The Jehadi Mind,'I Am Going At The Call Of Allah'
18 May 2004
The Indian Express
New Delhi: The son of a former chief engineer. Resident of one of Srinagar's poshest suburbs, Rawalpora. Educated in the city's best Christian missionary school, Tyndal Biscoe. Graduate in geology, geography and economics. Commercial pilot by profession, realisation of a childhood dream The perfect matrimonial ad? No way. This was how Nadeem Khateeb's resume read before he left a dream job in the US at the age of 30 to join the jehad in Kashmir as a foot-soldier. Long before Egyptian architect Mohammad Atta or one-time LSE student Omar Sheikh attained poster-boy status, long before the serene-faced Osama bin Laden became the symbol of the 21st century jehad, the modern Islamic warrior was born on Kashmiri soil. Fired by the philosophy of alarz- u- lillah Wal hukmu lil-lah (the earth belongs to Allah and there should only be God's rule on it), Nadeem, and the life he lived, disprove the belief that the force of faith and the conviction in sacrifice are Osama offshoots. Note the past tense though, for Nadeem died six months short of his 32nd birthday in 1999, leaving behind resigned parents, a hounded brother and a ruined business. Before taking up arms for the pan-Islamic cause, Nadeem perhaps stood apart because of just one characteristic: his extreme religiosity. 'I don't remember him missing a single namaz since he was in class III', says his mother Mahjabeen. 'With two of his friends, he would bunk school on Fridays to attend the prayers.' Of his two closest friends, Ishfaq Majeed Wani grew up to be a commander of the militant Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front; he died in an encounter in 1990. But even as Wani threw himself into the protests raging across the Valley, Nadeem watched from the sidelines. 'He never even talked of joining the militants', says his father Inaytullah Khateeb. 'But I could sense something brewing inside him. Maybe he was facing some sort of a dilemma. He finally sought all his answers in faith. And when he was convinced, he left everything', says a relative. 'Everything' included his flying career, a goal Nadeem had worked almost single- mindedly towards since March 1992, when he joined a flying school in Karnal, Haryana. 'He trained as a commercial pilot at a school in Georgia. In January 1994, he joined the same school as a staff flying instructor', says Khateeb. 'He came back to Srinagar in November 1994 and left again for Georgia in October 1996. He wanted to join an airlines there.' An ordinary life, ordinary ambitions. Or so his parents believed. Even today, two-and-a-half years, they have no answers when asked what happened in their son's life to alter it so drastically. 'He would call us and tell us he was fine. How would we know where he was calling from? We thought he was in the US', says Khateeb. It later came to light that Nadeem left the US to join the Al-Badr training camp in Pakistan. After completing his training in firearms, the 30-year-old youth crossed over to Kashmir as part of an Al-Badr group whose designated area of work was the Mahore belt of Jammu. It was here that he was killed in an encounter in early 1999. 'Nadeem had been engaged to a girl, a relative. But he was reluctant to marry, we never knew why. We never knew he had a plan for his life', says his father. But the hints were there in letters Nadeem wrote home; it had much to do with his upbringing as a strict Muslim (see box above). A close friend explains it thus: 'He used to brood a lot on the US exploitation of the Muslim countries. He said that after being in the US for so many years, his eyes had finally opened. He read the Qutub Shaheed, and his faith strengthened so much, he wouldn't talk of anything else. He was convinced that if he died in jehad, he would be rewarded on judgement day.' The Khateebs, on their part, are reconciled to the life their son chose, despite the harassment their other son Waseem faced and the ruination of their business. 'I have no regrets. I have absolute faith that my son was a martyr and is thus alive', says Mahjabeen. 'Whenever I am alone, I feel his presence. When I stand up on the prayer meet, I feel him next to me. He was always his mother's boy.