The jihad cult: Why young Germans are answering call to holy war

Der Spiegel reports: Whenever Ismail Cetinkaya runs into one of those young men who want to leave Hamburg to fight in Syria, he asks: “Have you ever slept without heat in the winter? Do you know what it’s like to live without electricity and running water? Do you think a Kalashnikov works like the controller for your PlayStation 4?”

He also asks whether the young man is leaving his mother behind. And then he quotes the words of the Prophet Mohammed, and says: “Paradise lies at the feet of your mother.” The implication being that those who leave their weeping mothers behind won’t enter paradise.

Cetinkaya, 33, has a full beard and has been praying to Allah five times a day ever since he found himself, as he says. He’s the son of Turks from Mardin, a city on the Syrian border. He speaks fluent Arabic and doesn’t need a German imam or YouTube videos to understand what God wants from him.

God wants Cetinkaya to devote himself to “jihad.” But jihad is really just the Arab word for struggle, the struggle one endures while on the path to Allah. In the Koran, the “great jihad” is not the fight against non-believers, but each individual’s struggle against himself, against his own weaknesses, and against the evil that resides in every human being.

Cetinkaya is a successful fighter — in his struggle against himself, and against others he encounters in tournaments. In his sport of choice, Mixed Martial Arts, the combatants fight each other in a cage. It has its origins among the ancient Greeks, who called it Pankration. Even Socrates was a practitioner of Pankration, a full contact sport in which the combatants wrestled, boxed and kicked each other.

Cetinkaya is a popular trainer who runs his own martial arts school. When he walks through the streets of Hamburg, young men point at him or shake his hand. They tell him that they hope to be fighters like him one day. They have respect for Cetinkaya, who is a good fighter and a devout Muslim, a role model who dispenses advice.

He doesn’t like it when people do things half-heartedly. He wants young Muslims to read the Koran themselves and understand Islam. He doesn’t like it when they merely imitate what they hear in YouTube videos. Most of all, he doesn’t like it when they travel 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) to fight “infidels,” behead people, quote verses from the Koran and capture it all on film. [Continue reading…]

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