It is an irony. The holy month of Ramdan saw Islamic extremists claiming lives in various countries, including Bangladesh. Some of those accused of bombing in Bangladesh are said to be from top universities in Dhaka. They were “regular people” who hung “around cafes”, to quote Dhaka officials. And one is left wondering: What motivated them to join the terrorist outfit? Or what motivated those three girls from London to leave everything behind and join ISIS, last year? Tabish Khair’s latest book Jihadi Jane might provide some answers.
Jihadi Jane is a story of two Muslim friends, Ameena and Jamilla, who live in England. Jamilla comes from a family which believes that loud music, working women and things like that are un-Islamic. She wears a hijab. On the other hand, Ameena comes from a more liberal household. She moves out of her single, recently-divorced working mother’s home to her own flat. She smokes, wears jeans and is somewhat of a rebel at heart. However, through the book, one sees the gradual but unmissable transformation of Ameena as she immerses herself in reading the Holy book Quran, starts wearing lose clothes and covered. Jamila shifts in with her. The two decide to go to Syria to live a life ‘more Islamic’, without feeling awkward or like outsiders in England. Jamila decides to marry a Daesh fighter. Ameena decides to become a Jihadi bride.
However, once they reach Syria, they realise they had been cheated into thinking the fight is to preserve the religion or to preserve the Holy words or the ‘cause’. A series of brutal experiences, violence and the narrow notion of interpretation of religion, leaves them asking many questions about the intention and the path to achieve the ‘cause’. “Would Allah want this?” Jamilla is often seen asking herself. And she makes another valid point, “Who knows what Allah wants?” The two are now stuck! But one of them lives to tell the tale.
The thought-provoking book is a tragic, fictional story which might as well be true for many. The book helps to understand the process of brainwashing, the fanaticism and the ‘recruitment’ through social media employed by fanatics to lure vulnerable people. It also lays bare the horror of being a part of the terror gang. It’s heart-wrenching and painful.