French journalist Nicolas Hénin wrote the best-selling Jihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State after he was released by ISIS in April last year, 10 months after they captured him from the Syrian town of Raqqa and held him in inhuman conditions. He was held hostage along with James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Alan Henning and David Haines, whose videotaped executions shocked the world. In his book, Hénin dwells at length on his ordeal. He also talks about his meeting with Mehdi Nemmouche, or ‘Jihadi John’, one of his kidnappers, many of whom watched Hollywood movies and appeared to have little association with Islamic ways. Hénin says that the exodus of refugees to Europe is a blow to IS propaganda that Western societies are not suitable for Muslims. “That is why they are targeting places like Paris for attack,” he says, emphasising that Europe must not fall prey to Islamist designs like the US did, which after 9/11 went for an indiscriminate war on Iraq, where the IS was born. The IS later expanded to Syria and now presides over the destiny of more than 10 million people. He spoke to Executive Editor Ullekh NP from Paris. Excerpts
As someone who has spent 10 months as a captive of the IS, what do you think are the key factors that motivate that organisation?
The IS is looking at the destruction of Western society. They want to force the rest of us to live in fear. They terrorise their own people and those elsewhere. They want to constantly provoke Western countries and make them respond in a manner that will be counter-productive to the interests of those countries. They are striving to change the mindsets of people in Western societies and to change the way they typically react.