In the hours following the Charlie Hebdo shootings, footage showing one gunman executing a police officer surfaced online. Pointing his index finger upwards to make the sign of Shahada, the declaration of one god, the masked man bellowed “Allahu Akbar. We have taken revenge on behalf of the prophet Mohammed. We have killed Charlie Hebdo”. It was a shock to the system, albeit somewhat unsurprising as the Independent’s Middle Eastern correspondent, Patrick Cockburn, would write the following day, calling attention to the fact that a spill-over from the conflicts in Iraq and Syria was inevitable, essentially reiterating what he had been saying for months.
My first reaction was to get in contact with Irish-born Islamic convert Khalid Kelly, who has in previous years spoken vociferously in favour of these actions conducted by such organisations as Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS, or their various sympathisers. We had corresponded briefly three months earlier, following a controversial interview that he gave to Chris Barry on FM104, which caused a brief uproar in the Irish press and as a result, he stepped off the radar to avoid any inquest from Irish authorities. Our discussion at the time centred on his right to exercise freedom of speech. “It seems that freedom of speech is relative to whether you are a Muslim, or not,” he had told me. “A friend said to me a while ago, you’re innocent until proven Muslim”, but on this occasion, I made contact as the situation had essentially reversed itself.
Although the assailants, as we would later learn, were aligned with a Yemeni branch of Al-Qaeda, Kelly had previously told me that the acts of any Wahhabi-Salafi based cell were to be viewed in the context of the ideology, as opposed to the means of each individual grouping since their ends were effectively the same. Therefore, and in spite of the fact that ISIS is an expelled branch of Al-Qaeda, for him this signified something much larger than Al-Qaeda’s reaction to satire and he chose to comment on the shootings in the context of the Islamic caliphate.
Noticeably more upbeat in his response than he was the last time we spoke, he clarified this viewpoint in his opening message, writing, “Alhamdulilah, thank God we have now re-established khalifa. The world has not seen anything like this in recent history. Now things will change.”
I took the opportunity to raise the matter of free speech, picking up where we had left off in our last conversation, as I was curious to see how he perceived the west’s reaction to this form of violent censorship. However, if there were any double standard, it cut very little ice as he justified the actions of the gunmen, stating, “as Muslims, we live our lives by the law of God, not the law of man. In Islam, punishment for insulting the prophet of god is death. This cannot be changed.”
“We don’t share your ideas for freedom of speech, i.e. the freedom to insult whoever you like”, he continued. “There is no concept of one law for us and another for you. No, it is the same law for everyone.” Here again he drew my attention to the Islamic caliphate, emphasising that even as non-believers, we were not treated with prejudice, but receiving an equal punishment as those subscribing to Shi’ism, Christianity, and indeed, Sunnism in Iraq and Syria who disobeyed the laws of the caliphate. “Look at the new khalifa, many Muslims are executed daily and why? They too did something to warrant the death penalty by Islamic law.”
Contrary to the media narrative, Kelly saw the motive not merely as a reaction towards these controversial cartoons. He saw it as a symbolic act of retaliation for the conduct of the French, British and American governments attempting to intervene in the current Middle Eastern crisis. If these nations, according to Kelly, “were to leave us alone and stop killing Muslims, of course no one would come to France. However, they kill Muslims daily so what would they have us do? Would they have us do nothing and allow them to slaughter our brothers, sisters and children? France, like all other countries have been warned for a long time. The message is simple. Leave all Muslim lands and you will be safe.”
Treaty with the caliphate
For Kelly, the solution was quite simple. These nations ought to make a treaty with the caliphate and recognise it as an official state. “Now that khalifa is established, it will work as a shield for this Ummah. We will fight from behind its protection. The sooner the world comes to terms with the fact that the Islamic State is a country with its own army, currency and oil fields revenue, the safer everyone will be.”
At this point, I inquired into the action of these terrorist cells and their decision to target civilians. If a radical jihadist were inspired into action by western intervention, which was prone to causing high levels of collateral damage, then why was it justified to mimic such behaviour by attacking civilians, rather than those in positions of authority? Does this not undermine a moral high ground?
“The governments are elected by the people,” he responded dismissively. “If they don’t agree, then they should remove these people. Their leaders are the most well protected people and so, they leave their own citizens to pay for their sins.”
“What action is there to continued killing, war and occupations? This evil must be stopped, and how? By using all means necessary, including weapons and bombs. There is no answer to violence, but violence. Whether you agree, or not, still the killers will be punished for their crimes against Islam. This is an all-out war now,” he concluded, echoing Anjem Choudary’s recent comments that have sparked controversy in the British press. “They have not just attacked Muslims, but also our khalifa. You would not stand by and watch your family being killed, but you expect us to do this? No, that is not the Islamic answer. As France and all counties continue to kill innocent Muslims, their own innocents will be targeted and killed in order to stop the slaughter.”
Here, citing Spain as an example for all western governments to note in planning their next move, Kelly spoke in praise of the nation for withdrawing its forces from Iraq in the aftermath of the Madrid bombings back in March of 2004. “They were not targeted again. Any country involved in the killing of innocent Muslims will be targeted and punished eventually. The Muslims have great patience.”
However, regarding Spain, I questioned the level of truth in that statement, since ISIS has made frequent threats to subsume the Iberian Peninsula into the caliphate. Yet, Kelly emphasised that this was not a case of further warfare, but rather a just reclaiming of the former Muslim territory Al-Andalus. “We will retake all lands,” he added. “The prophet Muhammed said that Islam will have authority in the east and west, meaning that Islam will.”
Our conversation ended there, as he expressed his reluctance to comment any further until there were more details released surrounding what was an unfolding situation. We said our goodbyes and I too waited for more information to emerge as the endless glut of rolling news resorted to speculative opinion segments since most reports, for lack of anything else to say, were beginning to do the same. It was not too long afterwards however, that Khalid took to Twitter in order to make one last series of remarks on the situation, which were simply: “The sword of Islam came down swiftly, in France today, upon the necks of those who insult Islam. Remove your soldiers before our soldiers make your daily life into a nightmare.” He concluded: “Muslims did not begin this world wide conflict with you. It was you who started this war and it is we who will finish it.”