#Blogfest 2:0, Day 09 – #30Dayscountdownto2016Click here for previous episodes of The Great Deception
It was by no means easy adjusting to a frugal life. Ahmad who had been used to living in comfort and affluence found the harsh living conditions of the life of a mujahideen shockingly devoid of any form of comfort whatsoever. In his online communications with the Imam, there had always been mention of ‘giving up the comforts and pleasures of this life so as to attain success in the hereafter.’ In his mind he had always thought this meant giving up things like listening to music, watching TV and going out with girls. But having a small piece of date and water for breakfast, lying on just a mat and not bathing for days were things Ahmad had never contemplated as far as giving up comforts and pleasures were concerned.
Numerous times he felt like giving up. Not being one to suck it up, he complained loudly to whoever cared to listen about the damage lying on just a matted floor, eating only a small piece of date for breakfast and the harsh desert wind was doing damage to his skin and health. His newfound brothers gossiped in hushed tones about how this ‘rich kid’ was not cut out for the life of a mujahideen and should be let go. Despite the difficulties, Ahmad was determined to earn the favor of Allah and the Imam by fully adjusting to the harsh life.
As part of their training as new conscripts, they were required to acquire training in basic firearms and guerilla warfare. In this Ahmad excelled brilliantly. Perhaps it had something to do with the numerous hours he had racked up playing Call of Duty on his PlayStation. He impressed the instructor with how consistently he hit the targets and how he was able to shoot targets from a long distance. In the daily evening Qur’an recitation sessions, Ahmad gradually rose from the bottom of the class to the top. He came up with positive affirmations to help him cope with the difficulties of his new life. Every day at dawn when he awoke for the early morning prayers, he would say to himself “this suffering is temporary but Allah’s favor upon me is permanent.”
Every evening after firearms training, the Imam would sit down and preach to all the mujahideen about the need to establish an Islamic Caliphate where the Shari’ah would reign supreme. He admonished them on the need to rid the world of the pestilence caused by the infidels and to rid the world of the infidels themselves. Initially, these hate speeches seemed a bit measured in their tone due to the metaphorical nature the Imam employed in passing across the message but as time went on, they took on a more sinister and literal tone. When he was sure the new conscripts had been fully converted to the new way of life, he began instructing them to kill infidels wherever they found them and to wage a war against the government. Ahmad, whose lessons about Islam back at home were in serious conflict with what he was hearing started having doubts about the dark twist events were taking. But when he looked round at how an entire neighborhood, which formed the Imam’s domain, was filled people all signed up to join in the jihad, he thought “this cannot be wrong. The Imam definitely knows what he is talking about.”
On some nights Ahmad noticed some men of Arab origin came to the neighborhood and met with the Imam. Sometimes they brought huge metal cases, which Ahmad surmised, contained weapons as they looked exactly like the cases used to convey weapons in the movies he had seen back at home. He suspected they must be the ones supplying the jihadi movement with the AK47s and other weapons he and others used for firearms training. As Ahmad became accustomed to his new environment he noticed that this was not just a group of ragtag rebels seeking fame and relevance. There was actually a lot of order to it. It functioned like a well-oiled machine. There were doctors, engineers, lawyers, architects and even Islamic clerics who had all left their old jobs and lives to join the cause. All the aforementioned professions played a role in the functioning of the jihadi movement.
As time went on, members were selected to go on attack and bombing raids at government facilities. The brothers who were killed in the raids were declared martyrs by the Imam who proclaimed they were in paradise with their 72 virgins. He enjoined others to not be afraid to give up their lives for the cause of Allah. His speeches really riled up a lot of individuals to volunteer for attack raids. Soon, the jihadi movement was gaining international attention as they increased their attacks and embarked on a wide radicalization drive which saw the children and relatives of many prominent Nigerians give up their affluent lives to join in the jihad.
Soon, the Imam’s true nature came to the fore; he was a deranged mind out to cause chaos. His preaching became blood soaked tirades of calls for outright violence against anyone be they Muslim or Christian who did not conform with or agree with the group’s ideals. Neighboring villages in the area who had previously thought themselves immune to the group’s activities soon became prey to the deranged minds and ideals of the brainwashed foot soldiers of the jihadi movement. Ahmad was one of those who took part in one of the many raids and as he had memorized the Imam’s instructions of killing as many people as possible to gain entry into paradise, he was vicious during raids. Women, children, the elderly, no one was safe from the wanton violence Ahmad and his brothers in arms unleashed. He found it difficult to tell what had numbed his senses into committing such heinous acts of violence. Perhaps it was the Imam’s preaching or the high doses of cannabis they were given before and after each raid. Whatever it was, it was helping him achieve the ultimate aim of entry into paradise.
Soon the Nigerian government was forced to form a multinational force to curb the activities of the terrorist group. Technical expertise and intelligence were shared between member countries of the multinational force which would undoubtedly ensure success. At dawn the Imam ordered his followers to carry out a raid (what he referred to as The Great Cleansing) on the large town of Galdimari. This was a large fishing town about 230 kilometers from the state capital. Hundreds of mujahideen flooded Hilux trucks with a large cache of firearms all eager to bring God’s judgment to the infidels and their helpers in Galdimari.
They flocked into the town shooting wildly into the air; craving for the opportunity to perform what they felt was a divine duty. Security forces who had received intelligence of the impending attack had launched a battalion to counter the insurgents. Ahmad, high on cannabis and a host of other drugs, rushed towards the first house he saw firing his gun into the house. Others followed suit as someone on a truck mounted an RPG ready to fire it when gunshots started raining down on the mujahideen. Pandemonium broke out among their ranks as they realized they had walked into an ambush. Ahmad who had rushed out farther than others was hit by a bullet in his collarbone. Perhaps it was adrenaline or the effect of the drugs, he was still able to stand on his feet and run for cover. As the mujahideen prepare to turn around and beat a retreat, they realize it was too late; they were flanked on all sides by soldiers. RPGs were fired onto the trucks which erased any chance they had of making any escape. The only option was to hit the cornfield. Ahmad ran backwards into the cornfield while firing his rifle. As he turned round to run, he was hit by another bullet in the hip. He half ran half limped. He got dizzy and almost fell a few times but was able to catch himself. He kept running for what seemed like hours when he collapsed onto the ground, unable to move due to the pain and the blood loss.
He lay there staring at the sky as dark nighttime sky broke apart to make way for daytime. Little by little, the sun rose from the west. He welcomed its warmth as it shed its light on the earth warming everything in its path. As he retraced the steps that had led him to his current predicament up to the present time, he began to think logically for the first time in many months. He began to finally question the Imam and his teachings. He recalled something his Islamic school teacher had told him a long time ago, before he had succumbed to the yoke of radicalization. He had told Ahmad “it is not for us to decide whose religion is right or wrong. If God had wanted us to all to be of one religion, he would have made it so. Live with everyone peacefully, regardless of their religion.”
Suddenly it dawned on him that the Imam’s teachings were not based on the purity of Islam, but were one of the depraved mindset of a mad man. With the growing sense of guilt and contrition he began to feel, he wished for death now more than ever. He would rather die than confront the guilt of all those people he had killed, all those kids he had made orphans. He raised the gun, held it to his temple but was unable to proceed with his intended act. Overwhelmed by grief and remorse, he broke down crying and shouting “Astaghfirullah” (forgive me Allah). In between sobs he heard the sounds of men shouting in the distance. Suddenly he was surrounded by soldiers from the multinational force. “We don catch one here”, one of them shouted. Ahmad was apprehended and taken into custody. He was treated at a military hospital along with other captured mujahideen. As he lay handcuffed to a hospital bed, he looked to his right at the patient in the bed next to his. He looked familiar but Ahmad could not remember where he had seen him before. Then it suddenly dawned on him. It was the Imam.
He called out to him, “Ya Sheikh”. The man cast a forlorn look at Ahmad and says, “Forgive me for deceiving you and others.” Ahmad stared blankly as he was once more flooded with regret. This time it was far more overwhelming as he realized he would spend the rest of his life living with the regrets of his actions for he had succumbed to a great deception.
Written by Usman Shamaki, He blogs at Uashamaki.blogspot.com