Tuesday, September 21, 2010
What would you do if you were a 16-year-old boy, and saw eight of your friends murdered?
I read about this Afghan-Al Qaeda boy in Newsweek. and I can't get him out of my mind.
He was standing just outside the door of the compound, where supplies for his group were waiting to be picked up. He saw the car he'd arrived in explode, then the car that accompanied his car also exploded. Seven pals, Al Qaeda Arabs, were killed. The boy's eighth friend, horribly injured, died as the boy tried to comfort him.
Harif, (he hides his real name), 18 months ago, at age 14, ran away from home and joined the jihad in Pakistan across the border, but near his parent's home in Afghanistan. The training group in Pakistan was known as the best, the most prestigious, elite jihad in the area.
I can't really understand, or in any way identify with an adolescent boy's passionate desire to be a suicide bomber. Telling myself it's his religion, doesn't help.
Harif has said that ever since he was a small child, he dreamed of joining the jihad. It's similar, I think, to the dream of an American boy, the many boys who want to be sports stars.
He explained, "I was seven when Americans invaded our country." Hearing stories about the holy war, and the infidels who insult Muslims and occupied Palestine, Iraq and his country, the seven-year-old child decided: "There is nothing more to strive for in life than to join the jihad and become a shahid (martyr)!"
At the training camp, it was three months of intense exercise -- marching, running, learning to drive motorcycles and trucks, using weapons, handling explosives. And clean-up work -- after each of America's drone attacks, he and his pals, sometimes kids younger than he, picked up body parts, dug graves and buried the dead civilians and soldiers.
The size of his group fluctuated between 100 and 300 -- new recruits constantly arrived, and famous jhadis visited. Like a star-struck teenager, Harif can rattle off the names of those who've gone underground or are "disappeared" or "dead."
He makes death sound as if it's a discussion about Derek Jeter not able to play in tomorrow's baseball game, and brags about money for supplies, ammunition that keeps flowing into jihad coffers -- cash -- enough to trade in their old vehicles for shiny new Toyotas, Fords.
Since July, Harif has been staying with his parents, waiting for an assignment. His family has been pressuring him to find a pretty girl, saying "You'll be a better martyr if you're married!" So having a spouse mourn you makes martyrdom even more significant.
Complaining about the evils, distractions -- the luxuries that his family and their friends indulge in, Harif says no to meeting girls. "I get engaged, as my parents want, I know the life I love is over."
In his room. he keeps up with the news on his laptop, and is studying the making of a suicide vest. Relaxing the way our 16-year-olds do, he surfs Taliban, Qaeda, and Iraqi Websites, interacting with other young males like himself, (not females). He told a friend in a chat room, "I miss the mountains and my fellow mujahedin. My heart is not happy here."
I wonder if Harif is still alive. Like all Qaeda suicide bombers, his Last Will and Testament is on his computer with a letter addressed to all of his male kinsmen. He urges them to join jihad and seek martyrdom, "So I will see you, my beloved brothers, in the company of virgins with me."
It keeps echoing,
His words at age seven -- "There is nothing more to strive for in life than to join the jihad and become a shahid" keep echoing.
I keep thinking of the smiling nice-looking guy who was hoping to bomb Times Square, and the bewildered underwear-bomber, two young men who threw away their lives for what? And the other boy-men hiding in our cities, who are dreaming-up the most wonderfully destructive ways they too, can become a shahid.
What can we do, or say about dying for your religion, when religion teaches you how to live?