Growing up under Sharia law and in Islamist schools, we were taught that the highest level a person can reach is to be a mujahid. A mujahid is a person that God truly loves. Once, I dared to ask what exactly the term mujahid meant. The imam said that a true mujahid is a person who does not just die defensively for protecting Allah’s values. A true mujahid, one who is most loved by God, is a person who acts offensively, including through violence, when he or she sees our religious values are being violated in any part of the world. That person is a true holy warrior, he explained.
That description has been echoed through the halls of schools, and whispered into the minds of children. It has followed me throughout my life. Now, as I reflect on the first time this thirst for violence was explained to me, an eerie reality comes into focus. If the teachings of these radical imams are accurate, then the rate of mujahidin in the West appears to be increasing far higher in the West than in the East.
As some clamored to reach this ideal, we were told that one major indicator of whether the number of mujahdin is increasing or decreasing in a society is to look at the rate of those who are becoming martyrs. The higher the rate, the more mujahidin are there, and the more satisfied God is. It was a powerful message delivered to young, impressionable minds, that were eager to please and learn.
Growing up in the Middle East, within Muslim-majority nations, I rarely heard of radical Islamists committing terrorist acts in the region. But in the few years that I have lived in the West, I have regularly heard of bombing and suicide missions committed by radical Islamists. Their targets have been Americans and Europeans, including attacks in London, Paris, Nice, Brussels, Boston and San Bernardino — and often one another.
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