Core to Islamic extremists beliefs is that Allah approves of jihad; and should a warrior die as a result of his or her jihad – they become a martyr, immediately and automatically attaining the highest level of heavenly repose. All sins are absolved, all misdeeds forgotten. Immortal rewards vary from scores of virgins; to a painless death; to being held above all other Muslims in esteem in Jannah (Heaven).
Regardless of the veracity of these beliefs, it is evident from terrorist attack after terrorist attack, that the promise of a ‘better life after death’ is key driver in not only the radicalisation trajectory, but also the compulsion to take extremist belief to action. This of course does not happen in isolation of other socio-demographic, political and economic factors – but regardless of the journey a radical has taken through jihad to their death, the constant in the equation is the promise of reward upon death.
Taking a PVE or CVE lens to this erroneous interpretation of Islam, key voices from within the Muslim global community are challenging these beliefs – and the notion of martyrdom – with content that is factual, culturally and religiously framed; and that evokes internal contemplation.
Kuwait City’s telco Zain launched this video – aimed at challenging the extremist narrative, just before Ramadan:
Featuring people who have directly experienced the effects of terrorism alongside a significantly symbolic narrative and musical score, the video has been a regional break-through in challenging the ISIS and Al-Qaeda led narratives in the Middle East. Qualified voices, not lecturing but assertively correcting misformed belief, may not sway hardened extremists from their cause but they do educate younger generations with a passive, mainstream narrative.
Al-Jazeera has also produced a video aimed at challenging the misconceptions of reward after death by jihad; by giving voice to the Muslim community in the UK after the London Bridge attack.
If Imam’s refuse to give Islamic burial rights to those involved in jihad, where does that leave their passage to the hereafter? No Qur’anic ceremony, no burial within the requisite period. No attending to the ritualistic cleansing of the body after death and no facing Mecca when burial – likely a pauper’s funeral – occurs. Or no burial occurs at all and the body may remain in custody, in a morgue freezer for some time.
With Islamic belief believing the soul departs the body around day 2 after death, what will the jihadi see on his ascension – or downward spiral into hell – as the case may be?
In directly challenging one of the key commonalities of jihadism – and key ‘after-death’ promises made by extremist groups, how can the martyr be assured of his ascension to the seventh level of Jannah?
Promises are easily made- as the saying goes, “If a promise seems too good to be true, it probably is” – but a wrong action and the outcome for the jihadi is eternally everlasting.
It is in these moments of truth – where conjecture can be debated by qualified voices (scholars and religious leaders) – that messaging aimed to prevent and countering violent extremism can really exert influence.
Who would you trust your immortal soul with?
The one guy that wants you to kill yourself and others?
Or the many who want to you to live a long, peaceful and productive life?