By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
The year 2020 was weird on so many levels, not the least of which was how central the “Online Global Nation” became to all of us. Virtual meetings, virtual school, virtual church services, virtual weddings, and virtual conventions became the norm. The wholesale move to having our laptops provide the lions’ share of our perception of reality and community set the stage for the US release of a disturbing and important documentary called Profile. It is important to this column because it underscores the fact that the War On Terror is far from over, in spite of the fact that bit by bit troops are coming home. We have probably only scratched the surface of warfare that is waged by keystrokes.
The true story is about an undercover French journalist who did a deep fake online in order to draw out and expose an ISIS recruiter. The woman’s cover story was that she was a 20-year-old recent convert to Islam, and was looking to grow spiritually and personally in her new faith. It didn’t take long for her “new friend” to begin singing the praises of both Allah and the country to which he was trying to draw her. That country happened to be Syria, and one of his proposals was indeed that — a proposal of marriage. “Syria is amazing,” the jihadist told her after making contact. “We have everything here. Masha’Allah (an expression of joy to Allah and delight in a person or situation), you have to believe me. It’s paradise! A lot of women fantasise about us; we’re Allah’s warriors.”
The purpose of the “op” was to gain understanding of what the journalist, who had the manufactured name of Mélodie, described as an attempt to “grasp the mindset of soldiers who spent their days torturing, stealing, raping, killing, and their nights staring into their computers and bragging.”
It turns out that the recruiter, who went by the name of Bilel, was directly connected to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, one of the head honchos of the Islamic State. Al-Baghdadi was killed in 2019 by Special Forces, and as always, his death was hailed and hated, depending on who you asked.
Mélodie went on to write a book entitled In The Skin Of A Jihadist, which was then made into the movie, Profile. The book was a non-fiction bestseller, and the movie pulled down several foreign film awards. Yet, it was not available for viewing in the US. That all changed, though, when Focus Features made it possible to be seen in the States, and the release date is May 14.
Mélodie has paid a high personal price to produce this important piece. Eventually it was discovered that she was not who she claimed to be, and she had to be put into police protection. She is now officially unable to do any more work re: exposing ISIS because it is just too dangerous. She has had to change her phone number twice, her life has been disrupted, but at the end of the day she doesn’t mind. “Drastic safety measures have been implemented” is all she’ll say about her new role in the Global War On Terror, and may God send His angels to watch over her and hers.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner