[COMMENT: Another insight into the current Islamic violence. I think Ignatius is largely right, that the violence will be turned around mostly by Muslims who are getting badly hurt by it. But I fear that the Koran and the nature of Islam will make it very difficult to Islam to become primarily respectful of other religions, and opt for honest dialogue rather than violence. Pray for them. And for Christians to understand honest pluralism. E. Fox]
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
When you read reports that the Muslim terrorists who bombed the London
Underground may have gotten together for a pre-attack whitewater rafting
trip in Wales, you realize that this is a very particular enemy -- and one
that is recognizable to students of history.
This is the revolt of the privileged, Islamic version. They have risen so
far, so fast in the dizzying culture of the West that they have become
enraged, disoriented and vulnerable to manipulation. Their spiritual leader
is a Saudi billionaire's son who grew up with big ideas and too much money.
He created a new identity for himself as a jihad leader, carrying the
banner of a pristine Islam from the days of the Prophet Muhammad. The
zenith of his warped amalgam of ancient and modern was having holy warriors
fly airplanes into skyscrapers.
Reading some of the London bombers' biographies, you realize the depth of
their cultural confusion: "Shahzad Tanweer, 23, came from one of Beeston's
most respected families," wrote the London Independent about one of the
July 7 bombers. And according to The Post, he had just received a red
Mercedes from his dad.
This is not Patty Hearst or the Weather Underground -- it's a far more
deadly revolt of privilege. But people who were students in the 1960s will
remember the phenomenon: the idealistic kids from elite public and private
schools who went to college, felt guilty about their comfort amid a brutal
world and joined the Progressive Labor Party to ally with oppressed Third
World workers. There is a cult aspect to this jihad -- an extreme version
of the logic that has always drawn disaffected kids to self-destructive
Take a tour of some of the jihadist Web sites and you'll see a kind of
fantasy world -- in which angry, alienated Muslims are stewing in scenarios
of revenge. Young Muslims can buy videos of Iraqi insurgents setting off
roadside bombs and firing mortars in "Iraqi R.A.W." and "Iraqi R.A.W. 2:
The Anger Brigade." Or they can travel with Chechen fighters in "Russian
Hell," Vols. 1, 2, 3 and 4.
The Islamic extremists are often described as "Salafists," and it's
interesting to explore just what this says about their spiritual moorings.
The Arabic word salaf means "past," and the Salafists are often said to be
trying to re-create the pure values of the ancient ones who were the
According to Vincenzo Oliveti in his fine study of the Salafists, titled
"Terror's Source," their religious teaching casts aside the traditional
canon -- the "Sunna" that make up Sunni Islam -- in favor of a
have-it-your-way smorgasbord. A favorite saying of the Salafists, according
to Oliveti, is nahnu rijal wa hum rijal , which he translates loosely as
"We are all men so why should we accept that anybody knows better than us?"
What will stop this revolt of privileged Muslims? One possibility is that
it will be checked by the same process that derailed the revolt of the rich
kids in America after the 1960s -- namely, the counter-revolt of the poor
kids. Poor Muslims simply can't afford the rebellion of their wealthy
brethren, and the havoc it has brought to the House of Islam. For make no
mistake: The people suffering from jihadism are mostly Muslims.
I can't imagine that the poor Egyptians who've been struggling to make a
living in the resort towns around Sharm el-Sheikh are too happy this week.
The jihadists who came bumping over the mountains to detonate last
weekend's bombs may have been thinking of the 72 virgins that awaited them
in heaven. But the Egyptian fellah is thinking about where he's going to
get his next paycheck to feed his family.
And I can't imagine that the poor Iraqis whose families are being blown
away by daily suicide bombs feel a great kinship with the Saudi jihadists
who have been slipping across the border via Syria, trying to slake their
angst about modern life through martyrdom.
There is a ferment in the Islamic world that is pushing for change, not
death. I had a glimpse into it last week at a fascinating compilation of
recent Iranian films, sponsored by, of all things, a Pentagon strategy
group called the Highlands Forum. It was described as an evening of
"strategic listening," and we watched a stunning documentary called "Zinat:
One Special Day," about an Iranian woman in a poor village who dares to run
for her local council. The men of her village have talked and talked about
paving the road and never gotten it done. She defies the traditionalists.
She wins the election; she paves the road. That's the power that will turn
back the jihad of the privileged.
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