Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Peter Taylor: Algeria and the Rise of Islamist Extremism

BBC: Watch seven-year-old Abdelkahar Belhadj address a political rally

BBC: One of the most remarkable archive sequences we came across while researching the Age of Terror programme, features a seven-year-old Algerian boy called Abdelkahar Belhadj. He is seen addressing a political rally of thousands in 1991 with all the confidence and fire of a mature adult.

"There are a billion Muslims and we don't have a state that rules by God's Holy Law. Isn't that a dishonour and a shame on us?" he proclaims in the voice of a child.

He is cheered ecstatically and lifted on high. It was revelatory to hear the philosophy of jihad - the struggle to overthrow infidel regimes and replace them with Islamic states under Sharia law - emerging from the lips of one so young.

In 2007, 16 years later, we watched another clip, a propaganda video announcing the launch of al-Qaeda in North Africa featuring non other than Abdelkahar Belhadj, now a fully-fledged jihadi.

When I first saw the clip of the young Belhadj, I was instantly reminded of an interview I'd done in an IRA stronghold in Belfast in the mid-seventies with a little boy called Sean. I vividly remember he had the initials IRA inked on the back of his hand.

Sean told me he wanted to fight and die for Ireland. Years later I met him again, this time on an IRA wing inside the Maze prison. He had gone to jail after fighting for the cause he had embraced all those years ago.

Sean and Abdelkahar Belhadj illuminate the bigger picture of the Age of Terror: how the "cause", be it Islamist or Republican, Basque or Palestinian, flows from one generation to the next and on through the veins of history. Algeria and the Rise of Islamist Extremism >>> By Peter Taylor | April 29, 2008

Age of Terror Website

The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Paperback - UK)
The Dawning of a New Dark Age (Hardback - UK)

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