Helping My Favorite Jihadi Become a Martyr

On 9/11, I was in the Middle East working with Arab Muslims. As I watched the attack on TV, my first reaction was anger. My second reaction was survival. I called my manager. “You know that Islamist jihadi I work with? He’s huge, studies karate, and hates Americans. Hell, he hates everyone who isn’t Muslim. He even hates Shi’ite Muslims. If I go in tomorrow, he’ll make some remark that Americans deserved it. I’ll reach up and sock him on the chin, and he’ll kill me.”

I didn’t go to work the next day. When I did go in, they all expressed sympathy for the attack, even my jihadi. I appreciated his concern. A few weeks later, however, the tone changed.  “Do you know that those hijackers were really Israeli Mossad agents? They just wanted Arabs to look bad.”

“That’s strange,” I said. “I’ve never even heard of a Jewish suicide bomber.” Nothing more was said about that theory. I guess they were embarrassed by the attack and wanted to shift blame away from their people.

A few days later, they came up with a new one. “You know, there was a Jewish controller in the Kennedy control tower. He sent those planes right into those buildings.”

I mulled that one over for a few moments. “That’s interesting. Say I’m the pilot. I’ve been ordered to drop down to 500 feet. It’s illegal to do so and I’d lose my license, but that’s what the controller ordered. Now he’s telling me to fly a course into that building. The airplane will be destroyed and we’ll all be killed, but I have no choice because the controller ordered me to do it.”

There was a moment of silence. “Well that’s what the Arab news says.”

The jihadi made my life at work difficult for the few years I was there, but I needed the job. I had a mortgage back home and a daughter in college, so I tolerated it. Anyway, the money was good. 

He often me how horrible Jews and Christians were even though he’d sometimes say that we’re “People of the Book” mentioned favorably in the Qur’an. He hated Buddhists, Hindus, and anyone else who didn’t love life under sharia, and even some who did. When the Taliban blew up some ancient Buddhist statues, he thought it was great because the statues were idols and forbidden in Islam. I told him that the statues weren’t forbidden by the rest of the world, but he brushed that aside. Nowadays, IS thugs are destroying ancient statues in the museums in Iraq. He believed in female genital mutilation because women couldn’t be trusted to control their bodies. He had a daughter, so we can only hope she’s okay. 

He advocated suicide bombers everywhere, but especially in Israel. “The Israelis deserve it. And we don’t kill women and children. We only kill their soldiers.”

“But the latest bomber went into a pizza restaurant during the early afternoon when all the soldiers were away on duty. Who’s in the restaurant then? Mainly women and children.”

“Well, maybe his watch was wrong and he didn’t have the right time. He should have gone at night when the soldiers were there.”

He talked about slavery a lot. “When we conquer America, I’ll make you my slave,” he sometimes said. But he added to reassure me, “I’ll be a good master.” He told me he was thinking of traveling to North Africa, where they have underground slave markets, and buying a young lady, supposedly to help his mother around the house. He added that in Islam he was allowed to have sex with any slave he owned. He finally decided against spending a few thousand dollars for his Janet Jackson lookalike.“They aren’t good slaves over there. They complain to the authorities at the airport and they release them.”

He talked about becoming a martyr. Most Islamists dream of becoming one, but hardly any of them ever follow through on it. One Palestinian father said he envied his suicide bomber son who’s now a martyr in heaven but didn’t indicate he’d do it himself. During the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the driver of the explosives-laden truck was reportedly smiling, a look of ecstasy on his face; in moments he would become a martyr in heaven. Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, in a bloody note that he was captured with, wrote that he was jealous of his brother because he was now a martyr in heaven. But young Tsarnaev surrendered rather than fight to the death. 

He once told me that the Israelis killed a suicide bomber before he could set off his bomb, but he would still go to heaven as a martyr, with all of the advantages that went with that special status (virgins, servants, palace).

“You’ve told me you’d like to become a martyr.” I once said.

“Yes, I did, but I can’t do it here.”

“Then go to any country that borders Israel,” I said. “Walk across and kill some Israeli border guards. They’ll kill you, and you’ll be a martyr.” Of course, the Israeli soldiers would blow him away before he got even close to them. 

“No, I want to kill a lot of them, not just a couple.”

A few days later, we were talking about the Balkans war. “There’s an opportunity there,” I said.  “You can go there and join a group that kills a lot of infidels.”

“I can’t. The government won’t let me travel there.”

I mulled that over for a moment. “You don’t have to go there directly,” I said. “Fly to Athens. The government will allow you to do that. Rent a car and drive up to the battlefield.”

“Uh, no, I can’t. The imam says the Americans are already handling it and we shouldn’t interfere.”

I left a few months after 9/11, but I knew he’d never try to do his Islamic duty. I did have fun, however, trying to help him do what he claimed he wanted to do.

Allan C. Stover is author of Underage and Under Fire; Accounts of the Youngest Americans in Military Service (McFarland Publishing, 2014). His website is