Muslim Shishani, the amir of the Latakia/Idlib-based jamaat Junud al-Sham, has given a long multi-part interview to the Russian-speaking pro-Islamist independent media activist Muhammad Jazira. Below is a partial translation of his answer to the question of what he thinks about the fact he has been labeled a “terrorist.” His answer is very similar to that of other Russian-speaking fighters in Syria (I am not talking about IS, the group that is banned in Russia).
Here’s my usual disclaimer.
The fact that I have been included on the list of terrorists isn’t surprising because for the unbelievers, any Muslim who took up arms in order to defend himself or those close to him, is a terrorist. The worst thing is that we, the Muslims, easily put these terrible labels on ourselves, and we are even proud of them. And in this way we unconsciously him the infidels to wage war on us.
I would like young people to think about this, because most of all they need to clarify these questions.
The unbelievers have invested all of the concepts that are most hated to humanity in the word “terrorist” — terrorists intimidate people by killing civilians, children and old people; terrorists do not know pity and enjoy people’s suffering. A terrorist is a creature who hates everyone without discrimination, who can only destroy, terrorism must be eradicated even of innocent people suffer in doing so, in order to save the majority.
And they linked this terrible word — not without our help — to Islam. And we, Muslims, take this calmly, even though the consequences greatly affect our religion and the entire Ummah.
In order to understand these consequences, let’s look briefly at the jihad in Syria. You probably understand very well what compassion the world displayed at the start of this jihad towards the Syrians suffering at the hands of the zaalim [wrongdoer] Assad. The world regarded him as the brutal murderer of his people and few countries sought to support him. If one of these governments, who were concerned about their authority among their people, went to support him, then their nation might consider him a zaalim as well. Therefore Bashar was officially supported only by the Shi’ites, his co-religionists. Even Russia, which originally stood alongside this tyrant, was afraid to officially admit that it was giving him military support. Muslims from all over the world could peacefully give help to Syria, to the people and to the mujahideen. Those brothers who came him to support the Muslims were considered heroes by this Ummah, because everyone tried to come here even for a week. And the Muslims slowly began to prevail. Our Ummah, which was everywhere under oppression, started to look at Syria with great hope.
This of course did not go unnoticed by the enemies of this religion who are afraid of the revival of Islam. And they started to use their age-old tricks to untie their hands.
We recall how the people went to demonstrations in support of Jabhat al-Nusra when America blacklisted that group. We recall how the amirs of the Free Syrian Army made an official statement saying that they would not allow the brothers to be divided. At that time the people and the muhajideen were united. The brothers who were here at the start of the jihad saw this.
But the enemies of Islam did not stop there and they started to severely divide the Muslims into good and bad. And about how this happened, I don’t think we need much clarification, thinking people saw this very well. The easiest path was to support the extremist Muslims who wanted to build a caliphate in one day, add to this well trained and prepared agents who could occupy important positions in the new organization, and voila, Baghdadi’s IS was secured. After that, one could just call the tune. And then the media, via demonstrating the “cruelty of the terrorists” changed their opinion about what is happening in Syria, and the hands of the infidels were already untied.
And the results of this we see today. Today, not only Bashar Assad, but also everyone who can be bothered, quietly bombs away, as much as possible [targeting] innocent people, women, children, old people are killed, but the world sees this as a necessary step. After all, people are intimidated by the fact that these monsters will come home from Syria to their countries of origin, and they will start killing them just as mercilessly, in their cities, in their homes. And as proof of this possibility, infidels blow up peaceful people using our youth, who do not realize what they are doing; and maybe they blow themselves up and blame the explosions on some Muslim they don’t like, as it has repeatedly happened in some countries where the people hesitated, and did not completely trust their leaders.
Today, the Muslims already have their hands tied. If someone decides to come here to help, then he has to understand that he does not have a way home and few will dare to do this. Few will also dare to give financial assistance, too, because for this long prison terms are handed down, or at least there is a risk of losing their business, if they have one. Even just going to a rally against the bombing of civilians is already dangerous, people can be arrested for supporting terrorists. And they did not stop there, they began to oppress Muslims in their countries, accusing them of having links with terrorists, arresting people just for words in support of the Mujahideen; they close mosques, ban external signs of Islam. Moreover, because of all that is happening, those unbelievers who used to join Islam in droves, also weakened. And all the leaders of the unbelievers justify this by the fact that we, the Mujahideen exist, calling us terrorists.
I understand that whatever we do, the infidels will come up with new intrigues against us, but we should not help them by giving them extra reasons, on the contrary, we should fight against this as much as possible.
I’m not going to answer the question of whether our actions are prohibited or allowed in Sharia, for that there are scholars who are qualified to solve these issues, I’m talking about harm and benefit.
I want to say this briefly about myself: I was never a terrorist and always hated terrorists, whoever they were. In Chechnya, I fought against those who terrorized my people, who killed both the strong and the weak, including women, children and the elderly, in order to subjugate them by intimidation. And here in Syria I fight against those who are terrorizing this people in the same way. And I’ve never been a criminal, I’ve always been cautious of injustice and have always hated cruelty, even against the enemy. This is my path, from which I will not be forced to swerve by any insult, because I represent the religion of Allah.