Monday, May 31, 2004

Knock, knock

A Reuters article by Samia Nakhoul entitled Cool gunmen hunted down Christians begins with a question asked by Islamic gunmen who seized an expatriate housing complex and killed 22 residents:

"Are you Muslim or Christian? We don't want to kill Muslims. Show us where the Americans and Westerners live," Islamic militants told an Arab after a shooting rampage against Westerners in Saudi Arabia. The four gunmen, aged 18 to 25 and wearing military vests, grabbed Abu Hashem, an Iraqi with a United States passport, in front of his home in the Oasis compound in Khobar, but they let him go when he told them he was a Muslim. "Don't be afraid. We won't kill Muslims - even if you are an American," he quoted them as saying. ... "[The gunman] told me, 'Our jihad is not against Muslims, but against Americans and Westerners'. He asked me to show him which villas had Americans and Westerners."

The shooting "rampage against Westerners" included Indians, Filipinos and Sri Lankans.  The Deccan Herald reported eight Indians killed, mostly janitors. The other dead included three Filipinos, identified by the Arab News as an accountant,  driver and  cook. The victims were neither particularly Western nor obviously Christian. The actual breakdown of deaths was:

Indians 8
Filipinos 3
Saudis 3
Sri Lankans 2
Americans 1
Britons 1
Italians 1
Swedes 1
South Africans 1
Egyptians 1

So it was a trick question. But someone who might have known the right answer was Carlos the Jackal, once a Marxist, now a convert to Islam and an international celebrity. A British reporter who lunched with his French lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, describes the experience.

[Isabelle Coutant-Peyre] laughs throatily and lights another Cuban cigarillo. We are sitting in the Palais de Justice bar in Paris, where she swaps her lawyer's robe for a chic leather jacket. Gamine, with jetblack hair, kohl-rimmed eyes and a husky voice, she has an air of rebelliousness. Her mobile phone, which has already rung several times, trills again. She lowers her head and mutters into it: "I'll tell you later. Me too, me too." Snapping the phone shut, she announces: "That was Carlos."

There is no need to ask "Carlos who?". Ilich Ramirez Sanchez — alias "Carlos the Jackal" — was once the world's most wanted terrorist before anyone had ever heard of Osama bin Laden. He has been implicated in a number of international terrorist attacks and recently, in an interview on French television, claimed responsibility for killing more than 1500 people in the cause of Palestinian liberation (he is a convert to Islam). He was imprisoned in 1997 for the murder of two French policemen and an informant 22 years earlier. Today he is Madame Coutant-Peyre's husband — and the author of excruciating love poems penned from his cell. "I am jealous of the sun that tans you," he writes. "Of the shade that caresses you; Of your sheets that do not cover me. Of your legs not intertwined with mine."

He would known that the response was not 'I was a just a poor Muslim with a family. Spare me' or 'I am just a Filipino cook who prepares food' or even 'I am a Swedish European who is on your side'. The gunmen at the Oasis Housing complex, weighed each of these lives and decided to pull the trigger, not according to the human worth of their victims, but according to the column inches they would provide. The cooks and drivers were killed the better to hammer home the implacability of terror. Saudi staff were killed to convey the penalties for associating with the kuffar. The assorted Europeans to provide variety. The American Muslim was pointedly spared so Reuters could emphasize the magnanimity of Jihad. Carlos, better than anyone, would have understood that ordinary humanity is a mere canvas upon which the truly elect can write their Message: that in a media driven war blood must ink the presses -- and that the "militant's" first duty is to ensure that the presses never stop. The correct answer was, 'I am one of you'; and the angel of darkness would have passed him by.