27 February 2017

The Atlantic: “The American Leader in the Islamic State”

The Yahya Tim described to me was a sad figure, a sheep who had strayed into a wicked flock. Above all, he was easily manipulated. This, for me, was another puzzle. The Yahya I had encountered online, and the one Musa Cerantonio described, was nothing like a sheep, and no pathetic follower. He was not the boy his father described. At some point, Yahya had shape-shifted into a wolf, into a leader of men.

The couple indulged, too, in their other shared passion: getting high. Islamic orthodoxy considers cannabis an intoxicant, and therefore forbidden. But Yahya’s practice of Islam was unconventional even then. In a historical essay titled “Cannabis”, heavily footnoted with classical Arabic sources, he made the Islamic case for pot. There was evidence, he wrote, that early Islamic leaders had taxed hemp seeds. Since Muslims generally cannot tax forbidden substances, such as pork or alcohol, Yahya reasoned, they must have considered pot permissible.

Graeme Wood

Fascinating story! To be filed under: ‘you can justify just about anything through religion’.

John Georgelas aka Yahya Abu Hassan
John Georgelas was a military brat, a drug enthusiast, a precocious underachiever born in Texas. Now he is a prominent figure within the Islamic State. Here’s the story of his long and troubling journey.

Jihadists are also overwhelmingly left-brained, quantitative-analytic types. Diego Gambetta of the European University Institute and Steffen Hertog of the London School of Economics have noted a preponderance of former engineering students among jihadists; they suggest that the mental style of that discipline disposes certain people toward jihadism. As a teen, John had taught himself to program. His computers ran the Linux operating system, not the Windows or Mac software favored by the masses. Years later, after he had become a full-blown jihadist, he would share a line of C++ code on his website, a geeky statement of his own hard-line stance:

if (1+1+1 != 1 && 1 == 1) return true; else die();

Translation: If you believe the Christian Trinity (“1+1+1”) is not really monotheistic (“!= 1”), and if you believe in the unity of God (“1 == 1”), then great. Otherwise: Die.

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