Standort: / Meldung: "The making of jihadists"

Joanna Bostock

Reading between the headlines.

22. 2. 2016 - 16:17

The making of jihadists

Who is the preacher on trial for recruiting IS fighters in Austria?

FM4 Reality Check

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The Austrian justice system entered new legal territory on Monday with the start of the trial of two suspected jihadists in Graz.

It's the third trial involving people accused of belonging to a terrorist organisation, but the main defendant this time is alleged to be a key figure in the so-called Islamic State group.

34 year old Mirsad O., or Ebu Tejma, is accused of recruiting young men to fight for IS and is charged with incitement to murder for killings allegedly carried out in Syria by the second defendant.

APA/Erwin Scheriau

There were unusually strict security measures in place for the trial at the Straflandesgericht in Graz.

Prosecutors also allege that the suspect, who immigrated to Austria as a child with his parents, has attempted to spread extremist ideology as a preacher in Muslim religious communities.

To find out more about this controversial figure, Reality Check spoke to Thomas Schmidinger from the University of Vienna:

He’s from a family of Sandzak background – this is a predominantly Muslim territory in the border region between Serbia and Montenegro.

He studied in Saudi Arabia in Medina and came back with this very strict interpretation of Wahhabi, Salafi Sunni Islam.

However he had already started with Takfirism in Saudi Arabia and we know he had some conflicts there with some other students.

Takfirism means that you judge if other Muslims are Muslims or not. For a normal Muslim, everybody who believes that there is no God except God and that Mohammed is the prophet of God, is a Muslim.

He might be a bad Muslim and he might go to Hell, but as long as he believes that, he’s a Muslim.

Somebody who does Takfir – this is somebody who judges other people’s “Muslimness”.

The idea is that there is only a very small group of real Muslims, and all the others are not [real Muslims].

He started quite early with this Takfirism and this Takfirism is also one of the ideological bases of later jihadism because this gives you the right to select the true Muslims from the hypocrites.

He's described as a radical preacher and is accused of recruiting young people to fight for the group known as Islamic State, how is he alleged to have done that?

He’s mainly an ideologist. His preachings were intended to radicalise young people into the ideology of jihadism.

He did hesitate in deciding if he wanted to do propaganda for the Islamic State or Al Qaeda, so when the split between Islamic State and Al Qaeda happened in 2013, he didn’t clearly position himself on one of the two sides.

But he was one of the most important people who agitated for the ideology of jihadism, and many of the young people who went to Syria to fight, either with Jabhat al Nusra or Al Qaeda or with the so-called Islamic State, many of these people at least once went through the classes of Ebu Tejma, as he called himself.

Even this name, Ebu Tejma, is a reference to one of the most important ideologists for the jihadists.

It’s a reference to the teacher Ibn Taymiyya who started takfirism and who published a lot of fatwas concerning jihad and who is a true Muslim and who is not and so on.

Of course in a completely different context Ibn Taymiyya is a very important reference for contemporary jihadist groups, and [the name] Ebu Tejma is sort of a reference to this medieval Islamic scholar.

Can I ask how you know all this?

Well, I have followed what he’s doing for some years now. He made a lot of propaganda videos, I also work with radicalised youths and some of them went through the classes of Ebu Tejma.

Do you think radicalisation presents a threat inside Austria?

Potentially yes. As you know, some of these groups started to attack in Europe, in France and Belgium.

However, until now nothing like that happened in Austria., but of course there’s no guarantee that one of these groups or one of these people – sometimes it’s just two or three supporters of such jihadi groups who start to plan an attack in Europe – so there is of course no guarantee that this can’t happen in Austria as well.

You were talking about the fact that you work with radicalised young people – is there fertile ground for recruits for someone like Ebu Tejma?

Yes – they [the recruiters] were successful, not with a mass of people but there are young people who are alienated from this society – for different reasons: the biographies of these young people are very different – but they are searching for ideology, for meaning and these are people who give them what they are searching for.

There are people with different backgrounds, who are attracted by this jihadist ideology.

Many of the jihadists who went to Syria have a Chechen or Bosniak background, so many of them have a family background that is somehow linked also to traumatic experiences during civil war situations at a time when the present jihadists were in their early childhood.

But there are also people without any migration background, people from even non-Muslim families who are attracted by this jihadi ideology. It is a growing, but still relatively small group.