“There were around 13 of them, and my cousin was one of them, that’s why I was interested in this group. Their backgrounds were different. Some of them had criminal backgrounds, and they were convinced that by joining jihadi groups, by doing jihad, they would purify their sins.
“Some others had jobs, had recently started families, and despite that they were joining jihadi groups.”
So there’s a range of different motivations?
“Well, yes. But the common factor that those 13 had was a kind of glorified death cult. They want to be part of a strong community, that’s part of it. But all of them seemed to be seeking death because they saw this as a shortcut to paradise.”
But these are people who have grown up in one of the most secular societies in the world, in Sweden. And yet they have this sincere belief that has not been seen in Sweden in maybe hundreds of years in a Heaven and a real Hell?
“Yes, but they are living in segregated places and are not in contact with the wider society at all. And some of them don’t even take part in the discussion that is going on about jihadists in Swedish media. They don’t know about all the debates about the new laws, they don’t know who the politicians are. They are living in their own world.
“The interesting thing, when I look at this group, some of them are convinced by the ideology. But for some it seems like it’s a business. Because the recruiter in this group is still alive, and that makes me wonder if he still believes in this ideology.”
But this is actually something new in the Moslem world as well. Maybe 50 years ago there would have been people fighting, but they would have been fighting for nationalist causes or socialism. So this kind of medieval belief in Heaven and Hell is sort of a new development. There must be some kind of tension within the Moslem community in Sweden, with some believing this, and some not?
“The average Moslem thinks this kind of ideology is kind of strange, and they cannot relate to this kind of ideology. While I was in Gothenburg an elderly woman, who was also Moslem, asked me what I was doing there. And I told her I was doing something about the jihadists. And she told me ‘I’ve been a Moslem all my life, I wear a veil, I give donations to the poor, and I pray. I’m a Moslem and I won’t understand how they reason and I don’t understand their argument.’
“She was telling me something like ‘God doesn’t want us to suffer.’ That’s what she and Moslems in general think, but this version of political Islam it tries to promote this jihadi ideology instead.”