Stories of Jihad from U.S. Intelligence

“The only ones who are spending the money and time translating Jihad literature are the Western intelligence services,” wrote Islamic radical Anwar al-Awlaki, “and too bad, they would not be willing to share it with you.” (“Born in U.S., a Radical Cleric Inspires Terror” by Scott Shane, New York Times, November 19).

In fact, a growing number of websites offer jihadist literature and sermons in English.  But it is true that U.S. intelligence maintains a prolific translation activity focused on Islamic extremist literature, and that most of the resulting translations are not intended for public distribution.

The DNI Open Source Center recently translated an Indonesian anthology of four short stories about aspiring young jihadists entitled “Wind From Paradise” (pdf). The stories describe how their protagonists came to take part in jihadist campaigns in Afghanistan, Thailand, and Chechnya, and the ensuing “martyrdom” that they or their fellows found there.

It is not a particularly rewarding collection, on any level– esthetic, theological or political.  But the narrators and their stories have several characteristic features that may be worth pointing out.

Remarkably, their primary conflicts seem to be those of adolescence.  Their Islam is not concerned with the divine will as much as it is with themselves and their own unruly passions.  (“I drowned all my feelings by reading the Koran slowly,” one says.  “So a feeling of happiness and relief runs through my whole body,” writes another.  “I also have the feeling that the guilt that has plagued me all this time has now been uprooted.”)

But above all, the stories portray jihad as an appropriate, even noble response to external oppression by the non-Muslim world.  (“The mujahidin had to fight against the Christian United States, which wanted to control and dominate Afghanistan.”  The Western enemy mercilessly abuses prisoners, “but no matter how cruelly they interrogated and tortured him, [he] kept quiet.”)

The logic of jihad is predicated on the victimization of Muslims by infidel forces, the stories repeatedly insist.  (“So now he was defending his Muslim brothers who had been so cruelly oppressed.”)  The oppression of Muslims by other Muslims is beyond the narrators’ ken.  So is the possibility of confronting oppression by non-violent political means, except perhaps through the propagation of stories like these.

The translated stories have not been approved for public release.  Rather improbably, their “authorized use is for national security purposes of the United States Government only.”  But a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.  See “Indonesia: Translation of Jihadist Book ‘Wind From Paradise’,” Open Source Center, 1 March 2009.

0 thoughts on “Stories of Jihad from U.S. Intelligence

  1. This is an interesting quote:

    “The only ones who are spending the money and time translating Jihad literature are the Western intelligence services,” wrote Islamic radical Anwar al-Awlaki, “and too bad, they would not be willing to share it with you.” (“Born in U.S., a Radical Cleric Inspires Terror” by Scott Shane, New York Times, November 19).

    It’s a little naïve in that it’s always been my experience that translated jihadi documents are seen as exclusives, business opportunities and goods to be sold by the various small contractors who sell themselves to the US government. Best examples, the SITE Institute, the Terrorism Research Center, ando others in the professional witness against terrorism business — which is a small crew. It’s been offset to some degree by others.

    Note this memoir of jihad by convicted terrorist Dhiren Barot:

    The Army of Madinah in Kashmir.

    I don’t recommend reading all of it but a few pages gives you the flavor. I suspect it’s somewhat similar to your document.

    In this next story, paradoxically, a US serviceman was eventually convicted and jailed for life on terrorism charges. He never actually did anything violent. But the government went after him initially on the basis of purchase of ‘radicalizing literature’ — videotapes in his case. They put two informants next to him in subsequent years and these men eventually provided conversational evidence of him wishing to do harm to Americans.

    The initial indictment of Hassan abu-Jihaad.

    His conviction.

    One facet of this story, and it has unfolded over the years, is that it’s OK for you and me to read this type of thing. But if you’re a Muslim caught with it in some manner of investigation, more often than not you’ll get banged up for it for either providing material support to terrorists or possessing goods and materials thought to be useful to terrorists.

    With regards to the Hasan case, his get out of jail free card — as it is with us, is it was part of his job to look at ‘radicalizing literature.’ So maybe that had something to do with him not being more closely examined when I know there is a history of the FBI looking very closely at Muslims in the US who are thought to be reading such things. Whatever the ultimate truth of the matter turns out to be, I don’t know for certain.

    The upshot is that, whether it’s flatly stated or not, Anwar al-Awlaki’s writings are or will be treated as seditious documents if they’re found in the hands of people with the ‘wrong’ religion.

    That’s just a fact.

  2. what happened here on indonesia is a systematic chain ‘wound’ that probably caused by the wrong stigma of beliefs. we shared the common thing to them, “lost”.

    now what truly my (our) people can not understand is that they fail to give their hope into a false propaganda. most of them are uneducated, poor, and in a very danger position to be indoctrinated. they spread it. we told them it is a false things. but, they even reject us. it’s a more complicative thing than ever been imagine by us..

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