"People wonder why our religious teacher, who seemed so gentle was willing to wage Jihad for Allah in Syria," so opens the NYT video that tracks the life of Mohd Lotfi Ariffin, a Malaysian Jihadist, who died in September 2014 fighting President Bashar al-Assad
In the nine-minute long video, titled The Jihadist in Our Family, Mohd Zainol Ariffin, brother of slain Mohd Lotfi Ariffin, is shown telling students at a madrasah in Kedah that they should follow Lotfi's path if they wished to become martyrs in the name of Islam
Mohd Lotfi Ariffin was among several Malaysians who travelled to Syria to join militant groups such as the Islamic State. Aged 46, he bid his wife and six children goodbye in early 2014. The former Kedah PAS Youth information chief wished to achieve martyrdom.
As per a BBC report from August 2014, Mohd Lotfi Ariffin was engaged in Jihad, fighting against Bashar al-Assad. The report, citing his Facebook account, said that he was based in the city of Hama.
He claimed to be a member of Ajnad al-Sham, which he said is loosely linked to the al-Nusra Front. As per the report, he disavowed any links to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), now called the Islamic State (IS).
Mohd Lotfi died in September 2014 following an ambush on rebel militants. In the NYT video, his brother Mohd Zainol Ariffin describes slain Lotfi's path as a noble one, pointing out that he had to leave his family and friends behind to fight for his beliefs.
19-year-old Yusran Budiman, one of the students shown in the video, said he was inspired by Lotfi. "If we want to go to heaven, we have to die with honour. One of the easiest ways is to die a martyr. So personally, I would like to die a martyr," said Yusran.
The NYT video, which has been made by journalist Poh Si Teng, a Penangite now based in US, also features Lotfi's eldest son Ahmad Salahuddin. He said that when they heard of Lotfi's death, the family was thankful because he had achieved martyrdom.
The video then cuts to slain Lofti's brother Mohd Zainol, who says:
"We are proud because we have a teacher who is pious and who was willing to fight for Islam with his body, life and soul. And so as students, we should learn from him, our teacher who has left us."
Watch the original video over here, which, as one Facebook user remarked, provides a humanising perspective of those joining Jihad in Syria; the people featured help disentangle a stereotype