The Jordanian blogosphere is filled with reactions to the alleged involvement of Jordanian doctor Mohammad Asha in the UK terror plot. Blogger and journalist Batir Wardam is hoping that Asha is innocent, saying:
I am deeply in hope that Dr. Mohammad Asha (27) who is a Jordanian will turn out to be innocent from the suspicions of an alleged role in the planning of terror attacks in London and [Glasgow]. Not only because he is Jordanian but I feel very alarmed that the profile of Dr Asha is very far away from the typical terrorist, in fact he can be a replica of thousands of Arabs and Muslims trying to seek a career of excellence in Europe.
The story of Asha is all over the news here in the US. The Today program is showing a picture of him with Queen Noor. Nothing has been confirmed so far and he may turn out to be innocent as his family claims. But I think harm has already been done. Jordan’s name is now linked to this terror plot. What a shame! I do disagree with Batir on the issue of Asha’s profile. I’m of the opinion that the current "profile of a terrorist" is not that of the disenchanted and the unemployed. On the contrary, many of those involved in terrorism are highly educated. Here is an excerpt from today’s Washington Post:
Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy leader of the network, is an Egyptian-trained physician. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged chief planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacking plot, earned a degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina A&T University. The lead hijacker, Mohamed Atta, studied architecture. Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was educated as a civil engineer.
Meanwhile, blogger Firas is not surprised by the possible radicalization of Asha. Firas showed a more recent picture than above of Asha with him fully-bearded, something that could be interpreted by some as a shift towards extremism. He says:
If he is truly involved, there might be some explanation, and I’ve personally witnessed this: What happens is that Arab students go to study abroad in countries where political and religious freedoms are granted for all, say countries like: US,UK,Canada and Australia. Now these students get to know other Muslim students usually Pakistanis who got some extremists among them, and that’s when they are fed with all this crap. And this is out of personal experience (a close friend would stop talking to you, because you are a Christian,the guy was transformed in 5 months). As in Pakistan extremist groups and parties are deeply rooted in that country, and for an Arab student who finds him/herself in an alien culture and lately a hostile culture to Islam (think of post 9/11,the Danish cartoons,the Pope’s lecture,etc) these guys would have some affect.
Regardless of whether Asha is innocent or not, it is a shame to see Jordan’s name dragged into this. As if the effect of Zaraqwi on Jordan’s reputation was not enough!
UPDATE: The International Herald Tribune is running a story that highlights comments from Asha’s colleagues who are saying that he was "absorbed in his studies and had no ties to terrorism." The story quotes a Jordanian government source saying that British authorities described Asha as a "possible subject" not charged with any crime. The same source called connections to the physician "very sketchy."
Azmi Mahafzah, Mohammed Asha’s instructor at the University of Jordan medical school, said he knew Mohammed Asha during his studies and training from 1998 to 2004 and did not have the impression that he was religious. "He interacted with others, both boys and girls. He has no prejudices. He is not a fanatic type of person," he said. "I wouldn’t believe that he would risk a very, very bright future in medicine for going into such things. He’s very smart," Mahafzah said. He said Mohammed Asha graduated with top honors from his medical class.
Another colleague of Asha’s in Amman, Aseel al-Omari, described herself as a "close friend" of the Jordanian doctor. She said she knew him for the past decade since they attended a school for gifted students. The school, founded 14 years ago by Jordan’s Queen Noor to promote religious tolerance, is mixed — a rarity in this conservative Muslim society, which often separates the sexes.