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Souad Mekhennet: Let’s Not Make This a “Religious Conflict”
by Hugh Fitzgerald
Souad Mekhennet is a German-born journalist, the daughter of Turkish “guest workers” (gastarbeiter), who is now an investigative journalist for the Washington Post, covering “militant Islamist networks.”
She was recently interviewed by Sabine Kieselbach of Deutsche Welle about her job’s dangers and why it is important to speak to jihadists.
SK: Ms. Mekhennet, the film “All the President’s Men” about the Watergate scandal in the 1970s inspired your career choice. Now here you are, working at the paper where the two investigative journalists who broke Watergate worked. How does that feel?
Souad Mekhennet: It feels almost surreal. I watched this film about the Watergate affair as a teenager. I found it unbelievable to see that two Washington Post journalists could, through their research, cause the downfall of a U.S. president. I thought that was incredible. These men, who did not come from influential or wealthy families, were able to wield such influence through their jobs and make such a difference. But, of course, it was a very long road for the daughter of guest workers in Germany to make it all the way to the Washington Post.
SK: In your reports, you examine the abysses of political situations, but also the abysses of the human soul.
Souad Mekhennet: Before I go into any interviews, I tell people from the beginning that I am a journalist. Everyone knows I work for the Washington Post, I don’t hide that. We don’t do undercover stories. I say, ‘I’m going to come and listen to your side of the story. I will also ask you critical questions, but I will reflect your answers to these questions fairly in my article.’ This has worked very well so far, knock on wood.
I have encountered evil frequently throughout my life. When I was a teenager, I was chased by skinheads through the streets of Frankfurt with threats of being killed or gassed.
I believe that there are many people on many different levels in this world who deal in what we call evil. I once met a firefighter’s wife whose husband had been killed during the September 11 attacks. She told us journalists, ”I believe that the media and the politicians also share the blame for what happened on September 11, because no-one out there told us why these people hate us so much!”
The quote from the firefighter’s wife — “I believe that the media and the politicians also share the blame for what happened on September 11, because no-one out there told us why these people hate us so much!” — is strangely not discussed by Souad Mekhennet. I suspect that she would be deeply unhappy with those who maintain, with considerable supporting evidence from the Qur’an and Hadith, and from the recorded remarks of the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda leaders, that “these people hate us” because we are non-Muslims, the “most vile of creatures,” against whom Muslims are commanded to wage Jihad and to “strike terror” in their hearts. See, e.g., Qur’an 2:191-193, 4:89, 8:12, 8:60, 9:5, 9:29, 47:4, 98:6. Souad Mekhennet does not want Islam being seen as the explanation for Muslim terrorism. This is clear from her last response in the interview: “It would be very problematic if we were to see it [IS] as relating to Islam and say that these people hate the West because they are Muslims. That?s exactly what they want. They want a religious conflict to arise. We should not do them the favor.”
If it is not the texts and tenets of Islam, an idea she refuses to entertain, what explains 9/11 and over 33,000 Muslim terrorist attacks since then? That’s what she’s still trying to figure out from her meetings with Jihadis. Her refusal to consider the obvious is fascinating.
Souad Mekhennet: She [the fireman’s wife] was right: we only report on the attacks once they are over, but we do not deal with the people or their ideologies before they become mass murderers. I made it my task to explore this and subsequently began my journey into the so-called world of jihad.
And so far she’s still trying to figure out what oh what could it be. What are those “ideologies” she fails to identify? Could one of them be Islam?
I sometimes found myself sitting down with people who have told me that if I were from America or from this or that country, then they would immediately kidnap and kill me. In such a situation, you don’t know whether you will leave the interview alive. We have to learn how to live with this. But I believe it is important that we take on this assignment.
What did Souad make of that threat to kidnap and kill people from “America or from this or that country”? Did she recognize it as a threat against people from Infidel lands, that is a threat against Infidels which could only mean a religious war? Or did she decide not to think too deeply about what such a statement meant?
SK: You say that you want to mediate, to build bridges. Your book is now being translated into Arabic. How does “the other side” react to your work?
Mekhennet: Before I go into any interviews, I tell people from the beginning that I am a journalist. Everyone knows I work for the Washington Post, I don’t hide that. We don’t do undercover stories. I say, “I’m going to come and listen to your side of the story. I will also ask you critical questions, but I will reflect your answers to these questions fairly in my article.” This has worked very well so far, knock on wood.
SK: Have you ever reached your limits when it comes to your work?
Mekhennet: There was a situation where I saw the son of a fighter in Lebanon playing a game with his friends called “kill the unbelievers.” He was a little boy, just five years old. That hit me hard. And sometimes there are situations where you really think that you won’t make it out. I was in prison in Egypt. I was threatened with all sorts of things, tied up, blindfolded and led into a room where a woman was screaming. I thought I was going to be raped. As a woman and a journalist, you reach certain limits; you have to find a method to overcome the fear and continue.
Souad recognized that the game called “kill the unbelievers” that she found so disturbing was merely children mimicking the Muslim adults making war on Unbelievers. Yet she wants us to believe, in her final response, that we must not call this Muslim war on Unbelievers a “religious conflict.”
SK: You have often found yourself exposed in risky situations where you didn’t know how the situation would end. Do you purposefully seek out risk?
Mekhennet: I sought out these meetings because I believe they are the only possibility to speak to these people, to understand their motivations, and then to deliver counterarguments.
Their “motivations” are not hard to understand. They are a puzzlement only for those who keep denying what is in the Qur’an and Hadith, including 109 verses that refer to waging Jihad, and several verses that call for “striking terror” in the hearts of Infidels. The Jihadis of IS tell us themselves. Its members quote from the Qur’an before and after raping Christian and Yazidi women, as the victims have testified.
Michael Adebolajo, one of the killers of Drummer Rigby, said:
“I killed Lee Rigby because I am a soldier of Allah.”
He also wrote a note to his children:
“Know that to fight Allah’s enemies is an obligation… Do not spend your days in endless dispute with the cowardly and foolish if it means it will delay you meeting Allah’s enemies on the battlefield.”
As they were sentenced, Adebolajo and Adebowale were carrying and kissing their Qur’ans.
The leader of ISIS, Abu Baker Al-Baghdadi, when he still appeared in public, regularly quoted from the Qur’an and spoke of being engaged in the kind of battles in which Muhammad himself took part, as described in the Hadith. Members of ISIS, and of Al-Qaeda, have been videotaped chanting Qur’anic verses as they decapitate kneeling Infidels. The magazine of the Islamic State, Dabiq — just like the terrorists themselves — is full of those verses from the Qur’an that command Muslims to engage in violent Jihad, and to “strike terror” in the hearts of Infidels. Yet Souad Mekhennet, despite all this evidence, is still trying to seek out the “motivations” of the Jihadis she interviews. She refuses to believe them when they point to the Qur’an and Hadith.
Souad Mekhennet: In my book, you can read about a discussion I had with an IS commander in a car that only went up to a certain point. Up to the moment when he placed his hand on his right-hand trouser pocket. I knew he had his weapon there, so I had to dial back my critical questions. But, naturally, it’s about how I tried to argue with these people and to understand how they have become the way they are. Only then can we think about the possible counteractions we can take as a society.
How hard is it to “understand how they have become the way they are”? Apparently very hard for Souad Mekhennet, because as long as Islam remains the great unmentionable, the behavior. of these Jihadis must remain a puzzlement. And how can she “argue with these people” if she cannot bring herself to recognize what the Qur’an inculcates, and that the Jihadis are doing no more than following its commands? She might more fruitfully investigate why many Muslims, fortunately, choose not to follow the Jihad verses and the example of Muhammad as described in the Hadith.
SK: You are trying to understand the men and women of the so-called Islamic State. Have you found anything out that we do not already know?
Mekhennet: Although we see IS as a homogeneous group, it is very heterogeneous in and of itself. I know that there are conflicts between individual nationalities. It would be very problematic if we were to see it as relating to Islam and say that these people hate the West because they are Muslims. That?s exactly what they want. They want a religious conflict to arise. We should not do them the favor.
It is not true that we in the West “see IS as a homogeneous group.” Souad Mekhennet assumes we are ignorant of the various ethnic conflicts among IS members and, more generally, among Muslims in the wider umma. We Infidels already know that there are “conflicts between individual nationalities.” Early in the war in Afghanistan we learned all about the clashes between the Uzbeks and Tadzhiks in the north, with Pashtuns in the south, and about the Shi’a Hazara, attacked by several different uber-Sunni groups. We discovered in Iraq just how much the Kurds resent the Arabs. When our troops were in Syria, we saw the hostile attitude of the Turks toward the Kurds, and the Turkish attacks on the Kurds in Rojava. We could see, all over the Middle East, the distinct unease with Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman dreams, for many Arabs, remembering their centuries of subjugation by the Ottomans, still resent the Turks. And there are many other ethnic and national conflicts within the umma, such as the Berbers who chafe under Arab cultural and linguistic dominance in North Africa, and the Somalis who have been at daggers drawn with Eritreans. We Infidels understand perfectly well that “the conflicts between individual nationalities” exist in IS, which Souad Mekhennet seems to think have been insufficiently recognized. But we also recognize — as Souad Mekhennet does not — that these ethnic conflicts are of far less importance, for the fanatical Muslims who join IS, than their shared faith.
Mekhennet, whose views on Jihadis receive attention they do not intrinsically deserve because she is a reporter for the Washington Post, is determined to focus not on what unites, but on what divides the members of IS, and to refuse even to consider the ideology of Islam as the cause of Muslim terrorism. I have the distinct feeling that Souad Mekhennet, born into a Muslim family, may never have read, that is, never allowed herself to read, the complete Qur’an, for fear of what she might discover. She may have skimmed over, or omitted altogether, the verses about Jihad and “striking terror” in the hearts of Infidels. Or perhaps she knows these verses perfectly well, and has heard her Jihadist interlocutors referring to them, but she simply can’t bring herself to take them seriously, because that would force her to recognize that the ideology of Islam is the explanation, both necessary and sufficient, for Muslim terrorism. And this she will not do.
Her last few sentences give her away: “It would be very problematic if we were to see it [the Islamic State] as relating to Islam and say that these people hate the West because they are Muslims. That?s exactly what they want. They want a religious conflict to arise. We should not do them the favor.”
The Muslims of the Islamic State, and of every other Muslim terrorist group, do indeed hate the West, or rather hate all Infidels, including those outside the West, because that is what they have been taught.That is what the Qur’an — see, as noted in the first part of this piece, such representative verses as Qur’an 2:191-193, 4:89, 8:12, 8:60, 9:5, 9:29, 47:4, 98:6 which have taught them, to despise “the most vile of creatures,” to hate them, and to make war upon the Infidels. Their goal has not changed in 1,400 years: to subjugate first this Infidel land and then that, and to continue to wage Jihad until Islam everywhere dominates, and Muslims rule, everywhere.
Souad Mekhennet says that it is these fanatics who are trying to turn this into a “religious conflict.” No, they are not “trying” to turn it into a religious conflict. It always was a religious conflict, as far as Muslims are concerned. They have been engaged in this religious conflict — jihad against the Infidels — for 1,400 years. In the Middle East, in North Africa, in Spain, in France as far as Tours in 732 A.D., in Sassanian Persia, in the Byzantine Empire, in Hindustan, in Afghanistan, and beyond into the East Indies. They are waging Jihad now, not just through terrorism, though that unsurprisingly receives the greatest attention, but also employing many other instruments of warfare, including propaganda (e.g., the invention of the “Palestinian people”), diplomacy (the Oslo Accords, the Iran deal), economic boycotts (the “oil weapon” in 1973, the BDS movement), and he latest arrow in the quiver is demographic Jihad, which has been made possible by the catastrophic admission of millions of Muslims, who arrive, settle, and proceed to outbreed their Infidel hosts, right in the historic center of our civilization, Western Europe.
Soued Mekhennet is pushing a bewildering line we have heard, and many have despaired over, since 9/11. It is that we mustn’t “let the terrorists win” by thinking that “these people hate the West because they are Muslims. That?s exactly what they want.” And since we must never do “exactly what they want,” under no conditions should we conclude that Muslims hate non-Muslims because that is what they have been taught. The absurdity is palpable. Let’s not get confused. Here’s what many Muslims, whether they are in or out of IS or Al-Qaeda, want: They want to wage war, using all manner of means, including terrorism, propaganda, diplomacy, economic warfare, and demography, against Infidels, and at the same time to sow confusion among them. What “they want” is simply to continue to be admitted in by the generous welfare states of the West, allowed to settle deep behind what they have been taught to regard as enemy lines, and all the while, to keep their Infidel victims from clearly grasping the nature of the war without end that is being waged against them. For they want to delay the day of recognition, when the Kuffar, realizing that they cannot either integrate their Muslim population, or “de-radicalise” the potentially most dangerous Muslims in their midst, decide both to halt all further Muslim immigration, and to take steps to send back to their countries of origin those who were so carelessly allowed in. The carrot of a one-time payment to Muslim immigrants to return home could be combined with the stick of requiring these economic migrants to work, assigning them to the most menial of tasks — clean-up crews for highways, sanitation men, ditch diggers. And if they refuse to accept such work, they should be stripped of benefits, steadily and systematically, until few of those generous benefits are left. The welfare states of Western Europe were created for, and paid for through taxes by, their native non-Muslims. Those benefits ideally ought to be theirs alone.
One more time, let’s note what Souad Mekhennet told her interviewer from Deutsche Welle at the very end of the interview:
“It would be very problematic if we were to see it [IS] as relating to Islam and say that these people hate the West because they are Muslims. That?s exactly what they want. They want a religious conflict to arise. We should not do them the favor.”
What is that word “problematic” supposed to mean? Is it a way of saying “bad” or “unacceptable” without coming right out and using those words? Does it carry as well the meaning “it will make for problems and we don’t want that”? What we want to know is whether or not the statement that “these people [Muslim terrorists] hate the West because they are Muslims” is true, or false; that is all that matters. The statement is true: more than 100 Qur’anic verses command Muslims to wage Jihad whenever they can, and over 1,400 years Muslims have dutifully done so. Souad Mekhennet cannot convince us to ignore, as she does, either the Qur’anic text, or the acts that naturally were prompted by those texts.
Some Muslims don’t care if we recognize the nature, and centrality, of Jihad in Islam. They are perfectly willing to announce to the world their goal of destroying the Unbelievers, and why they are doing what they do, often citing sura and ayat. Abu Bakr Al-Baghadi, Anwar Al-Awlaki, and Anjem Choudary are examples of Muslims who have been forthright about their intentions. Many other Muslims, however, would prefer that we Infidels be kept in the dark, and whistling, for as long as possible, until Muslim numbers in the West are so great that non-Muslims will be unable to regain control of their own countries. They keep denying that there is any religious conflict; they tell us again and again, in the face of all the evidence from texts and from history, how Islam means peace, means tolerance, means no compulsion in religion, means getting along splendidly with “other faith communities.” Ask-A-Muslim Anything, and that’s what he’ll tell you, not because he believes it, but because he wants you to believe it. For these Muslims, who prefer to deploy taqiyya and tu-quoque, as they continue waging a Stealth Jihad, with more than 40 million Muslims now living in Europe and outbreeding their hosts, it is best that we Infidels not recognize that we are in a war — neither Theresa May nor Angela Merkel understands that war is being waged on their people from within — nor that we grasp, in sufficient numbers, the true nature of that war as a “religious conflict.” This buys the Jihadis time. Souad shoudn’t mind if we re-purpose her words: That’s exactly what they want. We should not do them the favor.
First published in Jihad Watch here, here and here.