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What would I do if confronted with a jihadist? I would tell him about my pain

by Maryan Ismail

My friend Gabriele Nissim, seizing the occasion of the reprint of Yasmina Khadra's book L'attentato (original L'Attentat - in English The Attack), asked me what I could do to dissuade a terrorist fascinated by the narrative of Islamist jihadism.

What could I do, also ... in reference with my own family experience.

To give a structured answer, I documented myself by looking around and I realized that in Italy a pathway of de-radicalization has not been yet codified nor even less tested.
There are American experiences such as the ones with the Somali community of Minnesota, something in Canada with the Arab and Afghan communities, and a pathway has been recently started in Austria, after the runaway (and death) of two 16-year-olds, - then in England, Denmark and Sweden...
There have been built specialized teams with psychologists, social assistants, jurists, imams, experts of various kinds, to try and work on the indoctrination that the younger and youngest people are being subject to at an impressively rapid pace.

During this research, I realized that through these readings I was touching a very  a very deep and delicate issue. I asked myself what I could do personally, Maryan, if confronted with a radicalized person.
The easiest, most immediate and perhaps useful thing would be to tell about myself

Telling about what and whom they steal from us with their infamous murderous madness they justify by a God invented to seize power, control and money.
Yes, I believe listening to the pain of the relatives, friends and loved ones of those who have fallen victim is the best antidote against their own choice, which is no less harrowing. Over the past one year and a half I have been confronted with the death of my brother with strength and energy, because I have immediately felt in charge of the task of not letting his sacrifice be vain, of making sure his sacrifice makes the voices of thousands unknown victims speak to advocate the dignity they deserve!

If I had to be confronted with someone who deems it right to immolate himself for religion, I would express my pain to its greatest extent.
The pain that I "chose" not to tell, out of discretion or because it is too tormenting.
I would say it stole the sense of my world of love away from me, as well as my homeland, my childhood, my safety, and now I am sure I will never again be able to talk with him.
The very opportunity to listen to his projects, worries and dreams for himself and his dreams, his happiness and pride to become a grandfather for the first time, the sweetness of an elder brother, loving and joyful with my children, the brother whom I argued with for political or other reasons, me passionate, him always diplomatic, all this is denied to me.
I would tell the terrorist that someone, as young as him, took the life of another man, a man full with experience, a fantastic and radiant man, with whom I went to dance when I was young: yes, he danced salsa in a divine way, despite the fat due to the "diplomatic meals". 

Sometimes pain has to do with what we used to have and we have lost, other times what we will never have. 

What hurts the most is the loss of "opportunities".
I will never more have the opportunity, for example, to work with Yusuf to rebuild our country, to give the perspective of a different future to many destitute youngsters, or share my happiness for an accomplished project.
When we lose something, we not only lose that person, but also the role he or she had in our and others' life. It is a loss that repeats itself over time, because we realize that we will not be able anymore to share with them given facts such as a new birth, a wedding, an ill relative, a political event, and this leads to this person's second "death". 

I am sure my feeling, together with the pain that surely the mother of a jihadist feels for the wrong choice of her son, can be a valid and powerful subject for reflection and reconsideration.
I am sure also the heart of the terrorist's mother is overwhelmed by the pain for such an absurd loss, despite the narrative of the "just war" that is the object of jihadist propaganda. Why am I so sure? Because she, too is a mother, the one who is most intimately linked to her son or daughter and will wonder thousands time a day about the meaning of such a tormenting loss. It is the same pain that is felt by the mother of the victim of religious madness.

Can a God want this? No, He cannot and does not.
It is the people who want it, people who feed on the blood of the others merely out of craving for power. This blood does not build any purification.
This jihadist blood does not lead to any Heaven, but only in the hell of perpetual despair, the damnation of the endless contemplation of the mount of debris under which the humanity is forced to live. 

Is it really worth it?

*Yusuf Mohamed Ismail was the Somali ambassador to Geneva, at the United Nations and the Helvetic Confederation. He was murdered on 27 March 2015 by the terrorists of di Al-Shabaab, during the assault to hotel Al Mukarama of Mogadishu. (ndr)

Analysis by Maryan Ismail, professor of Anthropology of immigration

7 October 2016

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