My name is Mohammed. I have lived in war-torn Islamic countries for my entire life. I have lost a number of family members to the West's 'war on terror.' I have minimal career prospects because the education infrastructure of my city has been destroyed by drones. I live in constant pain because all the doctors in my town are too oversubscribed to see me. So I seek solace in God and attend Mosque daily, where a number of my friends are in a similar situation - desperate, despondent, dejected. We find comfort in Allah and take His word as our Imam says it should be taken (our Imam is, after all, a man who takes us in, provides us with food, and most importantly, hope). The more I learn about the Koran, the more I realize that all is not lost, that my life can have a purpose, and that purpose is best met through fulfilling the wishes of the prophet. I can choose to cower in the faces of the West, or else rise up and fight for our freedom, our purpose, our lost loved ones, our eternity of bliss.
My name is Zubair. I have lived in the United Kingdom for my entire life. I have never lost a loved one to war. I am in the middle of studying for a degree in economics. I live a healthy lifestyle and avoid drink and drugs. I am a second generation Pakistani Muslim and appreciate my upbringing in Surrey. But my Muslim brothers and sisters are suffering in other parts of the world, and this is largely a function of my own country's quest for power, money and capitalistic triumphalism. I have grown tired of seeing the West attempt to superimpose their culture onto others, their assumption that the material way is the only way. I see the debauchery of materialism, the inexorable push for excess consumerism, the promiscuity of the young, the replacement of morality with pseudo-morality, and higher rates of depression, alcoholism and addiction than ever before. I believe in Allah, in an afterlife, in the protection of my fellow people. My warrior brothers are offering me the chance to battle with my friends, to be paid a handsome wage and to choose a wife I can protect and mother my offspring. Jihad is not indoctrination - it is, quite simply, the obvious path.
Two young Muslims, completely different backgrounds, the same objectives and similar rationale. They do not appear to be a new axis of evil, but a very natural by-product of our military behavior. Yet evil they are through our frame of reference, and evil they shall forever be. Have we learned nothing over the last decade and a half? Fighting fire with fire not only does not work, but catalyzes countless generations into a way of thinking that is so entrenched by the consequences of the West's mistakes. We militarily condemn the response in unison, and dismiss its coming as irrational ideology. Are we so indoctrinated by our own modular of thought that we give zero acknowledgement to the other's way of thinking? We fail to see past the concept of jihadism such are our blinkers, and in so doing will forever be blinded by the head scarf of our own ideology.
The West's approach is dated and irrational in itself. Our conceptualization of the situation at hand a priori elevates our beliefs into Platonic Forms, shrinking the opposition's viewpoint to medieval 'terrorism', incorrect interpretation and an affront to libertarianism. Yet rarely do we seek past our own rhetoric and wonder - what if I was on the other side? What if I had felt heartache, lost friends, lost fellow Muslims, fundamentally disagreed with the West's assumed superiority and simultaneously been a solid Koranic scholar who has an unfathomable faith in my book (like many Christians and Jews have too).
We need to stop and think. All conflicts have two sides to them, and it does not take a doctorate in military history to realize that the black/white, "I'm right/you're wrong" attitude is detrimental to any hopes of peace and conflict resolution. Let us stand tall, step into the shoes of the other, and ask - "what if I were you?"