PARIS—Two Islamic policemen patrol the city of Timbuktu, Mali, in 2012, making sure that sharia law is being enforced. The first man’s voice sounds calm as he politely asks women to cover their faces with their veils. The second man carries an AK-47 assault rifle. At the end of the patrol, with a joyful tone, they say to camera, “The market was very secure, the women were enough veiled, Abdullah!”
Though the years of radical Islam seem gone in the North Africa country after being toppled from power in 2013 by French military intervention, the opening scene of the movie by François Margolin, “Salafistes,” or “Jihadists” by its English name, catches a rare glimpse of the an ever-present terror in Africa and Maghreb.
In 2012, Margolin got an intimate look at some of the most dangerous groups in the world—North African jihadists, whom he got exclusive footage of.
Margolin managed to meet with ISIS spokespeople and Al-Qaeda leaders who are wanted in America, including Omar Ould Hamaha, who U.S. military has a $3 million bounty on. Hamaha has since been declared dead, and the bounty has been taken off. According to Margolin, such information needs more than a thorough check. He says that Islamist leaders by far prefer to be dead to the eyes of western countries than to be hunted.
In front of Margolin’s camera, Hamaha explains his views about Jihad: ”If people convert to Islam, we are all equals. If they disagree, they have a three-day delay and pay a fee. If they persist, the sword will follow. The Jihad is an appeal to the sword.”
As an Islamic policeman of Timbuktu, his voice sounds calm. He says that the plan is to apply sharia in all of Mali, and if there’s any western intervention, that war will be upon them, and they should be prepared for a “tenfold multiplied 9/11,” referring to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed some 3,000 Americans and injured 6,000 more.
All interviews with these terrorists are shot in the same raw style—no commentaries, no transitions. Margolin, whose parents died in the Holocaust, wanted to film raw interviews and daily life under sharia law to clearly show the world the deadly ideology of Salafism.
Terrorists in France who commit attacks on behalf of ISIS follow Salafism, a radical Islamic sect. Indeed, Jihadist ideology has its roots in the Quran. Salafist ideology, which advocates a strict interpretation of the Quran, drives radical movements such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS to go to war against western countries.
Critics of Margolin’s raw-interview style were met with a challenge from the director: the audience can see (and judge) for themselves. The film was forbidden from broadcasting on TV in France by former Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin due to it being “unsuitable for minors,” according to the New York Times. The decision was later reversed by the administrative court of Paris, which stated that “the way violent scenes are exposed and their scope is a voice to denounce terrorists’ ill-treatments towards the people.”
‘France is Not France Anymore’
Alongside the United States and Israel, France is a target country for Jihad, and in recent years, terrorists have committed many attacks on behalf of this ideology.
“Officials say that terrorists are ‘lonewolfs,’ crazy people, or mentally ill,” Margolin told The Epoch Times in an interview. “They don’t want to admit that these people follow a Quran-based ideology … For example, during the Paris attack, it was wrong to say ‘Terrorist aimed at Parisians’ way of life’ [as the media portrayed]—they attacked a music show because it is forbidden in the Quran, they attack bars because women are lightly dressed and people there drink alcohol, they attempt to attack a stadium because soccer is against the Quran, etc. They’re not mad—they follow that ideology.”
For public authorities, talking about Salafism and jihad is like walking on eggshells. Still, it appears to be a serious problem. In October 2018, fomer Security Minister Gerard Collomb resigned from the government, saying France might see “a civil war” very soon, starting with the inner suburbs of some cities, where Salafism has taken root.
In 2016, after an ISIS terrorist killed 84 people with a van, Donald Trump said that “France was not France anymore,” referring to terrorist attacks that struck the country at that time.
“What Donald Trump said is very accurate, especially over big cities suburbs,” Margolin said. “It’s really terrible, this is a situation that’s been going on since the 80s or 90s. The Salafism ideology’s grip on big cities’ suburbs is spreading widely.”
During filming, Margolin remembered receiving death threats. On one occasion, he had to flee to the Nigerian border after a failed attempt to interview the Boko Haram Islamic terrorist group. “Jihadhist leaders are unstable. They can be polite and kind, but they have the finger on the trigger and can decide at any time to kill you if you don’t align with them,” he said.
In Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” there is a saying: “Know your enemy.” That is what makes “Jihadhists” a must-see film.