The autobiography of Omar Nasiri entitled Inside the Jihad is an enlightening story of an European Arab of the Moroccan origin who has spent many years of his life as a spy in Al-Qaeda during the early years of its formation and global spread. He was at the very beginning of its formation out of various cells spread in different countries of the world that concentrated their activities in Europe, which is why his story is so important. The author is a mixture of an insider who understands the logic of terrorism and jihad and of an outsider who was a spy for European secret services because of his conviction that terrorism is faulty in its underlying premises that allow murdering innocents. Omar Nasiri’s story seems to be a novel view at the history of terroristic organizations throughout the 90s, yet at the same time it tells a lot about how the West is partially to blame for the rapid spread and strengthening of this horrid global phenomenon uniting Arabs from different corners of the world in their aspiration to become a part of global jihad. Thus, the author of the book under consideration offers several significant critiques of the Western society that are paramount for comprehending reasons and origin of terrorism and could be useful for creation of ways to combat this global plague. Unfortunately, Nasiri’s critiques are not new as they have been voiced before, but they have remained largely ignored by representatives of the Western society who fail to see that they have been passive participants of the terrorism spread because of their inability to acknowledge their mistakes and correct them.
Prior to focusing on some of the most significant critiques of Western society as indicated by Omar Nasiri, it is important to note that he is not against the West per se since he has grown up in Europe and enjoys all the benefits life in the West can offer. He praises and appreciates education he received in Belgium and has always supposed that individualism instilled in children in the Western society is a valuable asset. He has always refused to become just a member of the group by giving up his personal freedom and individual traits that could single him out. For instance, in the training camp in Afghanistan he was often punished because of this distaste of conformism and a desire to remain an individual by being able to voice his opinions and ask questions. Therefore, after spending almost a year in these training camps he realized that “I missed my life in the West. I missed wine. I missed cigarettes. I missed good food and newspapers and soft sheets. More than anything, I missed sex.” The situation is the same for thousands of other European Muslims who have gotten used to the Western lifestyle and have accepted partially Western values. These people treasure freedoms and opportunities they receive in Europe or elsewhere where the Western society dominates.
However, this is also the first critique that Nasiri mentions in his book. Thousands of Muslims have moved to the West and accepted the Western lifestyle, yet they largely remain outsiders. Westerners do not treat them like equals and have always considered them to be Arabs rather than their co-citizens. No matter how deeply Muslims get integrated into the Western society, they are not deemed to be like Westerners because of their unwillingness to abandon their ethnic and religious heritage completely. Moreover, even if they did abandon their past, they would still remain strangers because of their appearance and faith. Nowadays, there is much talk about diversity and a need to promote it in the Western society, but the reality remains a bit different from such proclamations since people still hold some unconscious stereotypes and continue imposing labels on everyone who is somehow different. Nasiri observes about one Muslim guy whom he used to establish contacts with the gun-seller:
There are guys like this all over the world: they drink, they smoke, they snort coke, they are complete infidels in the eyes of real Muslims. But at the first mention of the words umma or jihad they suddenly reconnect with Islam. I think this is particularly true in Europe, where young men are so far from everything, from the Muslim land. Jihad is nothing to them, nothing real. But it is also everything.
The matter is that the Western society marginalizes and alienates Muslims, especially Muslim men, thus not allowing them to become truly integrated into the society. This alienation constantly reminds Muslims that they are not in fact an integral part of their new homeland, which gives rise to anger and resignation. These negative emotions are a breeding ground for terroristic organizations who search for angry young men aspiring to get some higher purpose in life, which they find in jihad because of the lack of other opportunities.
Thus, the Western society fails to understand psychology and needs of Muslims who live in Europe and the USA, which makes feel like unwanted outsiders no matter how hard they try to accept the Western way of living and assimilate. As a result, men get angrier and angrier until they finally turn to extremism and radicalism propagated by terroristic organizations. Out of the lack of resources and opportunities to become decent members of the Western society and find well-paid jobs that could sustain their families, Muslim men decide to join jihad. Furthermore, terroristic organizations emphasize significance of Islam and offer a sense of brotherhood that most Western Muslims are deprived of in the West. This critique of the Western society runs throughout the entire book and Omar Nasiri emphasizes that the West is to blame for the spread of terrorism in European countries in the 90s because of its inability to integrate Muslims into the fabrics of the society. The author claims that
Over the course of my journey, I met hundreds of men just like the 9/11 hijackers. Men who had no home. Men reviled in the West because they were not white and Christian, and reviled at home because they no longer dressed and spoke like Muslims. Their shared rage was their only anchor, the only thing that connected them to their faith, to their family, to the earth.
Anger and resentment are the feelings that motivate Muslims, especially young men, to join global jihad. They witness injustice and unfairness in their daily lives, which makes them believe all the propaganda they hear about the sanctity and higher purpose of terrorism. In turn, Muslims understand Westerners very well and are ready to use this understanding in their jihad. Nasiri’s trainer in the Afghani camp sent him to establish a terroristic cell in Europe because of his individualism that he had acquired while living in Belgium: “It was all numbingly ironic…Ibn Sheikh wanted to destroy the West with its own weapons.” Hence, it is evident that Nasiri criticizes the West for its arrogance and failure in even attempting to get an insight into how other cultures think and feel.
The above critique gives rise to another one that consists in the fact that the West merely fails to understand the Muslim world and accept as it is. After visiting the Islamic section in a museum, Nasiri concludes that Western powers have always tried to extinguish the Islamic world and degrade its status in the world. After centuries of struggles based on religious and cultural differences, the West has managed to turn the Islamic world into some sort of an annex: “It was a world filled with prayer and family and knowledge, and great pride before nations, and great humility before God…It was another world. It was a beautiful world. And it was all in the annex.” Undoubtedly, such attempts enrage Muslims who treasure their culture and religion and want to have an equal status with the West. When Nasiri travelled to Turkey, he expected to see a truly Islamic country that preserved traditions and valued its uniqueness, but he only saw how the West had infiltrated the country and westernized it. Therefore, the author’s critique is that the West should have respected the Islamic world and its lifestyle instead of trying to amend it so that it would become westernized. From the book it is obvious that the author respects the Western lifestyle, but questions why Westerners fail to respect the Muslim lifestyle in return.
Finally, the most significant critique voiced by Nasiri in the book under consideration is the fact that Western powers interfere with politics and life of non-Western countries. Such interference has often resulted in civil conflicts, poverty, serious problems, and even wars, yet the Western society still chooses to try to change other countries so that they would be westernized and democratized. They merely fail to comprehend the fact that not all countries want democracy and view the Western lifestyle as the best one. As Nasiri says, the West places regimes in various countries, but citizens disrespect and resent their new pro-Western governments:
…these regimes were just the playthings of Zionist and Christian nations. It enraged Muslims and made them hate the West. And it made them distrust democracy, because they saw how antidemocratic Western countries could be when it served their interests. There would always be violence, I told him, as long as Western powers continued to manipulate the Muslim world.
Obviously, Omar Nasiri is not alone in this idea since most conflicts in Muslim countries start because of the Western countries’ attempts to bring to power governments that they deem suitable irrespective of what citizens want. The saddest thing is that these attempts continue even nowadays when it is evident that they are highly likely to result in bloody conflicts, civil wars, and even international military conflicts. The West’s wish to remain a superpower enrages thousands of Muslims who decide to join terroristic organizations in an attempt to stop the West from acquiring total control over their homelands. Even Nasiri who has been a spy and has always disagreed with jihad as proclaimed by terrorists states the following:
Let me be clear: I am a Muslim. And to this day, I would go to war for my faith. I am no longer a spy, but part of me remains a mujahid. I think the Unites States and all the others should get off our land, and stay off.
Withal, the book Inside the Jihad by Omar Nasiri offers several critiques of the Western society that could provide an invaluable insight into why terrorism gains supports among Muslims and how it can be combatted. Nonetheless, the author does not feel optimistic as his ideas and opinions have been ignored more than once even though he dedicated many years of his life to cooperation with Western secret services in an attempt to stop the spread of terrorism. The matter is that his critiques are not new and have been voiced more than once, yet they have always been somehow rendered as unimportant and meaningless, whereby terrorism has been analyzed from other perspectives. Therefore, the book under consideration should be studied in more depth and the author’s critiques should receive more attention if terrorism is to be stopped in the future.