The Jihadi Gaze is my term for a version of the thousand-yard stare as seen on the faces of people who consider themselves martyrs (or who wish to be).
Thankfully, I’ve only personally seen it once. Probably 15 years have passed since then, but I’ve never forgotten it because it froze the blood in my veins. I don’t believe that the young man on whose face I saw it had any conscious desire to harm innocent people, but as someone who spent several years of her youth living with a fanatical evangelical Christian family member, I know extremism when I see it and I know the potential it has to turn very ugly very quickly.
The young man I speak of was Muslim, not Christian, but it hardly matters. What mattered was the intense devotion to a concept that existed behind his gaze. For the record, even though that sort of devotion is most often associated with religious ideology, I don’t believe for a second that it’s restricted to such. It’s about being a True Believer™ on a mission, regardless of what the mission is.
So what does this gaze look like? It is transcendental, beatific if you will. If you were unaware of the context it would seem nonthreatening, even benign. As I mentioned earlier, it is similar to the classic thousand-yard stare of the battle-weary, the difference being that the Jihadi gaze isn’t as blank & disassociated—there is a very specific vision there.
That vision is extremely desirable to the seer, and when viewed in person the passion for it that shines out of the seer’s eyes is positively incandescent. The gaze is always accompanied by a subtle smile. I’m no psychologist, but it looks like satisfaction to me…the satisfaction of someone who believes himself to be one of the righteous few who is willing to sacrifice all for The Cause. Tragically, this usually also involves the death of innocent people.
Anyway, below are photos of Anders Behring Breivik, the admitted perpetrator of the terrorist attacks last week in Norway, and Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the Pakistani police commando who assassinated Salman Taseer, a liberal politician, in January of this year. I immediately recognized the Jihadi gaze on Qadri’s face when I saw the shot below, so I saved it. During the course of a discussion in one of the threads here at LGF the other day, member Gus_802 posted the photo of Breivik and—BINGO!—there was the gaze again.
In order to illustrate that the Jihadi gazes of both men are nearly identical despite the differences in the ideological motives behind their actions¹, I decided to flip Breivik’s photo and have it morph into Qadri’s and then back into Breivik’s by fading in & out between the two. Click here to view the eerie result.
H/T to member publicityStunted for reminding me about the photo of Qadri and the comments I’d amde about it at the time.
Update 7/27: Reine, this one is for you. I added your suggestion and one other, then made the gif smaller so I could use the same image hosting service.
1. Their tactics weren’t much different except in scope.