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interview: reda seyam

We believe that the Caliphate shall be restored, and we believe that Rome shall be conquered. How has Europe changed since you moved here in the '80s?

In the name of Allah, prayers and peace be upon the messenger of Allah. The change, perhaps, was very noticeable following Sept. 11. This change, we believe, was the result of pressure from outside Europe so that these countries would change [their] policies to be more in line with American direction. ... This change included some local regulations about Muslims in Europe, especially women. We see this in particular in France.

Changes have made life more difficult for a Muslim man?

Definitely. Things became more difficult, especially for women regarding the hijab.

Why do you think these changes are happening?

Perhaps there is fear that Islam would spread in Europe.

Why would they be afraid of Islam?

Because they have wrong information about Islam. The media is capable of impacting upon people and strongly influencing them. Therefore, the viewers become afraid because of misinformation. They did not [express] the true Islam. ...

Do you consider yourself to be extreme? Do you consider yourself to be a militant Muslim?

I try to live according to Islamic principles as stated by God and His prophet, whether in Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Europe. A Muslim should follow the principles revealed by God -- Allah be praised and glorified -- through the Quran and Sunnah. These terms like "radical," "extremist" are not true. The truth is that there is a law, and that law is a divine law that must be followed. Likewise, if we live in the U.S. or here in Europe, if we live in Germany, we follow German law in as far as it is consistent with the divine law.

You see, this thought makes Europeans very nervous. It frightens people. They hear you speak; they think they will be next.

This is wrong. This is wrong. People have been given wrong information because they did not know the true Islam. Islam is not the religion of killing and blood, nor, as it is said, that Islam spread by the sword. This is wrong. The proof is that Islam spread into the largest parts of the world without shedding one drop of blood -- Asia, including India, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines. In Africa also, Islam spread without war. This is disinformation promoted by the media. Therefore, we are trying to present Islam to the media through Muslim perspective.

photo of seyam

Reda Seyam is a Muslim and divorced father of five who has lived in Berlin for 20 years. He is considered by law enforcement to be a top Al Qaeda suspect, although he has not been arrested on any charges. Although his views might be considered radical, he maintains that people like him are not an immediate threat to Europe. "European politics should not regard a Muslim as an enemy, but as a European citizen who cares about the country where he resides, with a Muslim identity. That's all. Through dialogue, this can succeed. But it won't succeed by the use of force, jails, detention centers, arrests and new laws waiting to be implemented. This is what causes trouble in the future." This interview was translated from Arabic, and it took place on Oct. 9, 2004.

This is wrong. This is wrong. People have been given wrong information because they did not know the true Islam. Islam is not the religion of killing and blood, nor, as it is said, that Islam spread by the sword. This is wrong. The proof is that Islam spread into the largest parts of the world without shedding one drop of blood -- Asia, including India, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines. In Africa also, Islam spread without war. This is disinformation promoted by the media. Therefore, we are trying to present Islam to the media through Muslim perspective.

But what you've said has been understood to be -- and not by me, but by the policeman who, I am sure, followed you here today -- it makes you sound dangerous. You have been described by German intelligence as one of the most important Al Qaeda people in Europe.

I believe the German police or intelligence know more than anyone else about my previous life and my present life. They may be facing pressure from outside, because during my whole life in Germany and in Europe, I was never the subject of complaint from anyone, nor do I owe anyone anything.

It comes from Indonesia, where they have said your friend [is] the bomber, the brains behind the Bali bombing. Are you suggesting that this is all disinformation?

With regards to Bali, I believe I gave the Indonesian and German intelligence all the information that I have. ...

In Afghanistan, against the Russians, young Muslim men went to fight. In Bosnia, they went to fight. In Chechnya, they go to fight. Now, in Iraq, these young men they go; they become warriors. What happens afterwards?

This has nothing to do with youth, but it has everything to do with Islam. Islam, as stated in the Sunnah and the verses of the Quran, requires a Muslim to notice his brother's suffering and to help him. This is not only in Islam. Other religions, too -- Christianity, Judaism and other religions -- require a person to support and help his people and kin. This is not limited to a certain area, whether it is Iraq or Afghanistan or other. It is a duty for members of the same faith to help each other because they are all brothers in faith. The prophet, peace be upon him, said, "He who neglects the affairs of the Muslim people is not a Muslim." And this is not only for Muslim. Every day we see Christian agencies working hard in Muslim countries and are supported by U.S. and other governments. Why nothing is said about this, too?

But young men from Germany, young men from the Arab world, they went to Afghanistan, and they went to Bosnia, and they're going to Chechnya, and now they're going to Iraq. What do those young men do after the war? It seems to me that when you had become a jihadi, you remain a jihadist.

At the end of this situation, they go back to live a normal life, just like any American soldier in the U.S. forces or the Army. When he is in the battleground, he acts accordingly, and when he goes back home, he resumes his normal civil life. This is natural. ...

How much will Europe have to change before you, as a Muslim man, will feel that this is home?

In Germany, we need to keep in mind that, according to the latest statistics, the number of Muslims in Europe reached nearly 40 million, not counting Turkey that is not a member yet. These millions include German Muslim, English Muslim, French, Italian -- there are Muslims from all nationalities. In addition to that, those who came from Eastern countries, such as Turkey or North Africa, have lived here for more than one generation. You have first-generation Muslims and second- and third-generation who were born here, in Europe. These are citizens of European countries, a situation that might vary from one country to another. But these generations also carry the Islamic identity. They have the right, under freedom of religious belief, to carry both the Islamic identity and the European identity.

Europe, just like the U.S., is homeland for Muslims as well. It is not in Muslim interests to cause any damage in Europe or in America, because my children and other people's children live in these countries. These countries are now our homeland. It is against reason, and against Muslim interests also, to destroy one's own homeland. I've lived in Germany for almost 20 years, and my children live here, too, as well as others' children. This has become our homeland.

European countries have to realize that Islam is not a threat to Europe as is usually portrayed in the media. Muslims in Europe, if they were actually allowed to live the Islamic way of life, will achieve huge success and will have no enemies. European politics should not regard a Muslim as an enemy, but as a European citizen who cares about the country where he resides, with a Muslim identity. That's all. Through dialogue, this can succeed. But it won't succeed by the use of force, jails, detention centers, arrests and new laws waiting to be implemented. This is what causes trouble in the future. ...

You know that people who are willing to die, willingly, for their religious belief, that they are helping to free their brothers. And you know this is going on today in Europe, here in Germany, yes?

We don't know who is involved in jihad or who is willing to be killed defending God's way. This is something between the person and his God. We can't know who he is. You have the intelligence services all over the world -- because the problem here, which nobody seems to notice, is the relationship between man [and God]. If a person can understand the real meaning of life and see that his ultimate goal ... is in heaven, then he will be looking for ways to reach that goal. If this goal is to defend this religion --

We understand. But you know it is happening today here in Europe, yes?

God only knows. This is unknown to us. What we know, as I said before, is that if one is left alone without being embattled, then nothing would happen.

But people are joining the fight?

A Muslim is a Muslim wherever he is. There are Muslim Americans fighting in Iraq. In Guantanamo Bay, you have Americans who were fighting in Afghanistan. Were they doing this to defend America or Europe? He is fighting in order to exalt the word of God: There is no God but Allah. ...

I just wanted a yes or no answer.

I can['t] answer yes or no. ... I don't know.

Yet news reports, the government in Italy with wiretaps, with every read, and people in law enforcement here in Germany say this is happening.

No one can say for sure whether or not this is happening. As I said, this is possible only if Muslims were being attacked in Europe.

It wouldn't surprise you?

Only Allah knows. ...

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posted jan. 25, 2005

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