It was a cool, clear sunny morning, the day before Eid ul-Azha, the holy festival of sacrifice, and the second most holy day in Islam. It marks the end of Haj, the pilgrimage that millions of Muslims make every year to Mecca.
The collapse of the Soviet Union has played a major role in the rise of Islamist terrorism in three significant ways. First of all, it led to a revolution in the thinking of many Muslims about the nature of Western societies – and one should never forget that for most Muslims, the USSR was part of the Western project rather than something at odds with it – and that, in turn, brought about a shift from 1991 to September 11, 2001.
I first met Mohammed Tahel Shirzad outside the walls of his compound one night in August in 1986. I had no idea who he was, because only one of the four men who had brought me to his house knew two words in English – “good boy”! These he uttered quite a few times as we fled from a Russian offensive, which had surprised us at dawn the previous day.
This month the world marks the fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks in America. So does Diplomaatia – this issue of the magazine looks into the roots and the scope of Islamic terrorism.