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(Our) Misunderstood, Too Idealistic ‘Rage Boy’

A weird attempt at some kind of apologia for this dangerous kook, from the UK tabloid the Daily Mail:

The surprising truth about Rage Boy, America’s hated poster-boy of Islamic radicalism


11th November 2007

… With his straggly beard and big shouting mouth, Rage Boy certainly looks like a threat.

His scary face now appears on boxer shorts and bumper stickers, and he scores more than a million results on Google.

A regular spoof diary appears online in his name and he has come to stand for all that is most frightening about radical Islam.

But who is the real person behind the cartoon and what does he believe in? I travelled to Kashmir in search of the poster-boy of fundamentalism…

Shakeel Ahmad Bhat is a 29-year-old failed militant. Over two days, sitting cross-legged at the home he shares with his mother and smiling shyly much of the time, Shakeel told me, through an interpreter, his life story and why he had come to wave his fists at the cameras.

His story was not what I had expected and showed the personal torment of life in a society that has gone wrong. Although it is hard to prove the authenticity of his story, given my knowledge of Kashmiri political history over the past 20 years, everything he told me sounded plausible: after all, what reason would he have to lie?

Shakeel’s religious family followed the Sufi tradition, a mystical and tolerant form of Islam that is common in Kashmir. His father would often take him to mosques and taught him two lessons: do not be greedy and help Islam to spread by peaceful means.

Shakeel did not like school and he had difficulty learning to read and write. His teacher thrashed him with a stick but it did not improve his studies. Aged ten, he refused to go to class and stayed at home with his family.

At this time, in response to rigged elections, Pakistani-backed terrorist activity against Indian rule in Kashmir was beginning. The Indian government’s reaction was brutal. While searching for militants, police raided Shakeel’s home and threw his 18-year-old sister Shareefa out of an upstairs window. She broke her spine and died from her injuries four years later.

In the early Nineties, thousands of young Kashmiris streamed over the border to Pakistan to take up arms against India. Shakeel, just 13, decided to join them. He was so small he had to be carried on an older boy’s shoulders when he went up to the mountains.

In Muzaffarabad he was taken to a snow-covered training camp run by the Pakistani army in conjunction with the militant group Al-Umar Mujahideen. Armed with an AK-47, he returned to Srinagar hoping to drive out the Indian army.

“I thought Kashmir should have the right to self-determination,” he told me.

Shakeel was not a very good militant. When I asked him how many people he had killed, he looked embarrassed.

“I gave scares but I never killed anyone,” he said. “I couldn’t. I never hurled a grenade in a public place.”

His greatest achievement was opening fire on the cavalcade of a visiting Indian government minister.

Even when his team caught a police informant, Shakeel called for him to be set free. “I thought I would set an example. Forgiveness is better than killing.”

In 1994, when he was 16, he was arrested and taken to a military barracks. Of the 20 boys and young men who had crossed the border to Pakistan with him, only eight were still alive.

Shakeel was tortured. He was stripped, doused with water and given electric shocks. A nail was pushed through his jaw (he showed me the scar). His head was immersed in water.

When he was released, he remained under police surveillance. An injury to his right arm as a result of the torture had left him unable to lift anything and he has relied on his brothers to support him since then. Shakeel is still unemployed and says he feels as if he is 110 years old.

Not long after his release, the paramilitary Special Task Force came to the house to look for Shakeel but he was not there. They beat his 75-year-old father instead, leaving him with a broken leg; he spent the rest of his life bedridden

Shakeel’s understanding of the world is limited by his inability to read or write. He likes going to demonstrations and has an ambition to start a political party

“But not to be the puppet of Pakistan or India,” he insisted.

He sometimes watches Al Jazeera English on television and although he cannot comprehend much of what is said, he told me he can work out what is going on from the images on screen and from what his brothers have told him.

If something upsets him, he organises a demonstration.

He seems to be quite an idealist.

He has demonstrated against the Pope’s comments about Islam, against the sexual exploitation of Kashmiri girls, against police violence and ‘encounter’ killings and against the honouring of Rushdie. Why did he object to Rushdie being knighted?

“He has a reputation for Muslim-bashing,” he said solemnly. “Why is the London government encouraging someone who does these things?”

To my surprise, Shakeel seemed to have no time for Bin Laden, although he does not believe he was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

“I heard that planes had crashed into the Twin Towers. I thought it was very bad that so many civilians had been killed. But afterwards I was told it was America’s own government that had arranged the attack.”

How could that have happened? “Money can make wonders.”

But why would America have wanted to do such a thing?

“There is a strong lobby in the USA that opposes President Bush. He wanted to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. He had to justify that to his own people.”

Then I asked if he had heard about the 7/7 bombings in London. “I heard that an Underground train was bombed. It pains me when innocents are killed. It pains me.”

When the Islamic Rage Boy phenomenon took off and Shakeel had his face reproduced all over the world, the local police got worried and brought him in for questioning.

“They had photocopies from the internet which they showed to me.”

They told Shakeel to stop going on demonstrations but he refused.

He says he was brought before one of Srinagar’s most senior police officers, who offered him an administrative job in the government, and said he would find him a girl to marry. I believe him – Indian authorities have a habit of trying to rehabilitate militants who are no longer an obvious threat.

“They said they would drop all the cases against me if I quit going to demos.” He refused.

I suggested to Shakeel that he must have been tempted by the prospect of a job and a wife – he was unlikely ever to get such a good opportunity again. He looked shy and covered his face with his hands.

“I want to marry a non-Muslim woman and convert her to Islam.”

Why? I asked.

In a moment that might have come straight out of the Borat film, he answered in a soft, serious voice: “I have been told that if I can convince a non-Muslim woman to marry me – but not convert her by force – then there will be a place for me in heaven.”

I suggested there might be some suitable candidates in Britain. “If the offer comes,” Shakeel said, “I am ready to accept it.”

Did he ever use the internet? “I don’t have knowledge of it. I cannot go to the internet shops and spend 30 rupees an hour.

I never board a bus, I walk to the city centre if I am going to a protest. I don’t smoke and I don’t take tea from tea stalls. If I need some money, I have to ask my brothers to give it to me.”

Since he is unable to read properly, I had presumed that Shakeel would have a limited idea of the extent of his internet fame. But he showed me a pair of folders.

Some friends had trawled through different sites and printed off computer-altered pictures of him.

Shakeel leafed through the pages: Islamic Rage Boy on clothes, being force-fed a pork chop, as a vampire, as a beer bottle, as a woman in a bikini, as ‘Jihady Idol’, as ‘Adolf Mohammed Rage Boy’, distended and jabbing his finger at a photographer above a quote from Christopher Hitchens: “It’s impossible to satisfy Rage Boy and his ilk. It’s stupid to try.”

One picture showed what looked like an American preacher holding a microphone while wearing a Rage Boy baseball cap. Shakeel stopped on an image of his face superimposed on a pig.

He looked profoundly shocked and upset by this picture. What did he feel?

“I surely get hurt when I see these pictures,” he said. “This is terrorism for me. The people who do this are showing their own culture, so why do they tell us that we are uncivilised?

I asked what would stop him protesting. What would satisfy him? “If peace were to prevail in the entire world and people would understand the message of the Koran. You can’t bring peace by beating the drums or killing people,” he replied….

Shakeel Ahmad Bhat is the product of poverty, lack of opportunity and state brutality. Islam is to him a way of life. He is illiterate and his only source of news is the street.

Surrounded by other people who lack knowledge of the outside world, is it any surprise that he believes barmy conspiracy theories about the attacks of 9/11?

Islamist extremism is a serious threat and will continue. But Al Qaeda’s brand of terrorism has little in common with Shakeel’s upbringing or experience…

Shakeel became a not very successful militant because he thought Kashmir deserved self-rule and his sister had been thrown out of a window….

Funny how this reporter blithely accepts Mr. Shakeel’s tale of woe. If even half of it is true, his surely has been a life crammed with incident.

Of course I doubt that even half of it is true. Pace this naive “journalist,”  the real question is “what reason would he have to tell the truth?”

An injury to his right arm as a result of the torture had left him unable to lift anything and he has relied on his brothers to support him since then. Shakeel is still unemployed and says he feels as if he is 110 years old.

Not to nitpick, but Mr. Shakeel doesn’t appear any too handicapped from the photos that we have seen.

Specifically, he doesn’t even seem to have any trouble whatsoever raising his right arm early and often — if it’s for the right cause:

Indeed, he is rather sprightly for a 110 year old:


As to his politics, from his protests against the Pope’s comments and the Rushdie knighthood, it doesn’t sound like Mr. Shakeel is all that obsessed about countries or even other religions enjoying his purported goal of “self-determination.”

One wonders what other misrepresentations he made to this all too eagerly obliging reporter.

Still, since we were the first site to highlight Mr. Shakeel’s talents, we can’t help but take some paternal pride in his brilliant career as an uninformed, unemployed rabble rouser who lives with his mom and is supported by his brothers.

If Mr. Shakeel would deign to come to America he could undoubtedly get a leadership position with Code Pink, and probably a wife in the bargain. (If he’s not too choosy.)

Though, come to think of it, he did say he wanted someone he would have to convert.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, November 11th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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