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Gorakhnath temple attacker: Was ‘mental illness’ a well-planned alibi for a committed Jihadi

The family, the probably complicit family of Abbasi and the media wants the world to dismiss this as just another mentally unstable, educated boy indulging in some ill-advised conduct, but the truth is far from it. Abbasi seems to be our very own Jihadi John, just like the several hundred we document on a daily basis.

It was not very long ago that I sat on a cold Sunday afternoon and read the book by Robert Verkaik, that detailed the life of Mohammed Emwazi – the most feared ISIS terrorist, the executioner famously known as Jihadi John. While reading the book, one would imagine the revelations resulting in shock and awe, after all, this was barbarity that the world had previously closed its eyes to. However, that is not the impact it had on the world.

Every page of the book, every event, and every witness testimony was more evidence that the patterns of Jihadi activity have remained the same over the centuries with only the organizations evolving. In the book, the author (who is a journalist) details how his peers and friends never suspected that Mohammed could be a terrorist or that he even had the tendency to unleash the kind of brutality that he did after joining ISIS. They said he hardly went to the mosque, was not very religious, and kept to himself most of the time.

His friends said that the first glimpse of his possibly extremist views was during a class 9 lecture on the Nazi genocide. He had reportedly muttered under his breath that the Jews deserved it. While his friends thought he was joking, Mohammed later told his friends that he meant it and that he hated Jews, whom he blamed for the plight of Muslims. The friend later revealed that if they ever walked past a house Mohammed thought was owned by a jew, he would simply shout obscenities, calling them “fucking pigs”.

Jihadi John became a phenomenon. The world knew his name. The world knew the horrors he was capable of and the horrors he inflicted on unsuspecting Kafirs. But was he alone? Was he the only one? If one has to be brutally honest, India sees and documents Jihadi Johns almost on a daily basis. Every day, we hear and report the brutality that Islamists are capable of and how Hindus are victimized. Their temples attacked. Their symbols of faith, desecrated. Their lives snuffed.

While we can cite thousands of examples, one recent incident in Uttar Pradesh deserves a special mention, given how the corporate English media simply glossed over the seriousness of what the investigators were unearthing, almost on a daily basis.

Ahmed Murtaza Abbasi, on the 3rd of April 2022, screamed Allahu Akbar and tried to enter the Gorakhnath Temple. Wielding a knife that he intended to use, Abbasi injured two cops in the tussle that followed. Several revelations came to the fore after he was apprehended and an investigation was launched. The most recent revelation is that Abbasi had taken an oath of allegiance to ISIS. Abbasi was active on all social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, and so on and so forth and through these accounts, he was in touch with ISIS terrorists. He was also in touch with Mehandi Masood Vishwas who was arrested by the Bangalore police in 2014. From the bank accounts of the accused, 8.5 lakh Indian rupees were sent to different countries in Europe and America to help the terrorist activities of ISIS that it carries out through its supporters. With an intent to execute terrorist activities, the accused used to read the online articles and watch the videos on the internet related to weapons like the AK-47 rifle, M4 Carbine, and missile technology. 

Since 2013, Abbasi was involved with ISIS, therefore, by all accounts, he is a hardened terrorist who was merely looking for the right opportunity to unleash Jihad on Kafirs.

But what was the narrative in the media? Firstly, the corporate English media has hardly discussed this case with the seriousness it deserves. Those who did tried their best to allege that Abbasi was actually not a terrorist but merely mentally unstable. His father asserted the same, rather vehemently. Later, a doctor confirmed that Abbasi was mentally fit and there was no sign that he was unstable.

But did we really need a doctor to ascertain that fact? I mean, let’s face it. If someone is willing to blow himself up in the name of God, he has got to be mentally unstable to some extent. But medically, can we say that he was following the word of God because he was of unsound mind? Abbasi was planning to make an app to help ISIS Jihadis. He was an IIT graduate, a fact that was screamed from the rooftops by NDTV and had worked with major conglomerates like Reliance Industries and Essar Petrochemicals.

He had maintained communication with ISIS since 2013, had taken an oath of allegiance, and had meticulously planned how he wants to contribute to Jihad. He had, according to the police, also donated upwards of Rs 8.5 lakhs to ISIS. Can someone of an unsound mind earn enough to donate Rs 8.5 lakh? Can they work on an app? Can they sustain communication over years, actually, close to a decade? Can they show the commitment to sustain his allegiance to a cause, no matter how violent?

The answer is pretty obvious save for those who wish to whitewash Jihadi activity.

In fact, given that the mental illness trope came from his father, we cannot rule out the possibility that it was a carefully crafted ruse to save Abbasi after he unleashes violence against Kafirs. We have seen the complicity of family members and logically speaking, it is a little bit of a stretch to assume that the family had no idea about Abbasi’s leanings.

I started this article by talking about Jihadi John and how nobody, his friends mainly cited in the book, suspected that he could be a barbaric executioner for ISIS. However, it is a known fact that Mohammed Emwazi’s mother knew that it was him who was Jihadi John. Let us also not forget that Osama Bin Laden’s daughters wrote all his public statements. And the family of Abbasi were no fools. He was from a well-to-do family who sent him to a premier institution and was doing pretty well for themselves. According to reports, his father was the legal advisor to several big companies and his uncle was an accomplished doctor who owned a hospital.

There are several resources available that indicate to parents how they can identify if their children are radical Jihadis. They will isolate themselves, talk in terms of a scripted speech, get angry at what is going on around them, talk about perceived injustice and how Muslims are being wronged, and so on and so forth. Are we to assume that Abbasi never spoke about his hatred for Kafirs in front of his family? Or that they never discussed how Muslims are being wronged and how ISIS is providing a promised, sacred land for Muslims? Think about it, is it really possible that the parents did not know? Is it really possible that his educated, accomplished family did not realize or endorse what Abbasi was up to?

It is foolish to assume that the family of a Jihadi was not as radicalized as the Jihadi himself until we have evidence to prove that they were innocent. It sounds brutal and almost ill-mannered to assume that the family must be held culpable for what their son did, but we also need to understand that these are not normal problematic traits that kids may develop over time. This is a life decision that the family ought to know about.

It is therefore hardly surprising that the father would peddle the ‘he is mentally unstable’ trope to try and save his son. I would not be surprised if this was a coached response either, though we have no evidence to support that theory. What is troubling, however, is how willing the media is to peddle excuses for Jihadis and their wet dreams of world dominion.

It is a rather convenient excuse to say that the Jihadi was mentally unstable as if he was turned into a radical Jihadi without his explicit consent. The aim of peddling such nonsense is often rather simple, so simple in fact, that it almost escapes our attention. The moment you say that a man was mentally unstable, the immediate assumption of the public is that he was lured and deceived into becoming a Jihadi – that he is actually not a dangerous man, but a misguided one.

His accomplished father went as far as to say that he harbored thoughts of suicide and he could have gone to the Gorakhnath temple to do just that. Normal people, as sad as it is, commit suicide by hanging themselves or slitting their wrists. They don’t exactly make a calculated decision to travel to a temple, shouting Allahu Akbar (after being in touch with a terrorist organization for years) and then trying to blow themselves up.

The family, the probably complicit family of Abbasi, and the media want the world to dismiss this as just another mentally unstable, educated boy indulging in some ill-advised conduct, but the truth is far from it. Abbasi seems to be our very own Jihadi John, just like the several hundred we document on a daily basis.

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Nupur J Sharma
Nupur J Sharma
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017

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