Islamist terrorism has dominated the headlines in the European media for many years. The attacks in the Bataclan, in Brussels, at Charlie Hebdo, to name but a few. They show the cruel face of religious extremism. All these attacks were committed by Sunni Muslims, who were incited on the Internet by the ideas of the Islamic State, or in mosques by corresponding sermons. What is forgotten here is that the same extremism also exists on the part of Shiite Muslims. We remember the death fatwa which was pronounced against the British author Salman Rushdie in 1989. Even the well-known musician Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) supported these threats. Rushdie had to go into hiding for many years. After the attack of the USA on Iraq a Shiite militia has formed there, which represents similar extreme views as the Sunni IS. Only the strategy they are pursuing is different.
I meet the well-known atheistic blogger Worood Zuhair in a café in a German city. She had contacted me because the death threats against her became more and more intense. We, the Atheist Refugee Relief, have been accompanying the young woman since her arrival in Germany. She comes from Karbala in Iraq, the holy city of the Shiites. There she had already turned away from Islam after realizing that all the atrocities committed by the Islamic State in the name of Islam were also committed by the Prophet Mohammed. This led to even greater tensions within her family, so that one day she was beaten up by her own brother into an incomplete spinal paralysis. In 2015 she fled via Turkey to Europe. Since then, she has been campaigning on the Internet for women’s rights, especially in Iraq. She blames Islam, which is cementing patriarchal structures and justifying injustices, for the backwardness of her region.
Zuhair shows me her WhatsApp messages she had received lately. It’s a flood of insults. They are predominantly sexually degrading and extremely misogynistic. What is striking about this news is that there is repeated reference to a man named Mohammed Mandalawi, nickname Bunea. Quote: “I will tell my friend Mohammed Bunea, who is in Germany, to kick you in your rotten c***”.
Mohammed Mandalawi is the leader of the newly founded rocker gang “Al-Salam 313” in Essen, Germany. The 313 refers to the 313 companions of Iman Al-Mahdi. The logo of the rocker gang is a white dove. This is also the symbol of the paramilitary unit “Jaish al-Mahdi”, which is said to have provided death squads in Iraq. The “Jaish al-Mahdi”, or “peace brigades”, are under the control of the influential spiritual politician Al-Sadr. They have military training and were involved in the attacks against ISIS in Mossul. When one of Al-Sadr’s representatives, Muhammed Talakani, visited Germany, Mohammed Mandalawi had himself photographed with him several times at private joint activities.
Worood Zuhair says “Muhammed Talakani is a religious agitator. Shortly after he spoke about the sinful behavior of Iraqi blogger Tara Fares in a public speech, she was shot.” Zuhair now finds herself confronted here in Germany with the same groups she fled from back in Iraq. Groups that know only one answer to criticism of Islam. Those who reject Western culture. She now fears that there will be a similar retaliation against her as there was against Tara Fares.
Zuhair’s fears are entirely justified. On the one side, a young woman who has only the word and fights on the Internet for more freedom and against the deprivation of women’s rights in Islamic culture. On the other side, an armed militia, linked in politics, highly armed and trained militarily.