The daughter of a Morrocan father and Turkish mother, Mekhennet was born in Germany and raised by her feminist grandmother in Morocco, with Jewish neighbors. She was thirteen in Germany when she started reading The Diary of Anne Frank and at the same time saw Turkish migrant workers attacked. On one occasion skinheads chased her shouting ‘Gypsies, gypsies we’re going to burn you. Get out of our country.’ It raised questions in her mind as to whether she was part of this society. In her case family support and a Jewish Holocaust survivor who persuaded her that leaving the country would mean the bigots had won strengthened her, but recruiters who know how to present themselves as the alternative to the society that pushed people like her out might have succeeded with her had the timing been right.Â
Everyone she spoke with talked politics not religion. On Iraq they say that there were no weapons of mass destruction, and that the only consequence of the invasion was handing over the country to the Shiite militias.Â
Khalid Almasri was an innocent man held by the West for years before being released with a warning not to tell anyone what happened. His family life fell apart and he feels betrayed. It is a case we don’t talk about, but the jihadis do, presenting themselves as the only ones who care about Muslims.Â
The man she calls Abu Yusuf later became a big figure in ISIS. She asked challenging questions, and he had answers. When she said, “This is not your country,” he said “It is a Muslim land.” When she found questions to which he had no answers, he reached for something in his pocket. A knife? A gun? She decided at that point to stop asking challenging questions.Â
When she interviewed a highly wanted man, he asked her to meet his wife, who asked her to wear sunglasses lest her husband fall in love with her eyes. She received more than fifteen marriage proposals.Â She convinced a Taliban commander who proposed to her that one wife was trouble enough. He named his daughter after her.
Non-state actors are not the only terrorists out there. She was held by the mukhabarat in Egypt after arriving just ten days before the 2011 demonstrations, accused of stirring up the masses. She was in constant fear of not knowing what will happen, under threats and interrogated with a gun to her head. When allowed to use the bathroom, she look herself in the mirror and said to her self “it is your body not your soul,” repeatedly. She thought to herself that if they treat their own people like this they will never love this country. This kind of treatment will not fight extremism.
She wanted to know what the jihadists thought about the Arab spring. All her sources were happy about the Arab spring. For them it was an opportunity for recruitment. Until arrest by the mukhabarat, she planned to write that many people didn’t want democracy but a new strong man who could provide cheaper bread. After the arrest the story changed to the story of the arrest.
AmericanÂ journalists usually make the mistake of typically only interviewing English speakers, most of whom have had a Western education and do not represent the general public.Â She notes that Ahmed Chalabi, who played the Neocons for suckers was educated in the US. There are still people here who speak English with an American accent and know how to play the game. They can make jokes about baseball. These things matter. Who is fighting ISIS today on Iraq? Who fought the soviets in Afghanistan? Do we not see we are making the same mistakes?Â
Of the approximately 30,000 foreigners who have migrated to ISIS, only about 150 are from the U.S., because so far Muslim immigrants here do not feel the same amount of alienation. Many of the young people came from broken families. Many of the boys had conflicts with their father. One who hated his father joined some gangs before eventually migrating and recruiting his younger brother. European prisons also play a role in which criminals are told they can commit crime for a good cause. Sell drugs to non-Muslims and support the movement with the proceeds. When asked how they could commit haram acts, they say it is permitted for the cause. When challenged to cite support from the Qur’an they cannot do so. They do not study the Qur’an but only listen to the recruiters.Â
In Europe anyone can create a club, put in a prayer room, and then call it a mosque, and no one cares who is the preacher. A large number of mosques in Germany are controlled by the AKP in Turkey. Refugees to Germany come with unrealistic expectations. If they are disappointed they will turn to whoever offers them help.Â
On her way to Munich after the shootings she learned her cousin’s son was missing. Later she learned he was one of the victims. She had to fetch the parents who were under the impression that he was injured but alive without letting them know the truth. All he did wrong was to be in McDonald’s at the wrong time. The shooter was not inspired by ISIS, but by right-wing ideology.Â The polarization is not a matter of religion but of focusing on the things that separate us.Â ISIS has its own media outlets in various languages to spread its narrative and they are very sophisticated in its use.Â
She interviewed children who lived for a time in the caliphate. One child asked how we allowed the evil people from Europe come to destroy their country.Â She told the story of anÂ FBI translator who married an ISIS recruiter who had questions no Westerner would answer but al-Qaida would.Â
In contrast, she told the story of the Pakistani man angry that America had killed his family with a drone strike. She explained rule of law in the U.S. and pro-bono lawyers who take on the cases of the oppressed. Instead of joining a terrorist group, he became the first man to sue the CIA.
She wishes people would include women more in the processes of peacemaking and deradicalization.Â Two events in 1979 had a huge effect on politics and Islamists: the rise of Khomeini and the seizure of Mecca. Saudi women will tell you that before the attack on Mecca they had more rights. Â
Minaret of Freedom Institute