Ching-Chong, Big Boss, and other jihadi pet names

Most readers of this blog will know that jihadis very often take noms de guerre of the type “Abu Muhammad al-Britani”. These are called kunyas and represent an age-old Arab naming tradition.

But in some jihadi groups we also find distinctly less pompous pet names. Recently, a series of trials against a network of radical Islamists in Norway revealed a fascinating array of nicknames used inside the group. Here are some of them:

– “Ching Chong” – used of a half Filippino convert of Asian complexion named Torleif Angel Sanchez Hammer

– “The Yellow One” (Gulingen) – also used of Sanchez Hammer

– “Filippo” – also used of Sanchez Hammer

– “Chile” – used of the Norwegian-Chilean convert Bastian Vasquez

– “Chocolata” – used of Djibril Bashir, who was of Somali extraction

– “Vanilla” – used of the more light-skinned Valon Avdyli, whose family was from Kosovo

– “Big Boss” – used of Shamal Haghghi, who reportedly was corpulent.

These names were used endearingly, only among good friends, and mostly while they were in Norway. The same individuals also had kunyas or other Arabic names which they seem to have used in slightly more formal settings, such as when they met with new people.

The names are interesting for several reasons. For one, they are secular and very informal and presumably could have emerged within any multiethnic bunch of guys in the West. For another, several of them are racialized and politically incorrect, reminiscent of the the n-word as used between African-Americans. Finally these names suggest a playful group atmosphere in which gentle teasing was common. To me they’re also further evidence that there is a distinct Western jihadi culture which has taken up many elements of European and American street culture, most visibly in the domain of dress. 

I have not come across many examples of this type of nicknames from other jihadi groups in the West, but that’s perhaps just for lack of sources. In this case I was lucky to get information from Erlend Ofte Arntsen, a journalist who attended all the trials and took notes of the chat logs and other evidence in which the nicknames came up. (By the way, Arntsen has written an excellent book about Norwegian foreign fighters in Syria which I highly recommend to anyone who can read Norwegian.) 

A cat named “7/7″ and the rise of jihadi low culture

So far the Bored Jihadi has been primarily concerned with jihadi “high culture”, such as poetry, anashid, religious rituals and the like. But jihadis also do things that are mundane, cheesy, or just plain crude. I was reminded of this when reading this story about a trio of British IS sympathisers:

The men were obsessed with the murder of Lee Rigby and Nadir Syed described one of his killers, Michael Adebolajo, as a “diamond geezer”.

He also had an image of Adebolajo with the soldier’s dismembered body and other images of beheading victims and suicide bombers on his phone. […]

The court heard that Yousaf Syed had called his cat “7/7” while Nadir Syed had “77911” as the pin code on his mobile phone, which he bragged to police over.

Jurors were shown a video of the Syeds standing in a street and stamping on a poppy as they giggle and smirk. One of them says: “May the poppy go to hell inshallah”.

There are obviously lots of other examples of jihadi low culture, ranging from the harmless, such as the obsession with cat pictures and western sweets, to the truly vicious, like playing football with severed heads and taunting executed gays. I have the distinct impression that there is more of this kind of lumpenjihadism nowadays than back in the 80s and 90s. But maybe it’s just me getting old and nostalgic. 

PS: I couldn’t find a picture of “7/7″ but here’s “Lucy” sitting inside a suicide belt.