From the Pen to the Sword

Posted: 3rd January 2011 by Joas Wagemakers in Afghanistan, AQ Central, Better Know a Forum, Jordan, propaganda, terrorism
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One of the things that struck me about the Stockholm bomber, Taimour Abdalwahhab, was that he was apparently active on the internet as a radical before he decided to engage in actual terrorism (see Thomas’ posts below for more details). This transition reminded me of a similar but much more serious process by someone who also moved from “jihad by the pen” to “jihad by the sword”: Abu Dujana al-Khurasani, the Jordanian former internet-jihadi turned suicide bomber who killed several CIA-agents in his attack on an American base in Khost, Afghanistan, on 30 December 2009.

The attack in Khost, which took place exactly a year ago, led many to praise al-Khurasani for his supposed heroism, his willingness to move from cyber-jihadism to an actual suicide bombing and his loyalty to the cause. A few months ago, an e-book was released by the Jihadi Media Elite (Nukhbat al-I’lam al-Jihadi) that not only continues this praise but also contains dozens of articles about al-Khurasani and provides all the writings and recordings by the man himself as well: Abu Dujana al-Khurasani: The Hero of the Jihadi Media and the Destroyer of the Intelligence Services (only the link to the e-book works).

Jihadi historiography

The book is obviously hagiographic, but that doesn’t make it less interesting since it gives the jihadi version of things and, as such, can be seen as jihadi historiography. Al-Khurasani is described as a hero who, after having become a physician in Jordan and marrying a Turkish wife, becomes a prominent member on the Hisba jihadi forum, which eventually leads to his arrest by the Jordanian security service. While the latter start using him as a spy to work for them in Afghanistan, al-Khurasani is described as cleverly turning on his masters by secretly working for the Mujahidun who he is supposed to help combat. His suicide bombing is portrayed as extremely important because it supposedly struck very senior officials within the CIA. The subsequent American statement that “the seven American officers that were killed in Khost were among the finest officers in the entire world” is held up as proof of this.

Another part of the book lists numerous statements by various people, ranging from American CIA-officials to jihadi ideologues, who indicate the impact al-Khurasani has had or praise him. A recurring theme that is left implicit but is nevertheless striking is the oft-mentioned transition al-Khurasani made from the Hisba forum to actual military action. Although he quite possibly saw no other way out than to cooperate with the Jordanian authorities, only to turn on them when he got in touch with al-Qa’ida, he is implicitly described in the book as someone who gradually worked his way from his keyboard to his bombing-belt.

An exemplary life

One cannot escape the thought that the Jihadi Media Elite released this book for more reasons than just to praise al-Khurasani. For one thing, the editors present him as a sign that al-Qa’ida is still alive and kicking. More important, however, is that they seem to believe that al-Khurasani lived not only a pious but also an exemplary life. Although I have not found any explicit reference to this in the book, the editors may well be presenting al-Khurasani as a hero precisely because they know there are many people who, like him before his transition to actual military action, are simply armchair jihadis only engaged in commenting on forums without joining the Mujahidun in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

The alleged stimulus that the editors want to provide for other would-be jihadis sitting at home to take up arms and wage jihad is not uncontroversial. For example, a fatwa from 2009 (responding to a questioner who happens to be from Afghanistan) states that a person capable of waging military jihad may still dedicate himself to cyber-jihad if that is where he is needed. While the editors may not necessarily disagree with this, it does seem that they – under the guise of praising one of al-Qa’ida’s heroes – may have released this book to stimulate other participants on jihadi forums to follow al-Khurasani’s example. Whether the latter will do so remains to be seen.

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