Friends, please enjoy my interview with Khalid Muhammad, author of The Agency Rules:Never An Easy Day at the Office.
Good Morning, Khalid. Thanks so much for joining us on Author 911. You are someone I have followed and admired for several years now. Can you tell me a little about your background?
Good morning, Judith. It’s a pleasure to join you and thank you for the opportunity to discuss global terrorism with your audience.
My background is a bit confused for most people. I was born in Pakistan, raised and educated in the United States. I worked in the US for about 8 years before moving back to Pakistan to pursue business opportunities in the emerging markets. I’ve been here since.
You are certainly my expert for all things Jihad and became so once I read your book. How have you become such an expert in Jihad behavior?
That’s great to hear, especially with the number of people in the media that pretend to know what they are talking about when it comes to jihadi behavior. I think more people like me have to start talking about Islam and jihad to counter the negative and false perception that is being put out in the media from the uninformed who are reading websites with little understanding of the history and context of the verses of the Qu’ran.
My expertise, as you put it, comes from living in Pakistan and experiencing the “fake jihad” that is waged in the name of Islam. Many people have been deceived into believing that Islam is a violent religion, but they have no understanding of the context, history or traditions during the time of the Prophet Muhammad when they make that characterization. The Prophet wore many different hats during His life, including a head of state, a military commander and the founder of a religious school of thought. When you look at the Qu’ran and Hadiths as being the history of His life during each of those roles, they whole conversation takes a different color.
How did you experience this, particularly being educated in the US?
As part of my book series, I was able to talk to a number of people in the military, government, religious scholars and former jihadis to get an understanding of the different points of view. In addition, when you live in a country that has been ravaged by the pseudo-jihadists with their suicide bombers, car bombs and IEDs, you gain expertise quite quickly.
It’s quite horrifying to listen to different imams talk about what jihad means to Islam and Muslims, but they seem to all forget that the most important jihad is the one that each Muslim must fight within themselves to become a better person. They seem to all be focused on the armed conflict, the justifications for such and the responsibility that we have as Muslims to fight it.
I was blessed to have both a Saudi and an Egyptian as teachers during my primary years, who taught me that Islam is not a violent religion and that we, as Muslims, must constantly be fighting to learn and understand more about our faith to be better Muslims. They never told me that armed jihad was the primary role or first response to any injustice.
I know that you are quite outspoken about jihad and your feelings are quite clear in you excellent and extradinary book, The Agency Rules. I suppose your writing is a lynchpin?
I believe that it is a requirement for Muslims that have an understanding of the real teachings to speak out and counter those who would like to misinterpret our faith. Agency Rules, my debut spy thriller and series, is the foundation of helping people to understand how people are deceived into believing that taking up arms is the only solution to the injustices that people feel.
I tend to be more outspoken than most because I won’t allow my religion to be misused to lead people to their death for someone else’s private war, cause or blind arrogance, which is the case with most of the “jihadi leaders.” They never fight on the front lines, they hide far away from where the battle is actually happening.
It escapes me how someone who firmly believes that their primary cause in life is to be a martyr for their religion takes a cowardly position and sends others to die in their place.
I know that you believe that three events are responsible for the Muslim world today. Can you share them so we can better understand?
Definitely. While many people will try to list many, many more than three, you can boil the core problems in the Muslim world down to three.
First, we have the influx of wealthy countries that are using other countries to fight proxy wars for them. The wealthy countries that I am talking about are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, where members of the royal families and wealthy industrialists are funding terrorism around the world. The Saudis alone have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million to spread their extremely fundamentalist Wahhabi version of Islam to every corner of the world, and that is outside what they spend during the wars that they create for others to fight. Until these countries are brought to book by the international community, they will continue to spread their brand of Islam around the world and all of the moderate Muslims will pay for it with their lives and their respect.
Second, we have the failed democratic systems in the Middle East. I have always found it interesting that we have two options in the Muslim countries – we are either dictatorships supported by Western powers, as long as they are useful, or we are puppet democracies that are client-states for the international lenders to push them into conditions that they can never escape from. I say puppet democracies because we never get the politicians into office that are sincere to the nation, rather we get the ones that are intent on filling their offshore bank accounts, enjoying lavish lifestyles and robbing the people of their country of basic, fundamental services.
What is sad is that the international lenders and the Western powers know full well what is happening, but just don’t have the power to force these governments to do anything to stop it. The mantra of democracy cuts deep on both sides of the equation.
Third, the civilian judiciary is a farce and is easily corrupted for power, influence or position. They are also unwilling to sentence the real criminals because their gravy train would end. We have seen it in Pakistan for decades. Judges who, under the pressure of a political or religious party, will make decisions that are untenable under the law. We have politicians that have committed massive levels of corruption, but they are free and sitting in our Parliament today because the judiciary is beholden to them for their positions. We have terrorists that have been freed by the civilian judiciary because of lack of evidence, fear of reprisals and many other excuses, but it all boils down to them not being able to dispense justice.
When there is no justice, the opportunities for civil unrest expand exponentially.
Now, all Muslims understand that Sharia law is one of the fairest legal systems because it not only takes the crime, but the reasons for the crime into account. A person who is unemployed and steals food to feed his family would not be punished for theft under Sharia law, whereas someone who has wealthy who steals would feel the full punishment for their crimes. But with numerous sects and schools of thought residing within the same country, whose interpretation of Sharia law do you follow? And that is another problem all together.
Are jihad appealing to young people who are not educated? I read somewhere that people involved in jihad reated it as a job, with pay raised, vacation, etc. Is that true?
It’s not so much that it appeals to them, but it is the only route because they don’t have the same opportunities as others. Let me explain the dynamic so that your readers can better understand.
There is a family of 6 that earns $10 a day, if they are lucky. From that $10 a day, they must feed their children, pay their bills, find a place to live, eat, take care of medical expenses, educate their children and save some money for the future. Now, take into account that the average school tuition is around $70 per month, not including books, uniform and all the extra curricular activities, so let’s round that number up to around $100 per month per child. With 4 children, that’s $400 in just education with a $300 a month salary, if they are lucky.
Now compare that with the average middle class Pakistani who is able to get a good job because they have a decent education, send their children to private schools and provide opportunities that the poor children will never have. What’s worse is that many of the poor parents, and sometimes children, will work in these households as maids and drivers and see the lavishness of the lifestyles and the sheer wastage where they can’t even afford to put food on the table for their children.
These are the people that are sending their children to madrassahs, which are religious schools where the school takes up the responsibility of feeding, clothing, and educating the children. I’m not going to say all madrassahs are bad, but so many of them are.
They will teach children from a young age that what others do is against the teachings of Islam. From wearing western clothing to not living a pious life by the standards of the madrassah imam will all become part of the education that the children get. They are also fed a steady stream of hatred for other sects and religious groups because they don’t share the same belief structure as the one being taught in the madrassah.
And then the jihadi and extremist groups come looking for recruits. Many of the students are identified and selected by their own instructors for these groups.
It’s a vicious cycle that can’t be stopped until we get more controls on the governments to re-invest into the government schools that have collapsed due to their own corruption.
You know, Khalid, all of this must be a cultural shock to you and devasting at the same time. Do you feel alone or are there others who share your feelings and b eliefs?
Of course it’s devastating to me, and to many other Pakistanis that work hard to try and change the course of this problem. I started a school in my home district of Swat, where the Taliban once had control, for underprivileged children where we not only teach them for free, but we pay them a salary to come to school and send food to their homes so that they will not be forced into child labor to help make ends meet.
There is another organization called The Citizen’s Foundation, which builds schools in these underprivileged communities and provides free education to children so that they will have opportunities to improve their lives from what their parents live with. I think they just had one girl earn a scholarship to Harvard and another who is going to another university in the US.
There is a hospital network that has been setup to provide free medical care to this same economic bracket. Medications are free. Operations are free. Check-ups are free. The whole hospital operates on donations from domestic and ex-patriate Pakistanis.
These things were unheard of just a few years ago, so there are people doing things to improve the situation that jihadi and terrorist groups use to recruit and indoctrinate, but it’s slow because it’s citizens coming together and not the government.
It is devastating to see your country so corrupt and spreading hatred. How can it change? If you had a magic wand, how would you fix things?
That would have to be one serious magic wand to fix all the ills that we have in Pakistan, or any Muslim country for that matter.
I guess I would start with removing the existing crop of politicians from the equation and putting them before a court that could sentence them for their crimes. We have a Prime Minister currently, that is worth billions of dollars, but only pays $50 in taxes each year. That’s just not possible without lying, cheating and a little help from people he has appointed during his 2 previous terms as Prime Minister. When all the politicians, bureaucrats, judges and generals are forced to justify their assets and the courts seize what is stolen, the country will no longer need to take the loans that it requires just to run the day to day operations. That would be the first wave of my magic wand.
The second thing I would do is re-think the entire educational system in the country. We need to re-establish the government school system and make it the best educational system in the country. I would force everyone in government, from the elected to the appointed, to enroll their children in the government school system, rather than allow them to attend private schools. When your own child’s future is dependent on the quality of the education, things will improve immediately.
Third, I would start a nation re-education campaign for adults. This would be two pronged. The first prong would be selective to provide proper vocational training to those adults who don’t have an interest in education but run general stores, repair shops and other essential services for the people. The second prong would be a national education program that would re-teach the basic tenets and principles of Islam and being a Muslim, without the hate and misinterpretation. This would change the way people deal with people.
Lastly, I would bring the masjids under governmental and community control. Today, masjids in Pakistan are only answerable to the imam that leads them. Compare that to the Middle Eastern countries, where the Ministry of Religious Affairs appoints every imam, approved every Friday sermon and has people that monitor that the masjid is not being used for extremist or terrorist activities. Even though we have a Ministry for Religious Affairs, they are too busy enjoying the perks that they get to care one bit about what is happening under their noses. In many cases, it’s one of the fire-brand mullahs that heads the ministry so how do you stop the spread of hate?
Can we change our topic a bit? Tell me a bit about terror groups, how they are formed, how they are recruited and how funded..
There are essentially three types of terror groups operating in the world today, each one has it’s own characteristics and objectives, which also determine the methods they use and where their funding originates from.
First, there is the jihadi group, which is essentially interested in re-establishing the Khilafat, whatever that means to them. They are primarily driven by eliminating the Western, or immoral, influences from Muslim society. These are the ones that will smash televisions, computers, burn DVD and music shops because, in their opinion, this is where the immorality comes from. Some of these jihadi groups are freedom fighters, but the bulk of them are just mercenaries sent in to fight proxy wars. They are funded in two ways. The most common is through the deep state organizations, i.e. intelligence services, who provide cover for their activities. Some are funded heavily by foreign players, which can range from rival intelligence services to foreign countries looking to achieve a goal of their own.
The second type of terror group, and the one most common in today’s environment, is the politically motivated group. I say politically motivated because while they will hold on to Islam, or any other religion, as their basis, their goals are completely related to political objectives. To give you an example, this would be the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, ISIS in Iraq and al-Qaeda to a greater extent. When we talk about politically motivated groups, we are talking about those who are interested in disrupting the normal affairs of the state to achieve a political objective. Sometimes that objective will be the implementation of their version of Sharia law, other times it will be to dislodge the current government from power. In our case, in the Middle East and Indian sub-continent, this is the most common group that we see operating. The fighters are lured with the promise of a strong Islamic state, but in the end, it’s all a power grab. Their funding comes from foreign countries and wealthy individuals. With the Pakistani Taliban, better known as the TTP, much like this parent organization in Afghanistan, the funding comes from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. These countries have an abundance of dormant capital and are looking to establish themselves as the power players in the region. It’s also well known that the politically motivated terror groups are funded through front organization charities that collect money and drop it right into the laps of these fighters. Their goal is to spread this interpretation of Islam through the countries where they can take advantage of poor judicial systems, weak educational institutions and overall corrupt governments. The interesting part of the equation is that they are funding both the terror groups and mainstream political parties, if not the state itself, to draw attention away from their own covert actions.
The third type of terror group are mercenaries. These are individuals, or organized groups, that travel the region looking for a war to be involved in. We saw great examples of this with the Uzbeks and Tajiks that were part of al-Qaeda, then joined the TTP in Pakistan and finally moved to the Free Syrian Army against the Assad regime. I would not be surprised to find them part of ISIS today. These are guns for hire and go wherever they can get the most bang for their services. Again, these mercenaries are trained and funded by the same countries and individuals that fund the politically motivated terror groups because they are just looking to cause chaos and havoc wherever they go. They are not motivated by religion or political objectives, only money.
You mentioned ISIS, who is hot topic in the news currently, do you think much of this would have happened if Sadaam were left in power?
I was never a big fan of Saddam Hussain, nor of any of the lifelong dictators that the Middle East has. The brutality that Saddam brought to Iraq was inexcusable, but we see the same with Mubarak in Egypt, and I expect that el-Sissi is no different. These were all acceptable options to the West for a long time and that is where most of the Muslim world stumbles on foreign policy. Why is it ok to support a brutal, ruthless dictator when your mantra is democracy for all? You can search the internet and find pictures of all of these dictators with US Presidents, British Prime Ministers and heads of state of any of the developed world. It’s just a contradiction in terms for most of us.
But coming back to your question… Would the world have an ISIS today if Saddam had been left in power? I doubt it. No matter what the Western media would like to print, ISIS is a creation that emerged because of the failed state that Iraq became. When the government is no longer in control of large tracks of the country, the military is weak because all the top generals and commanders are gone and the people don’t feel secure with the new system that has been introduced, they will look for another solution for their needs. What we saw happen in Iraq was a re-creation of a system that was never allowed to take hold or fully form. When that happens, you are just asking for the worst outcome.
Most of us are expecting the exact same thing to happen in Afghanistan, to be honest.
Yes, I agree.
Tell me the profile of a typical suicide bomber.
There are two profiles of the suicide bomber, neither of which is typical.
The religiously motivated one suicide bomber is who believes that he is fighting God's war and has been told that he will only be held responsible for the one that he is there to kill, not the dozens or hundreds of other that die because of his actions. He is madrassah educated and comes from a poor family that has regularly been pushed down by those with wealth. Normally, they don’t any other option for himself other than suicide bombing because there of their limited education and the hate that they have been taught.
He has been promised that once he does the deed, his family will receive untold riches, which are never paid. In most cases, the family won't even receive his body because of their disgust over what he did.
The second suicide bomber is the tool that is used in war. While he comes from a similar background, he doesn't share the same religious fervor. He wants to fight, but isn't the type to become a martyr. These are typically young children, 12-17, that have a vest strapped to them and they are sent out. Someone else holds the trigger and detonates when they are in the right place.
I interviewed some of the 2nd group for my books. They told me about being injected with heroin and turned into drug addicts so that they wouldn't know what was being done to them. They told me stories of sexual abuse. It broke my heart. I don't think I have ever cried as hard as I did after talking to these kids.
so misguided, according to my background. It is difficult, an under statement there. Get out your wand again, the magic one, and tell me what the West needs to do to help. Then I want to talk about your books.
It actually starts with something very simple, stop funding countries that are corrupt. Yes, I know that means Pakistan. But when you cut off their lifelines, these corrupt politicians disappear and we can start building our country right.
The West knows that Benazir and Nawaz Sharif (and all their cadres) are corrupt. They have never worked, they own nothing and have millions of dollars in property in Europe and the US. Why don't they ever demand and accounting of where they money came from?
When you start to cut them off, you make it better for us. I'll give you another example... less that 2% of Pakistan's politicians pay any taxes. If they are paying their taxes, why are you using your taxpayer money to fund them?
The current prime minister, who is worth over $2 billion, paid $50 in taxes last year.
Second, invest more in people projects. Rather than funding the government, set up projects through your own embassies and run them yourselves. Build schools, train teachers, build hospitals. Do what the government is supposed to do, rather than giving them the money in the hope that they will do it.
It will decrease the anti-Americanism in the countries and build more people-to-people goodwill.
yes, these make sense. Are you considering political office?
I am, but probably 5 years from now. Pakistan is currently going through a shift in thinking. Imran Khan’s protests over the 2013 rigged elections brought the middle class on the streets for the first time and has scared the sitting government, as well as the powers that be. The language that was used to describe my fellow citizens by these crooks sitting in Parliament was disgusting. We were called maids, mechanics, servants, donkeys and many other colorful terms that were infuriating to me, and most citizens.
I wasn’t part of the protests, but no politician should speak that way about their own citizens. The result is that the nation has now seen what these people actually think of us. We are fodder to them. We are the people they can abuse to get what they want. We pay for their lives of luxury.
Second, the army is seriously taking on the terrorism problem in Pakistan and the politicians are more interested in protecting themselves and the terrorists because of their own links to them. Within the next few years, Pakistan will change dramatically and it will be ready for pro-Pakistan leadership to step forward and help build the country to where it should be.
With the implementation of military courts, even though they are being challenged in the Supreme Court by the religious groups, many of the politicians are running for the hills now. They know the jig is up with the military courts becoming the definitive forum for terrorism cases in Pakistan.
Let's talk Agency Rules, your extraordinary best seller. Tell me about the inspiration
The inspiration was to tell the real story of Pakistan - what we struggle with everyday as Pakistanis, from the corruption to the dirty mullahs to the black sheep in our military leadership.
I got tired of listening to the narrative that was being made about the country in the Western media and decided that we needed our story told. We have been fighting this problem since the 70s when the USSR invaded Afghanistan. It just came to a head after 9/11 and the war turned on us, and so did the world.
And you did a stellar job. How about your need release for the spring...a sequel?
Thank you so much. The next volume in the series is Scorched Earth, and is due out in March, which will probably anger my readers. With the success of the first book, my editors are pushing me harder to make the second one much better. They are worried about the sophomore stumble. The first book, Never an Easy Day at the Office, brought the reader through the turbulent 90s. This book takes you into 9/11 and the war that we have been fighting since.
when writers write about jihad, what is the most common error they make that just drives you nut..
They get it wrong. Totally and completely.
They don't know jihad because they don't know the religion. Islam teaches that jihad is the first and foremost priority of every Muslim, but that jihad is the internal struggle to be a better person, not to kill others.
People have forgotten that and focus on the bloodshed. The Qu'ran also has specific rules that must be followed when it comes to an armed jihad, which no one talks about.
I share those with you later because when you read them you will see that what ISIS and the Taliban are doing is not jihad, nor is it Islam.
For example, you can't kill women or children. Period.
Yet, the body counts for those two groups is outrageously high
Add to that, most of the commentators on jihad talk about how Muslims haven’t condemned the terrorist activities enough. Yet, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Muslim scholars that have written, spoken and preached about the errors of the terrorists and how it is not connected to Islam at all. But the Western media never covers these statements and finds the most radical to talk about Islam and terrorism.
ISIS and Taliban are considered rogue for sure
Of course! They are rogue. They are sociopaths. They are mass murderers. But they aren’t Islamic or Muslim by any means.
There was recently a report issued that highlighted the top 500 Muslims in the various industries and government. Inside that document was a 23-page letter written from 100 Muslim scholars disproving every act of terrorism from ISIS and similar terrorists with the correct verses from the Qu’ran. You can find the letter at http://themuslim500.com/, but you will need to download the entire guide to get it.
I do think it’s sad though. When you look at someone like Anders Breivik, who wrote a 1500 page manifesto about how Christianity needs to return to the violence of Vlad the Impaler, the entire mainstream media played it down and screamed that he couldn’t be a Christian, because no Christian would kill someone in God’s name. I guess they forget the abortion clinic bombers, the KKK and Lord’s Resistance Army. But that same standard is not applied across the board to all religions. One Muslim, who was a recent convert, attacks the Canadian Parliament and the media can’t stop talking about Islamist terror. Another group of Muslims who are moving to Afghanistan to join the Taliban ordered “Islam for Dummies” from Amazon before they left, which was revealed by British intelligence. What Muslim is reading that book before they join a holy war?
No matter how much the moderate Muslims talk about how these people are not Muslims, the mainstream media doesn’t hear us. We can’t talk louder just so those who hate Muslims will listen, because they won’t listen even if we are on their shows and in their face.
I want to thank you for taking the time to interview me. There are a great deal of things that the world doesn’t understand when it comes to these animals and more people need to talk to the Muslims that they know, rather than listening to the media telling them things they don’t understand themselves.
People need to understand that there are millions of Muslims that are peace-loving, integrated into their communities and reject the actions of the terrorists who claim to be acting in the name of our religion.
That’s not us. Those are psychopaths looking for media glorification and they get it each time the media focuses on them for attacking and killing innocent people. There needs to be a change in the language used to talk about these animals. You aren’t going to find support and assistance to fight a war against people in our midst, until you stop counting us as the enemy. No one will step forward to help when we are all considered the enemy.