28 Mar 2 Jihadi – 1 Big Difference
Two Jihadi terrorists are in the news. Their lives share some parallels, but like rockets ending up in different galaxies, one of them changed trajectory. Kahlid Masood, a 52 year old Londoner who had converted to Islam, plowed his vehicle through pedestrians on the crowded Westminster Bridge and then slashed an unarmed police officer who guarded the door to Parliament, leaving 4 dead and wounding 50 others. The evidence is indisputable that he had adopted an ISIS-like Jihadi mentality, even using a soft-target, vehicle + knife massacre script that has become too familiar. Officials are saying that even though he spent time in prison, there is no evidence he was necessarily “radicalized” there. http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/london-attack-terrorist-khalid-masood-had-no-links-with-is-and-was-not-radicalised-in-prison-police-a3500386.htm
The second terrorist, Bashir Mohammad, was raised in a strict Muslim family, grew into an Islamic hard-liner, and joined the ultra-violent Nusra Front, an off-shoot of Al Qaeda, and became a Jihadi fighter, embracing their savage mind-set. By all odds, his terroristic fervor should have been permanently cemented, even more so than Masood’s. But something remarkable happened to Bashir Mohammad: Christians prayed for his ill wife, he attended a Bible study where he experienced fellowship rather than hatred, and like many other Muslim converts to Jesus, he had a powerful dream that confirmed what he had already begun to suspect – that the Christ of Christianity was real, and that there was a God who could rescue him because of love rather than fear. As a result, Bashir became an ardent Jesus follower. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/24/world/middleeast/the-jihadi-who-turned-to-jesus.html?_r=0
Bashir’s story is not unique. Other Muslims have made that same spiritual journey. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/22/world/asia/afghanistan-a-christian-convert-on-the run.html?action=click&contentCollection=Middle%20East&module=RelatedCoverage®ion=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article
Sociology and psychology can give us some hints about why some Muslims become Jihadist and others don’t, but that doesn’t end the discussion. Those disciplines are usually wedded to a philosophy that looks to environment + mental/behavioral adaptation to explain the origins of violence. But Bashir Mohammad’s story brings into focus a piece of the puzzle that’s often ignored – spirituality. While Kahlid Masood and Bashir Mohammad were both exposed to environmental factors that loaded the violent chambers of their personalities, one of them chose to pull the trigger, while the other sought transformation, instead.
In the early years of my criminal law practice I rubbed shoulders with an array of lawbreakers, including some killers. A few of these criminals made the same choice that Bashir did, and their lives radically changed; but most did not. Exactly why some choose, but others do not, is a mystery of free will that is left to the inscrutable sovereignty of God. But one thing is clear: Bashir’s choice, the first steps in his journey of transformation, began when he was exposed to faithful followers of Jesus. Which means that those of us who carry that radical, soul-changing message should spread both it, and ourselves, generously. It could make the biggest difference in the world.