Posted on September 11, 2018

Jihadis Back from Syria Tell Their Stories

Sinclair Jenkins, American Renaissance, September 11, 2018

David Thomson, The Returned: They Left to Wage Jihad, Now They’re Back, Wiley, 2018, 240 pp. $19.95 (softcover)

Only a minority can swallow uncomfortable truths. One uncomfortable truth is that Islam has a terrorism problem. Last year, 8,432 people were killed in 370 Muslim terror attacks. An overwhelming majority were in Muslim countries such as Syria, Egypt, and Afghanistan. In Europe, Muslim first- and second-generation immigrants have killed approximately 311 people since 2015. Muslim gangs and criminals are mainly responsible for rising rates of violence in Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and France.

All this could have been avoided; Muslims did not have to come. But as French journalist David Thomson shows in his book The Returned, French and European media and intelligentsia have stifled free discussion about Islam and Muslims. As Mr. Thomson notes:

In April 2014, the proponents of this ‘jihad skepticism’ hauled me over the coals on a public channel’s late-night TV show, as I tried in vain to explain that many French jihadists had left for Syria with the intention, right from the start, of [coming back and] committing terrorist attacks. A month after the publication of my first book, certain members of a French-speaking jihadist unit based in Aleppo told me anonymously that . . . they had planned to return to France to kill as many civilians as possible. And, indeed, these were the very same people who, two years later, constituted the terrorist cell responsible for the attacks of 13 November 2015 at the Bataclan in Paris.

Mr. Thomson reports that a professional sociologist told him there was no evidence of planned attacks on French soil — despite the fact that by 2013, Islamic terrorists and perhaps even the Algerian intelligence service had already been killing French civilians for at least a decade. This unnamed sociologist and other academics criticized Mr. Thomson for “playing into the hands of extremists” (such as the National Front) by worrying about French citizens leaving for Syria.

Mr. Thomson interviews many French-speaking jihadists who have returned to France after fighting in the Syrian Civil War, and it is valuable to hear their justifications for jihad. Twenty-year-old Zubeir grew up on the outskirts of Paris. There, in the banlieus, extremist Islam rules and mostly goes unchecked by the authorities. For young men and women without real job prospects and with easy access to drugs, the Islam they find there, with its emphasis on redemption and the “horrors” of French colonialism, is enticing.

Zubeir joined ISIS after first getting interested in Quietist Salafism, a hardline strain of the Sunni faith that often acts as a pipeline to jihadist Salafism. Zubeir was also motivated by the idiotic ideas of French left-wing teachers and professors. Particularly galling to him was the stupidity of the refrain: “Terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.” In a class after the terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Kenya, Zubeir grew angry when his teacher refused to acknowledge the obvious:

He [Zubeir] could no longer stand the way his teachers spoke about Islam, particularly the way they would insist that Islam and jihad should not be conflated, whenever there was a terrorist attack somewhere in the world. The effect on Zubeir of such an approach was the opposite of that desired, only reinforcing his convictions.

Zubeir and others thought: “If you want to know where the truth is, follow the direction of the unbelievers’ arrows.” Whenever a non-Muslim tried to explain Islam, they would go back to the Koran and the sayings of Muhammed, which were full of violence and justifications for killing “unbelievers.” After returning to France, however, Zubeir rejected Islam. He came to the conclusion that there is no dividing line between jihad and Islam, so in order to reject one, he had to reject the other. Mr. Thomson writes that Zubeir has tried to stop other Francophone Muslims from joining ISIS, but that his words of caution cannot compete with the ISIS’s slick, gore-drenched propaganda videos.

Safya, a woman who fought in Syria, came back to France but never gave up jihad. She smokes and usually does not wear a veil, but she cheers whenever Westerners die at the hands of Muslims. For her, France’s attempts to “deradicalize” Muslims are a joke. The French intelligence services refused to acknowledge that she had a religious motive for going to Syria. They quizzed her on Islamic teachings in the hope of confirming the liberal delusion that jihadists don’t understand Islam. Safya told them that sharia, which she supports, condones ISIS-type killings; they eventually let her go with minimal supervision.

The French government has known for decades that second- and third-generation Algerians, Moroccans, and other Muslims have grown up in ethno-religious enclaves where everyone hates France. Safya and others interviewed by Mr. Thomson all say that terrorism against the French can be justified because of the “French genocide” in Algeria. Before they became jihadists, they were dope-smoking hip-hop fans who regularly said “f*ck the police” and “f*ck France,” and imbibed the concepts of neo-colonialism and perpetual white racism. It is no wonder they hate France and the French.

An important point raised in The Returned is the inability of liberalism and democracy to offer a meaningful alternative to Islam. Almost all of the French-speaking jihadists in this book enjoyed consumer society. Safya went back to France from Syria because medical care was bad in Syria. Still, a life of manga, TV, and buying trinkets is unfulfilling. Secular liberalism does not offer transcendence to young people looking for adventure or redemption.

Mr. Thomson agrees with another French writer, Olivier Roy, who argues that youthful rebellion and radicalism has been “Islamicized” among young non-whites. If Zubeir had been born in the 1950s, he might have joined the Khmer Rouge or the Red Army Faction. There may be some truth to this, but Islam, unlike Christianity or even Communism, is deeply bloodthirsty and calls on the faithful to slaughter, rape, and steal from infidels. It is wrong to think ISIS and Al-Qaeda are “not Islamic;” they are more faithful to Islam than the so-called moderate Muslims who occasionally sip wine or smoke cigarettes.

The Returned includes important insights. First, religious Muslims cannot integrate into Western society; they must be repatriated. Second, there must be a radical change in a system of Western education that teaches students to hate their own country and people. For those on the margins, this hatred justifies drugs, gangsterism, and violence. Third, French-speaking jihadis find it easy to hate France because secular liberalism and hedonism are easy to loathe. Safya says legalization of gay marriage was one of many factors that drove her to support ISIS in Syria.

France and the West would be better off rejecting liberalism. This would not be “caving in” to terrorists, because the same people who support abortion, feminism, and cultural Marxism are almost always the same people who support open borders and claim Islam is a religion of peace. The preservation of our societies and our heritage, along with a return to Christendom in the form of a less permissive, more traditional culture, would do more to stop Islamic radicalism than all the bombs in the U.S. arsenal.