- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 10, 2001

PESHAWAR, Pakistan The jihad bug has bitten Abdul Qader, who, like tens of thousands of other young Pakistani men, is off to Afghanistan to battle the United States.
In his tiny one-room apartment, Mr. Qader, 22, donned a black turban, the mark of a "jihadi" (holy warrior), packed his winter coat with a change of clothes and closed the door on his life as the cleric who gives Friday sermons at a nearby mosque.
Before boarding a bus to the Afghan border, he stopped by a jihad charity booth, where students of Islamic schools known as madrassas collect money for Afghanistan's Taliban government and signatures of Muslims who pledge to fight alongside the Taliban and its "guest," Osama bin Laden.
"I'm signing my name so God will know who I am," Mr. Qader said.
The zeal with which jihad fever is sweeping through the tribal Pashtun society in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province matches the determination with which the United States is pursuing the war in Afghanistan.
The attacks of September 11 are all but forgotten for Muslim zealots such as Mr. Qader.
"Because everyone is against the [U.S.] attacks on Afghanistan, if the students talk, they talk against America," said Shaibzada Khalid Ahmed, principal of the Daarul Aloom Sarhid religious school in Peshawar.
Today, the passion of youth is reinforced when students spend their vacation at fund-raising camps, from which they go out every day to crowded outdoor markets, where people donate money and their jewelry to support the Taliban war effort against the United States.
One man told how his wife ripped off an earring and handed it to a student fund-raiser as blood from her torn earlobe streamed down her neck.
Students standing around the madrassa's shaded courtyard on a recent autumn afternoon spoke of going to war with the enthusiasm of a American high school football team getting ready for the big game.
For students such as Israar Ullah, 21, who is to graduate shortly, the first stop is a guerrilla training camp high in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghan border to learn such basic skills as handling ammunition and firing an AK-47 automatic rifle.
"There are many training centers along the border, and the best ones are in Afghanistan," he said.
Mr. Ullah said he expects a long war against the United States, not unlike the decade of the 1980s, when Afghans battled occupying Soviet troops.
"The U.S. and Britain will never rule us," said Mr. Qader as he prepared to step on the bus to the border.
He belongs to the province's dominant Pashtun ethnic group which is also the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, accounting for nearly 40 percent of its 20 million people, and the one from which the Taliban is drawn.
Pashtuns in Pakistan and Afghanistan speak the same language. Before the September 11 attack, their extended families traveled freely across the border, which remains open at remote mountain passes.
Like his fellow holy warriors, Mr. Qader scoffs at the U.S. claim that the war is against terrorism, not against Islam.
"They are attacking Afghanistan because it is the only true Islamic government," he said.
And like others, he refuses to believe that bin Laden was behind the attacks on the United States.
"I'm going to Afghanistan to defend Islam and when Islam is defended, Osama is defended," Mr. Qader said.


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