowing up moderate Muslims as well as Jews and Christians. I wanted to hear a centrist Muslim expert or two have a chance to tear apart this rhetoric.