Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Swedish documentary on young Europeans turning to jihad

A new Swedish documentary has come out with the view that young European Muslims are dedicating themselves to jihad, or holy war.

The film titled, "Aching Heart," will open in Sweden on October 19, but it has already gained much attention, according to a report in the International Herald Tribune.

Part of the film is the story of two young Swedes with immigrant backgrounds - one from Ostermalm, one of Stockholm's poshest neighborhoods, and one from Kvanum, a tiny town in central Sweden - who left their homes in the 1990s to seek martyrdom in the wars of Chechnya and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

But most of the focus of the film is on G�teborg, Sweden's second-biggest city. This is where Mirsad Bektasevic grew up. The 20-year-old Swede with Bosnian roots was given an eight-year sentence in Sarajevo this summer for planning a suicide attack there in 2005.

Apart from Bektasevic, no one in the film issues a direct threat against Sweden or any other target, but the underlying message - the justification of suicide attacks, and attacks against civilians - is clearly militant.

It is also clear that young Swedes continue to follow the call for martyrdom. Mohammed, a friend of Lennart's who appears briefly in the film, leaves to fight with the islamist forces in Somalia and is killed in a U.S. bombing raid.

The film's director, Hedin, chose the title "Aching Heart" to underscore how all these "regular guys" have histories that viewers can relate to, histories that might provide some of the keys to solving the problem of Islamic radicalism in the West.

Hedin says he found something broken in these mens' backgrounds - an abusive father, drugs, divorce - and a longing for a twisted kind of redemption.

In this aim to understand what drives young, radicalized European Muslims, Hedin gets support from academics who have studied the phenomenon of Islamic radicalization.

"To deal with this, it is necessary to know where these people are coming from, why they think what they think and do what they do," said Magnus Norell, a terrorism researcher at the Swedish Defense Research Agency.

But he said that answers are still needed on why young Europeans can't avoid situations of conflict.


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