Sabina Selimovic and Samra Kesinovic are girls who fled from Vienna to Raqqa, the town in Syria where the Islamic State has its headquarters and enforces sharia. Born in Vienna, they are daughters of Bosnian Muslim refugees. Sabina is 15, Samra 17. They left letters for their parents saying, “No point looking for us: see you in paradise . . . We will serve Allah and die for him.”
In Raqqa, both have found husbands and share apartments. In an interview with the French magazine Paris Match, Sabina is quoted, “Here I am free. I can practice my religion freely. In Vienna, I could not.” Bewildered by their stories, the Austrian media describe the two as “poster girls for jihad.”
Other jihad poster girls are reported running away to Raqqa from Britain, Holland, Germany and Belgium. These jihad girls have rejected life in the West, in the belief that Islamic State has something much better to offer even though, or because, they may well die for Allah. Muslim girls are allowed, even encouraged, to marry young and these two have set up house. In her interview Sabina mentions foodstuffs she might have eaten in Vienna.
The blend of normality and outlandishness is a feature so unusual that no comparisons come to mind. Evidently an important cultural transformation is under way. It is a huge leap of mind and body to submit willingly to sharia with its irrational demands, its customs and restrictions and appalling punishments for transgression, especially for girls and women. Yet this leap is occurring on an ever-larger scale all round the world, and what’s more seems to be attracting converts, some of whom have committed acts of terrorism.
Lee Smith is someone who reflects on this phenomenon. His book The Strong Horse is a penetrating study of the Muslim mindset. Now in a sobering article in The Tablet he addresses the question why teenage girls leave Europe for the Islamic State. Teenage girls, he observes, are the West’s center of gravity. Our civilization has succeeded largely in making young girls feel safe in school, in jobs, and in marriage. They reject that safety, he concludes, because Europe proves incapable of endowing the lives of its citizens with meaning and purpose. The Islamic State is stupid and vicious but those in it have a cause. We Westerners don’t believe there is anything worth fighting for. The Islamic State, then, does not mark the success of Islam so much as the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of Europe.