My childhood friend, the ISIS jihadist

Jakob Sheikh writes: Amir and I are childhood friends. We grew up in the same estate in Western Copenhagen. We played in the same courtyard, played football together at the street pitches in Saxogade Road, bought slush-ice and small blue chewing gums with stickers of American wrestlers in the same tobacconist on New Carlsberg Road.

We are both 27 years old — Amir was born four months before I was. During our childhood we shared the same interest in sports and computer games. Like me, Amir has a Danish mother and a Pakistani father. Our fathers even come from the same region in Pakistan, the military city of Rawalpindi.

Yes, Amir and I have had more or less had the same upbringing, a path to ease in Danish society. We have been formed by the same institutions, saw the world through the same eyes.

But our lives have taken completely different paths. How did that happen? I find it difficult to understand. In fact, I had no idea what had happened to Amir before I met him by chance on Istedgade Road a few weeks ago.

“Hi Bro. What gives?” he asked and gave me a friendly hug.

It was warm outside but Amir was wearing a big, black down jacket drooping loosely over a pair of dark Adidas training trousers. He had a crew cut, his eyes had a warm glow and he looked as if he compensated for his small stature with regular visits to the training centre. His stubble was not much longer than mine, and while we were talking Amir had his hands politely behind his back, to show he was listening with interest to my story.

I, on the other hand, was more interested in his. And a few minutes into the conversation it took a more interesting turn.

“I’ve been in Syria, my friend,” he said, adding, “I’m going back soon.”

Amir, my childhood friend had become a jihadi. The polite man full of empathy, had killed in God’s name. I, on the other hand, have been employed as a journalist. I write about jihadi just like Amir.

Soon Amir was to embark on yet another crusade. This time for what is arguably the most violent terrorist group of all: Islamic State. [Continue reading…]

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