The Mirror interviews an ISIS jihadi -- believed to be connected to those who killed photographer James Foley -- and reminds us all of the appeal of Fleet Street newpapers. The article also shows the risks of ignoring religious statements.
First, the achievement. The Mirror took an audacious step in publishing the interview -- apparently a text-based conversation via an "obscure messaging app" -- with an avowed jihadi inside Syria. If true -- and it would be tough for others to verify -- the story is a 1,000-plus-word look into the mind of a man who would chop off another's head.
He is named as Abu Abduallah al-Britani, one of the so-called "Beatles," a trio of British men who left the U.K. to join the terrorist army in Iraq and Syria. And The Mirror gets max mileage out of it -- right from the headline, " 'I’m ready to behead next enemy': Chilling message from Briton willing to kill for jihad."
In true Fleet Street style, the article is peppered with sensational adjectives like "fanatic," "warped," "horrific" and ...
Speaking a day after the sickening video emerged of American James, 40, being beheaded, al-Britani said he had no fears about carrying out similar atrocities in Syria.
Repeatedly calling our man “akhi” – or brother – al-Britani started the disturbing conversation by laughing at James’ horrific death.
Our investigator then asked what he had to do to join the IS terrorists’ vile cause.
The Mirror's "investigator" is an anonymous source who posed as an eager recruit. He probes not only the thoughts of a man who would wield a blade for God, but also intriguing details on how anyone can join and train for jihad.
Al-Britani advises the Mirror interviewer to fly from the U.K. to Turkey, take a bus to the Syrian border, then dash across before he's seen by patrols. Once with ISIS, he could expect military-style training like squats, runs, situps and "army crawls."
Besides Abu Abduallah al-Britani, the Mirror names the other two "Beatles" as Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary and Abu Hussain al-Britani. Other media report that Bary, a former rapper, is being investigated for Foley's murder as well.
Fair warning, BTW: If you have an older computer as I do, be patient in reading the article. The Java-heavy webpage stalled my machine several times.
The Mirror interviewer presses Abu Abduallah al-Britani on how jihadis could behead a man. Al-Britani first tosses it off with "Allah made it easy"; he later hints at a motive in complaining that “A brother severed (sic) one body part and the world went nuts. A drone severes (sic) a body into a hundred peices (sic) but no one says nothing."
Adds the newspaper:
He also said he wanted to “establish Allah’s empire”. But he told how he was “a revert” to the religion – meaning he was previously not a Muslim.
He also revealed he used to disagree with jihad. It is unclear what changed his mind, but he hinted he was angered by years of American drone attacks on Muslims.
There's one of the few gaffes in this article: that business about being a "revert." It doesn't merely mean a new Muslim; it's shorthand for a widespread Muslim belief that Islam is the original and natural religion. Therefore, everyone is born into the faith and converts out of it. And anyone who accepts Islam doesn't convert, but simply reverts to his/her born faith. That's a can o' worms, I suggest, that The Mirror didn't mean to open.
As the story ends, al-Britani says he doesn't keep in touch with his family because "they don’t understand his cause." The good folks at The Mirror should set two goals: awareness not only of al-Britani's motivations but how he spins words. That shouldn't be too hard for a Fleet Street newspaper.