The Role of the European West in Producing Mujahideen and Sending them to Lebanon
Part 2 of 2.
Al Hayat ends their two part series on Muslim extremists in Europe by visiting Denmark.
The number of Muslims in Denmark has reached about 200 thousand, out of a population of nearly five and a half million people. The history of Muslims coming to Denmark goes back to the 1960s, when large groups of people emigrated from Pakistan, the Arab Maghreb and Turkey, and moved to the Scandinavian country. Others came to Denmark in the 1980s, when the path of immigration was opened for Arab countries. Observers attribute this to a number of causes, some of them demographic, as natives of Denmark are few in number, and some falling within the framework of allowing Palestinians to immigrate in order to reduce pressures on Israel. These observers stress that immigrating to Denmark in the 1980s was very easy for Palestinians. The 1990s were characterized by the arrival of large groups of immigrants from Afghanistan, and later from Iraq.
Once one begins to speak of the nature of the relationship between Muslims and the state in Denmark, one get a feeling that there is a huge gap separating the two sides, despite long years having passed since these people have been present on Danish soil. Most of the members of Muslim communities there live at the expense of the state, despite some of them having resided in Denmark for over thirty years. Nevertheless, these people have not integrated into the job market. Very few of them, mostly from the "younger generation", seek to get an education and a job in order to seriously integrate into life there, without that meaning "giving up customs and traditions, and above all the Muslim religion". While educated people and college graduates are considered few among Arabs and Muslims, a large segment of them choose liberal professions, and work as drivers or as maintenance workers…
Some Muslims, or "Islamists", find great freedom in their Scandinavian home, to express their opinion and practice their religious beliefs without the least bit of inconvenience. Nevertheless, this does not prevent them from talking about the feeling of "inferiority" and "racism" in Danish society.
Although the gathering of Muslims in Denmark went through phases, their relationship with the government has been similar throughout the years. Muslims in Copenhagen all agree that until the end of the 1990s, there were no significant problems in the relationship with the state, although "Danish nationals did not have a favorable opinion of people that had black hair or a dark complexion".
Asking about the "Danish Fatah Al-Islam" prisoners in the country in which they spent nearly 17 years of their lives is not easy. Moroccan national M.S., whom Mahmoud Assaad had said he knew very well, and despite his promises of speaking in an interview in person and not on the phone, "remained abroad in Holland" for a week, although he had assured me that he would return two days after our first phone call. It is noteworthy that this same person holds information about "Abu Ahmad", none of which he revealed, not even the name or the address of the mosque he might be found at. He pretexted "talking on the phone", indicating that his phone was under surveillance. Abu Ahmad, as he was described by some, is a young man in his thirties, Lebanese or Lebanese-Palestinian. Many people assured us that he would refuse to speak to anyone, and that he was difficult to reach. Some Muslims deem it unlikely that he would be leading a group or engaging in "suspicious" teachings. They consider him to be one of those people who chose the wrong path to study religion, and who now teach it with even greater error. They belittle the importance of his movement, and dismiss it as nonsense. Four young men, one of them only 16 years old, had been accused of planning terrorist activities in 2005, and from among the evidence of their involvement presented before the court was their relationship to "Abu Ahmad". Many consider that the most dangerous problem afflicting mosques in Denmark and in other European countries is that of people following some religious cleric or other, who "has taught himself by himself, and has understood Islam in a different way, one characterized by extremism".
In Copenhagen, Bustani's first wife told the story of the first phase, that of fleeing Lebanon, when they left Tripoli and went to the Ain Al-Hilweh refugee camp. From there they traveled to Greece, where they stayed with a relative, and then to Libya, where they lived for two years, until someone managed to get them visas and they moved to Denmark. Bustani's divorcee in Denmark, his wife in Lebanon, certifies that he has not divorced her according to Islamic law, and that she is "shocked at what Walid has come to". Indeed, although she witnessed the phase of his radicalization, which started in 1996 when he began to forbid her from watching television or putting pictures in the house, and to ask her to cover her face. Nevertheless, she believes that he was exploited because he had a constant drive for "resistance" in Iraq and in Afghanistan, especially during the period in which he met Mustafa Ramadan. Although she was not allowed to appear before men, Ramadan's name is the only one she remembers from among his friends.
Bustani's first wife avoids talking to the media, as she "fears for her children". She still lives in Denmark against his will, as he had sent her to Lebanon in 2001 in order to "register the children at a religious school". However, after she learned about his second marriage, she took her five children and moved back to Denmark. She says "he used to come visit his children two or three times a week, and would spend two or three hours with them". This contradicts the claims made by Bustani's second wife, who certifies that he used to visit them daily.
Some pieces of information coincide while others contradict each other or complete stories we had heard in Lebanon. Some people are cooperative, while others wonder about the reason behind researching such a topic, since the media and journalists are "prejudiced against them, and deal with them on the basis that they are criminals without considering the reasons that led to this". Others still have reservations about allowing filming or attending Friday prayer. Nevertheless, everyone agrees on classifying the presence of European countries among those that "export mujahideen" in a transitory framework, and on not considering it a "phenomenon". Yet there remains "Abu Ahmad" and "Abu Saud", and before them "Abu Muhammad the Lebanese": prominent names which cannot be ignored in that respect.
Mustafa Ramadan (Amir Al-Majameeh)
He has turned into a symbol in Iraqi "Jihadist" circles, after he was killed in a US raid west of Baghdad ion September 17, 2004. In Lebanon, Mustafa Ramadan was nicknamed "Abu Al-Shaheed", and while staying in Denmark "Amir Al-Majameeh", and became known as "Abu Muhammad the Lebanese" after he was killed in Iraq along with his eldest son "Abu Suheil", who had not yet reached sixteen years of age. He is a Beiruti of Kurdish origin who married a Lebanese woman from Majdel Anjar in the end of the 1980s and moved with her to Denmark.
Those who knew Ramadan in Denmark say that he was a young man in his thirties, and one of the earlier immigrants. He was religiously committed from the start, and sought to take interest in young "newcomers" and to advise them of the necessity of preserving their religion and traditions.
He is father to five children, the eldest of whom was killed alongside him in Iraq, while the others live with his widow who recently got married. Some information indicates that "Abu Muhammad", who was recruited in Denmark, was close to a group of Kurdish fundamentalists, and that his relationship with Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi began through his activities with the Ansar Al-Sunna group, an organization headed by Mullah Krekar, a resident of Norway. His relatives refuse to speak after "what they went through" following his death. Yet his name has become recurrent in many circles, and especially in the lectures of "Salafist Jihadist" theorists, who are "eaten up" by envy because he went to Iraq before them, and consider that any phase of their present lives is only a step towards following in his path.
Source: Dar Al Hayat (English)
See also: The Role of the European West in Producing Mujahideen and Sending them to Lebanon