This morning, I published "[Khobar Rampage:] Don't Be Afraid, We Won't Kill Muslims," an analysis of the recent Islamist rampage in Saudi Arabia, noting how the terrorists inquired into the religion of their potential victims and killed non-Muslims while sparing Muslims. I hinted that readers might want to learn how to pass as Muslims for this could save their lives, then provided some tools how to do this.
This same morning, the Times (London) in a story headlined, "BBC Reporter in coma after Riyadh ambush" reports, regarding the wounding of Frank Gardner, that he had done just what I propose, but without great results:
Mr Gardner was hit in the abdomen, arm, shoulder and leg. As he collapsed he reportedly shouted out in Arabic to bystanders: "I'm a Muslim, help me." Nobody went to his aid and the men he had been questioning were seen running away. Close friends said last night that Mr Gardner, a father of two and a fluent Arabic speaker with a degree in Arab and Islamic studies, had not converted to Islam but was carrying a small copy of the Koran as a device to try to reassure militants that he might encounter.
Agence France-Presse points out that "carrying a small copy of the Koran [is] a device used by Western reporters to try to reassure Islamist militants."
Comment: It is not clear why Gardner was left to bleed – whether this had to do with the specific, suspicious circumstances regarding this attack or more generically indicates Saudi disbelief when a Western reporter claims to be a Muslim. Presumably, answers will emerge over time. (June 8, 2004)
June 10, 2004 update: Zev Chafetz takes up this topic of what he calls Gardner's "Islamic safety kit" in New York Daily News column and concludes with this bitter observation:
from Daniel Pearl's dying "I am a Jew" to Gardner's pathetic "Help me, I'm a Muslim," the holy warriors of Islam have made it plain: There are no magic words. The only good infidel is a dead infidel.
June 15, 2004 update: The invaluable Middle East Media and Research Institute has located and translated the Arabic transcript on a Qaeda-related website carrying what purports to be an interview with Fawwaz bin Muhammad Al-Nashami, commander of the Quds Brigade that took responsibility for the May 29 attack at Khobar ("The Escape from the Khobar compound – true story!!"). In the transcript, dated June 12, one finds further confirmation of the jihadist goal to kill only non-Muslims (WARNING – graphic descriptions of killings follow):
We entered and found youths from the Arabian Peninsula [i.e. Saudi Arabia] wearing the ARAMCO uniform. They asked, "What is going on?" We told them, "Calm down, don't be afraid, we don't want you. We want only the Americans."
The four of us entered the company together. We met the Arab clerks, and greeted them. We asked them: "Where are the Americans?" They were all in shock, and said: "What's going on? Who are you?" We told them, "We are Mujahideen, and we want the Americans. We have not come to aim a weapon at the Muslims, but to purge the Arabian Peninsula, according to the will of our Prophet Muhammad, of the infidels and the polytheists who are killing our brothers in Afghanistan and Iraq. We want you to show us where they are." …
We went to one of the buildings. Brother Nimr, may Allah's mercy be upon him, shoved the door until it opened. We entered and in front of us stood many people. We asked them their religion, and for identification documents. We used this time for da'wa [preaching Islam], and for enlightening the people about our goal. We spoke with many of them.
At the same time, we found a Swedish infidel. Brother Nimr cut off his head, and put it at the gate [of the building] so that it would be seen by all those entering and exiting. We continued in the search for the infidels, and we slit the throats of those we found among them. …
We began to comb the site looking for infidels. We found Filipino Christians. We cut their throats and dedicated them to our brothers the Mujahideen in the Philippines. [Likewise], we found Hindu engineers and we cut their throats too, Allah be praised. That same day, we purged Muhammad's land of many Christians and polytheists. Afterwards, we turned to the hotel. We entered and found a restaurant, where we ate breakfast and rested a while. Then we went up to the next floor, found several Hindu dogs, and cut their throats. …
The Indian Muslims told us that their manager was a vile Hindu who did not permit them to pray, and that he would arrive shortly. When [the manager] arrived, we verified his religion by means of his identifying documents, and we kept him with us for a short time. … [Later] we slaughtered the vile Hindu who had prevented his employees from praying. …
At the same time, brother Hussein was on the stairs and noticed an Italian infidel. He aimed his gun at him and told him to come closer. The infidel came closer. We saw his identifying documents and decided that he should call Al-Jazeera and talk to his people and send them a warning about the war of Islam and its people, and that afterwards we would cut his throat and dedicate him to the Italians who were fighting our brothers in Iraq and to the idiotic Italian president who wants to confront the lions of Islam.
We called Al-Jazeera and I told the broadcaster to speak with him [i.e. the Italian]. The broadcaster asked me, "Does he speak English?" I told the broadcaster, "Do you have Italian translators?" He said, "Yes," and I said, "Let him speak in his own language." He [the Italian] spoke for several minutes. I asked the broadcaster, "Did you record that?" He said, "Yes," and then the hero Nimr cut his throat.
Comment: The veracity of this account is open to question, though those claiming to speak for Al-Qaeda generally have a history of actually doing so. In any case, the sentiments here certainly appear to be similar to those of the May 29 terrorists.
Sep. 14, 2004 update: Well, the conversion-to-Islam feint finally worked. Canadian journalist Scott Taylor was seized earlier this month by Iraqi jihadists and held for a terrifying, brutal five days. Chained, handcuffed and blindfolded, he was subjected to death threats and beatings that pushed him "close to the breaking point." Pleading and bargaining for his life, he decided to fake a conversion to Islam.
I told them that if I was about to die, a man shouldn't go to his death without a God. And when they said I wouldn't be killed right away, I said a man needs to pray to a God who has just saved him. They were skeptical, but then they began to believe I was serious. "All you have to say is that 'There is no God but Allah, there is no prophet but Mohammad'."
The ploy succeeded; Taylor was released on a highway leading to border with Turkey and is soon planning to return to Canada.
Comment: Conversions to Islam by abducted journalists are not always fakes. For an example of the genuine article, see the case of Yvonne Ridley, whose capture by the Taliban turned her into not just a Muslim but one of the Taliban persuasion.
Aug. 15, 2006 update: For Sunni-Shi'i variant of this theme, see "Passing as a Shi'i in Iraq."
Aug. 28, 2006 update: In the Scott Taylor mode, two Fox News television journalists kidnapped in Gaza faked conversions to Islam at the end of their two-week abduction. Steve Centanni (60, American) and Olaf Wiig (36, from New Zealand), were made to convert to Islam just hours before their release. They appeared in a video, dressed in Arab robes, announcing their conversion, and criticizing U.S. and British foreign policy in the Middle East. Centanni explained: "They forced us to convert to Islam at gunpoint. I have the highest respect for Islam and learned a lot of very good things about it, but it was something we felt we had to do because they had guns and we didn't know what the hell was going on." He then editorialized a bit: "I hope that this never scares a single journalist away from coming to Gaza to cover the story because the Palestinian people are very beautiful and kindhearted. The world needs to know more about them." Talk about the Swedish syndrome!
Dec. 1, 2008 update: Another example of favoring fellow Muslims comes from the terrorist assault in Mumbai:
On the 20th floor [of the Oberoi Hotel], the gunmen shoved the group out of the stairwell. They lined up the 13 men and three women and lifted their weapons. "Why are you doing this to us?" a man called out. "We haven't done anything to you."
"Remember Babri Masjid?" one of the gunmen shouted, referring to a 16th-century mosque built by India's first Mughal Muslim emperor and destroyed by Hindu radicals in 1992.
"Remember Godhra?" the second attacker asked, a reference to the town in the Indian state of Gujarat where religious rioting that evolved into an anti-Muslim pogrom began in 2002.
"We are Turkish. We are Muslim," someone in the group screamed. One of the gunmen motioned for two Turks in the group to step aside. Then they pointed their weapons at the rest and squeezed the triggers.
Apr. 3, 2011 update: "UN office head 'claimed to be Muslim' to survive Afghan mob" reads the headline and here is the story from Agence France-Presse, datelined Kabul:
The head of the UN office in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif survived Friday's deadly attack by pretending to be Muslim, the UN special representative said on Saturday. The unnamed Russian chief 'survived because he claimed to be Muslim - although he was beaten, they let him go,' envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters in the Afghan capital.
Three European employees were killed in the mob violence later claimed by the Taleban - a Swede, a Norwegian and one reported to be Romanian. They had hidden in a secure room along with the Russian, de Mistura said. The Russian 'was separated because when they broke into the bunker, they saw him first and the others were hiding in the dark, and he tried basically to draw their (the attackers') attention to him,' the envoy said.
The survivor speaks Dari, one of Afghanistan's two official languages, de Mistura added. 'He also spoke the language and for a moment he hoped by doing so, they'll think there was no one else left. But it didn't work out like that... The other three were killed, one after the other,' he said.
Jan. 18, 2013 update: The attackers on the In Amenas gas field in Algeria also separated Muslims from non-Muslims:
Al Mulathameen, the Islamist group that has claimed responsibility for the attack, has made clear in statements to Mauritanian news outlets that foreign citizens were explicitly targeted. According to an Algerian man who worked on the site and escaped on Thursday afternoon, foreigners were separated from Algerian workers. The attackers told Algerians that they were their "brothers," the man said, speaking on the condition of anonymity from In Amenas, the city not far from the gas site.
Perhaps 40 people, including 9 foreigners, were eating breakfast in the cafeteria at the site at about 5:30 a.m. when they heard gunshots, the man said. They remained in place until fighters entered the cafeteria at about 9 or 10 and began to separate the Algerians from the foreign workers, whose hands they bound. Five dark-skinned foreigners hid among the Algerians and were allowed to leave with them when they were directed into a separate building nearby, the man said. Workers whom the man identified as Pakistanis were placed among other foreigners, but argued with the attackers that, like them, they were Muslims; it was not clear how the attackers responded.
Jan. 19, 2013 update: One account adds about the hostage takers at In Amenas that "They allowed locals to go free, saying they did not want to hurt Muslims. Some locals were forced to recite parts of the Koran to prove they were Muslims." Another provides more details, quoting an Algerian technology worker:
"The terrorists went to the alarm station, switched off the alarms, and forced the deputy manager to show them where the expats were. They rounded up the expats, making them all wear explosives around their necks while standing in a circle. The attackers were carrying Kalashnikovs and bombs and went throughout the complex, seeking out expats hiding, and forcing them into the circle." He said more than 20 British workers – whom the terrorists called 'kuffar', meaning non-Muslims – were rounded up.
He added: "Us Algerians were rounded up separately and were treated with kindness. We were told that because we were Muslim we would not be killed, and it was only the Christians they were after. The terrorists allowed the Algerians to send texts and make phone calls, but to stop the expats communicating, they forced an Algerian telecommunications man to cut network connections for mobile, internet and power. But a back-up system kicked in, which allowed some Brits to send text messages."
Sep. 21, 2013 update: The Somali Islamists who today attacked the Westfield Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 39, in the process separated Muslim from non-Muslims.
As the attack unfolded shortly after noon Saturday, the al-Qaida-linked gunmen asked the victims they had cornered if they were Muslim: If the answer was yes, several witnesses said, those people were free to go. The non-Muslims were not. … The gunmen told hostages that non-Muslims would be targeted, said Elijah Kamau, who was at the mall at the time of the midday attack. "The gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave. They were safe, and non-Muslims would be targeted," he said.
Al-Shabaab's Twitter account proudly asserted this segretation: "Only Kuffar were singled out for this attack. All Muslims inside #Westgate were escorted out by the Mujahideen before beginning the attack."
Sep. 23, 2013 update: The Nairobi attackers asked for the name of Muhammad's mother (which happens to be Amina bint Wahb). According to a Christian, Joshua Hakim (who survived by covering his first name and only showed his Arabic last name), they asked an Indian man, "What is the name of Muhammad's mother?" and when he could not answer, "they just shot him."
Sep. 28, 2013 update: The Daily Mail reports that some Nairobi mall attackers "took the time to divide Muslims from non-Muslims after demanding that some recite the Shahada," the profession of Islamic faith.
Oct. 2, 2013 update: The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, an Al-Qaeda related group, is interrogating Alawis some basics about Islam and murdering them if they cannot answer correctly: In a video, a group of ISIS fighters
stops three truck drivers on a highway believed to be across the Iraqi border and asks them how many times they bow during dawn prayer, an easy question for a pious Muslim. The men, who are Alawites, guess incorrectly. The fighters pronounce them infidels, make them kneel by the side of the road and gun them down. Then one fighter throws a Molotov cocktail into one of the trucks, setting it on fire.
Related Topics: Dhimmitude, Islamic law (Shari'a), Radical Islam, Terrorism
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