I am a ‘jihadi’ in Australia

Published: February 7, 2015

Indian muslims offer Jummat-ul-Vida, the last congregational Friday prayers in the holy month of Ramadan at Jama Masjid in New Delhi. PHOTO: AFP

He was drunk and it was apparent from the way he walked towards me. After a few steps, he put his elbow on my shoulder and stood next to me with a glass of red wine in his hand. We were both in our service dresses and I did not expect this. I held my breath instinctively because of the smell of wine as he spoke in a slur,

“Hello sir, I hope you won’t mind having a chat?”

This guy was a sergeant who spent a year in Afghanistan with NATO forces and was working in my office with the administration department. He was honest, straightforward and was always conscious about maintaining workplace decorum. Therefore, his unusual behaviour was definitely a result of excessive drinking during official ‘happy hour’. I slowly turned towards him to respond and we shook hands.

I would have ignored the incident but I felt my face turning red when he continued speaking in a drunken voice.

“Sir, when you first came in and told me that you are from Pakistan, I thought to myself, ‘Oh crap! Our enemy is here’. And I cribbed against such deputations to Australia from your country.”

Before I could give words to the feelings that arose within me, he snapped further poking my shoulder with a finger,

“But you are good. You have changed my opinion about you and your country. You are £#@&ing good with everyone and now I see the other side of the story as well. Thank you!”

And with that, he took my hand in his and shook it again.

He was obviously drunk and unaware of the fact that he was being rude, blunt and verging on offensive – and right. I had two options, either I could react assertively, which would most definitely have created a scene, or I could try to address the matter in a diplomatic way. I chose the latter.

During the next few months, the incident was never mentioned between us. But I never forgot it because those couple of minutes gave me insight into the mind of an Australian soldier’s regarding Pakistani soldiers. It wasn’t only about ‘me’ and ‘him’; it was about ‘all of us’ and ‘all of them’. As we are all aware, there is an unspoken distance between ‘us’ and ‘them’ that exists at all levels. Similarly, in my case, there were emotions hidden behind behaviours and tones. So I took a confrontational approach and in relevant discussions would tell them,

“I’m a jihadi.”

Surprised, they would stare at me in a bewildered fashion and wouldn’t accept what I said because of my ‘polite demeanour’. That is when I would explain the concept of jihad to them. I explained that Bil Nafs – the attempt of feeding the right wolf within one’s self; Bil Qalam – the attempt with one’s right word, right speech and right action; Bil Maal – the effort of helping the needy with one’s wealth; Bil Saif – the effort of using a sword in self-defence and for a better society with due respect to adversaries, just as their bible, laws and ethos state, are all forms of jihad.

In many of the discussions that ensued from then on, I tried to make them recognise that radicalism, extremism and fundamentalism are not exclusive to Islam and Pakistan; I explained that every creed, religion and country had radicals. Instead of explaining our situation or why we believe what we believe, I questioned their logic.

With this I got varying responses, while some of them understood what I was doing, there were many who thought I was selling Islamic philosophy through twisted rhetoric. What is unfortunate, however, is that the blame does not lie solely with them. It is our collective fault. We expect them to understand the Holy Quran but we are so rigid in our stance that they think that the only people allowed to touch, let alone read, the Quran is a Muslim.

What I managed to understand from all this was the fact that we while want people to learn about Islam and understand us, we don’t understand our own philosophies let alone understanding theirs. We talk about their prejudices against us but never talk about our own prejudices against ourselves and other people.

Islamic history is filled with stories of coexistence with other sects, factions and religions. But when convenient, we set those aside as references that have become stale in today’s world, things that don’t affect us anymore. The distorted image of Islam is its only identity known to the non-Islamic world. We can’t relate ourselves to the true words of Quran and worse, we are doing very little about it. There is an indispensable need to spread the true essence of Islam, not only through words but through actions and behaviour, by fostering peace and love in our community. We need to do this so that we can denounce those who are exploiting our religion without being clumped with them; so that we can proudly own our true moral values; so that any of us can claim to be ‘jihadi’ without being the object of suspicion.

Ibn e Inayat

Ibn E Inayat

A freelance writer from Pakistan, based in Australian Capital Territory, currently instructing in an Australian Defence College. He is also a hobbyist artist and occasionally writes poetry on social issues. He tweets as @Ibn_e_Inayat (twitter.com/Ibn_e_Inayat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • ali

    I think the right term in this context is mujahid, jihadi is a term barelvis and shias concocted against extremists from their opposite sect.Recommend

  • Queen

    Very apt blog. Nice one!Recommend

  • Biswajeet Kapoor Kiraula

    If that is the case, then you are a full fledged JIHADI.Recommend

  • Umar

    Notice the use of this word “concocted” and the amount of hate it is holding on behalf of Mr. Ali towards the two sects mentioned. It surprises me that such people exist even after the truth has become apparent regarding what is going on in our country. Every sect but mostly the ones mentioned are being targeted and such people are still focused on segregation.Recommend

  • Neo

    Who decides who is a true Muslims and who is not?

    When faced with horrific acts being carried out by certain Muslims in the name of Islam, there is always this disingenuous tendency by some to wave off the activity as being something that no true Muslim would do.Recommend

  • L.F.

    Put yourself in the shoes of the non-Muslim audience. Is it really them linking Islam to terrorism? We’re surrounded with images and videos of jihadists yelling “Allahu Akbar” and quoting passages from the Quran before beheading someone (usually a non-Muslim), setting off an explosion, or rallying others to battle. Who is really making the connection between Islam and terrorism?Recommend

  • Sami

    If a person is Drunk then avoid discussion with him. What were you expecting from a drunk guy?. Even a sane mind act differently in a drunken mode.
    Judging the whole Australian society based on the discussion with one Drunken guy is an Over statement on its own.
    Also based on the current conditions of the Muslims around the World nobody in the developed world will buy our argument that We can coexist with Pluralism.
    Saudia Arabia, Iran, Pakistan etc claim to be Islamic and they claim their constitution is based on Islam and look how much discrimination our Constitution carry. Blasphemy Laws are designed according to Islamic values. Moreover Preaching of Non Muslims is banned here in Pakistan based on Islamic values.
    We should not lie to the citizens of the developed world. We should accept our mistakes. Any Muslim can practice freely in the West but in Islamic countries Non Muslims are not allowed to preach and practice their religion.
    If you really think that Islam practice freedom and tolerance then challenge your draconian Blasphemy laws and banning of Preaching by Non Muslims. After setting an example in Pakistan everyone will buy the argument that a Muslim walks the talk as well. Change your 1971 Constitution and then preach others.Recommend

  • ajeet

    I think we can see what’s happening all over the world. Even in pre world war II Germany there might have been a few good apples in the German army, but they never forced you to understand their ideology.Recommend

  • ab1990

    even recent attack in sydney was also by a jihadi.

    This is even terrifying:

    Call for Muslim army in Australia

  • Almost There…

    … And i guess that’s what the author said.. It’s not them to blame. It’s us Muslims. Recommend

  • Faulitics

    Another sectarian person here. A true jihadi.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Pakistani textbooks give only a passing reference to other forms of Jihad,and then pages discussing the violent Jihad.Recommend

  • KeepitSimple

    Guess he avoided to make a scene. But yeah a drunk can’t represent majority of a nation. True Recommend

  • Gul Zaman Ghorgasht.

    I will be honest with you,..er…what if the author of the blog is a
    Urdu Speaker? Descended from Urdu Speaking migrants, will
    your long convoluted misanthropic diatribe still apply? Also,
    consider, the author was being polite during his encounter with
    a drunk. Instead of being abrupt, and stand offish thereby elevating
    the drunk’s ire. Who are you to decide how he should have reacted.Recommend

  • imad uddin

    I think u shoud have avoided making such bold comments. U know how people think. Even if u open ur heart out, they would say toeach other, ” see he is saying this much so openly, then imagine how much he would have hidden deep within himself” …lol
    Anyways, you highlighted very well with your experience that the world only knows our distorted image. It is we ourselves who have to undo extremism for others to see the true and complete picture.

  • RameshHeg

    Good point.
    As the numbers of Jihadis bombing and executing the civilian infidels all over the world keep increasing, any whining and self-pitying of the so called “moderate” Muslims is increasingly very annoying.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nice read….with a nice message.Recommend

  • wb

    I’ll take a jab at your question.

    Quran is the perfect book of god. Quran is eternal and Quran is true at any time, any place.

    Since it is the true/perfect word of god, and since god forgot to give contexts, a true Muslim is the one who literally follows Quran. He should not look for contexts given by human beings. He should only read what Quran says and follow it verbatim.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “That is when I would explain the concept of jihad to them”

    Wrong choice, you need to explain this to the people whom the state of Pakistan created with a different definition of Jihad.

    “I explained that every creed, religion and country had radicals.”

    Yes they do but not all of them are state sponsored.

    “Islamic history is filled with stories of coexistence with other sects, factions and religions.”

    What is Jizya?

    Also, Just imagine the impact of the news which says a Muslim killed a non Muslim in a non Muslim majority country for what he considered as an insult of his faith. Just one man but enough to bring disrepute to an entire community. I see many of the Muslims blaming the media for the so called phobia rather than saying the state of affairs among not just the Muslim countries but the Muslim community has gone horribly wrong.

    A good piece of writing though.Recommend

  • Alfa Romeo

    Hafiz Saeed is also a Jihadi…Recommend

  • Gopeet

    Well, by the same token, some things are very bad in hindu communities.
    All over the world. They act very shameful. Little Indias everywhere.
    Take for instance, Ghar Wapsi campaign, desecrating vandalizing
    Christian churches, [specially in New Delhi just before elections] Hate
    and intimidation campaign of Hindu Supremacy. Gujrat Massacre.
    Hate campaign of Maharaj, the sadhu of Banaras, Modi’s patron swami
    Genocide of Muslims in Occupied Kashmir. Which is run like a huge
    concentration camp by the Bharati Army. Total news blackout from west
    Bengal. Human rights violations in Bodoland, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur,
    Nagaland etc Arunachal Pradesh is fighting to secede. Brutal repression
    campaign there by Army. They will eventually go to China. Soon.
    Top it all of with Meghalaya, and burning Muslim villagers in their huts.Recommend

  • AamAadmi

    Well done for not creating a scene, well done for being a good Muslim rep there, and v well done for this piece of writing. Recommend

  • Hoshang Ansari

    Modi is also a JIHADI.Recommend

  • sharabi

    Who will decide?
    The words of Allah(swt) itself ie. Quran & for my better understandings it says,
    1. Follow Tauhid & do not involve in shirq.
    2. Testify Mohammd(PBUH) as a final messenger of ALLAH(SWT)
    Islam is very very simple if we stop listening these hate preaching Mullahs.
    Few Ayats were for at that time(whern there were war events) & our thekedar misquote them & our jahil public follows thsese fanatics.
    Anyone can read Quran with open Heart & Open mind, there is only Peace & LoveRecommend

  • NoNy

    yes you’re a jihadi cause trying to sell your religion and ideology to others in public space is kind of a jihad!
    First of all religion is a matter of individual, the institutionalization and nationalization of religion creates problem and here again you’re putting forward that same rhetoric of defending your particular religion. Secondly, why do we have this obsession with jihad, be it peaceful or not ? people did not learn to do good things to others from jihad, those things exited way before islam came into existence. in the end, why do we want everyone to understand quran? let them live their life, let them be who they are. being a muslim does not give us any competitive advantage over anyone else. we can just mind our own business and stop wearing religion on our sleeves all the time.Recommend

  • MichiGan

    Dear author: I appreciate your blog post. It is well written. You are obviously a kind, gentle soul. However, as we speak, Islam is being defined for the world by the actions, not only of those who use the Quran and hadith to justify their atrocities, but also by those Muslims who sit silently in their homes in the face of such atrocities. If there were mass protests wherever Muslims live, with millions taking to the street every time someone use the Quran and hadith to justify vileness (as they do when Israel pounds Gaza), the image of Islam in this world would be different.Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Congratulations on your “deep” knowledge of India and its atrocities! Oh, wow! That surely makes India and Indians the worst of the worst. Pakistanis cannot hope to match that record! Maybe you can provide us an update once in a while on the perfidious Indians?Recommend

  • Prashant

    “Well, by the same token, some things are very bad in hindu communities.”

    I will agree with you on some of the points you have made above but we do not claim to be perfect, how about you?Recommend

  • able

    Every peaceful jihad by a muslim will fail and end up in a violent one. This is because islam contains too many contradictions and deceits.Recommend

  • marik

    “I am a Jihadi”
    Reminds me of that story of the priest that wanted to make an impression. During one of his sermons he suddenly announced “I have slept in the arms of another man’s wife”. Then he told his astonished flock that he was talking about his mother. The flock was more amused than impressedRecommend