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Tareq Kamleh: A medical jihad?

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27 April 2015 08:43

The newly released YouTube video featuring Australian doctor Tareq Kamleh is in many ways just another in the voluminous output from the ISIS media department. But this one has caused discussion here because of who Tareq Kamleh is. Unlike most of the other Australian jihadis we know of, he is well educated and had an occupation that was highly valued in Australian society.

In many ways though, this video is like others ISIS has released. The information it transmits is quite limited because the shooting is tightly controlled. He is in a clean medical facility somewhere, so the video seeks to portray ISIS as running a modern health and medical facility. But the viewer is denied any context. There is another ISIS video about its health services and, while the facility it shows is not nearly as clean and modern as the most recent one, it shares at least one characteristic: the camera lingers over medical machinery but few staff and visitors are ever seen.

In the video featuring the Australian doctor, the impression ISIS seeks to create is of a fully functioning hospital with high-tech equipment, but even a cursory viewing raises several questions. The incubators are all arranged along the walls, as though there are machines but few patients (it is impossible to see how many are occupied). We also see few if any other nurses or doctors in the shots in which the doctor appears. For an allegedly fully functioning neonatal unit, it seems there is plenty of equipment but few staff or perhaps even patients. Tareq Kamleh's statement to the camera even asks for medical personnel to join him in Raqqa because they have plenty of equipment but few staff.

Tareq Kamleh appears for about three minutes of the 15-minute video and he is one of only two English speakers, so the film is not aimed exclusively at the Western market.

And while he is young and well educated in the medical sciences, like all the other jihadis he speaks of his journey as a religious rather than a humane obligation. He doesn't refer to people being killed, her refers to Muslims being killed. His is not a journey to relieve human suffering; it is an avowedly religious one to support his Muslim 'brothers'.

Before people argue that Tareq Kamleh's presence in a paediatric medical environment somehow shows him to be essentially an 'accidental jihadi', his acknowledgement that he is in Raqqa to undertake jihad ought to raise questions. If that's not enough, his Facebook page shows him in action shots with two different types of rifles and a bow and arrow, which shows some predilection for weaponry (somewhat incongruent with the carefully staged video showing the caring doctor in a neonatal ward). Then there is the claim that he had a wayward moral compass while in Australia.

In one way Tareq Kamleh is different to other Australian jihadis because of his education and academic qualifications. But his actions are the same as all the others. He has made a conscious decision that his religious identity transcends his national identity. We shouldn't be too concerned that he is educated rather than a minor criminal or a teenage delinquent. What should concern us is why he and others can come to believe that their religion justifies participation in the imposition of an intolerant and violent ruling system, and the belief that their own government has no right to stop them from being part of the project. Until we can address that, people like Tareq Kamleh will continue to pop up in strange places.

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