Skip to comments.Why they blow up
Posted on 08/17/2007 3:32:36 AM PDT by Clive
The New York Police Department's new report on how Westernized Muslims become candidates for perpetrating terrorism is a valuable document. Tying together the narratives of terrorist activity that led to incidents or mass roundups in Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, England and Toronto, it lies halfway between classical journalistic reportage and investigative profiling. It succeeds as well as anyone has, inside or outside the employ of the state, in constructing a model of a homegrown terrorist's life path and thinking.
Potential Muslim terrorists, the report argues, undergo a number of predictable steps on the way to committing an unthinkable sacrifice of themselves and their compatriots. They tend to be middle-class males aged 15 to 35 -- ages when most thinking individuals are, to some degree, engaged in a search for meaning and a comprehensible place in a social framework. Overwhelmingly, they are the children or grandchildren of moderate Muslim immigrants for whom Islam is mostly a set of cultural practices (though very recent converts trying to be more Islamic-than-thou --like Steven Vikash Chand, the Fijian-Canadian army reservist accused of wanting to behead the prime minister -- are naturally vulnerable to Salafist conspiracy theories, too). They tend to be unremarkable but educated youths set apart from their families by the need for a connection with some all-encompassing worldview. Unlike the new immigrant, whose view of Islam is coloured by actual experience with life in a Muslim society, they require a concrete, uncompromising definition of what it means to be a Muslim. The well-funded and ubiquitous Salafist and Wahhabist literature offers the most seductive route.
The transformation, according to the NYPD's carefully compiled account, is hastened in many cases by purely personal crises, like death or divorce in the family. A mosque or other cultural institution may attract a grouping of such young men who exhibit the "signatures" of religious radicalism: renouncing vices like drinking and gambling, or growing a beard and switching to traditional Muslim clothing. Often, they will find a charismatic, self-taught "spiritual sanctioner" who is never involved in terrorist mission planning but who reinforces Salafist ideas and interprets all current events in terms of (as he sees it) the perpetual war be-tween Muslim and unbeliever.
Unfortunately, the prescribed policy responses that emerge from this analysis are not as simple or easily implemented as one might hope.
One of the implications that stands out is that strengthening the intellectual and moral credibility of moderate forms of Islam may be almost as important as suppressing Salafist influence. That sounds sensible. But young people with particularly intense personalities are never going to be satisfied with religious institutions that are little more than social clubs. One of the Toronto terror suspects, who enjoyed an ostensibly all-Canadian upbringing, is said to have written poetry about his unmet spiritual needs: "I want to find the light," he said, "but no one is there to guide me/ Open the door someone give me its key." The more interest he showed in Islamic doctrines and texts, the more he was suspected of being "extreme" by his fellow communicants -- and this became a self-fulfilling prophecy when a spiritual sanctioner happened along and exploited his sophomoric attitudes. Aside from planting undercover CSIS agents in every radical Canadian mosque (a step we support, by the way), it's not clear how such clique-borne terror plots can be reliably nipped in the bud.
Of course, addressing these subtle problems shouldn't distract from other obvious steps to protect society. Members of the Toronto group are said to have appeared publicly at a local mosque wearing combat fatigues, and apparently no member of that community thought this was worth mentioning to the authorities. Moderate Muslims apparently have some way to go toward accepting that signs of extremism are not to be tolerated, overlooked or stealthily admired. They should be reading the NYPD report with an open mind. It is they, not the rest of us, who are in the best position to ensure that "moderate" Islam wins the days.
Predictably, however, the report is being greeted with accusations of "stereotyping" from the usual suspects at the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. This is a sign of the times:Any real effort to analyze Muslim radicalism is denounced for the unpleasant truths it unearths --as if the main problem in our world wasn't Muslims blowing themselves up, but rather the unconscionably racist act of noticing their smoke plumes.
The report emphasizes that there is no way to identify someone who is vulnerable to militancy by his ethnicity, and stresses that most young men who fit the profile will never do any harm to another human. If honest efforts to understand and forecast terror are going to be protested in knee-jerk fashion by non-Muslim liberals and Muslim political groups, those same people ought not to be mystified later when they are accused of facilitating terror itself.
"If honest efforts to understand and forecast terror are going to be protested in knee-jerk fashion by non-Muslim liberals and Muslim political groups, those same people ought not to be mystified later when they are accused of facilitating terror itself."
Well, they could be. No Wahabbist Imams allowed to immigrate.
I am more afraid of quiet Muslim breeders than I am of the radical Muslim bloweruppers.
Moderate Islam does not need to be sitting around saying "calm down and have a cup of tea, Achmed", it needs to be saying "you are defying the living God and will burn in hell."
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.