Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Suicide bombers--or, what happened to Mohammed Bouyeri?


First of all, I don't think that suicide bombing represents the collapse of civilization, a moral low for the human race, or even a new tactic. As horrific as it appears to those of us who could never picture ourselves doing something similar, it is an effective and destructive means of making one's point. But history is full of examples of brutal violence--read about the practice of kamikaze
here--and if we just chalk these acts up to some nice metaphysical term like 'immorality' or 'blind hatred,' we will completely fail to understand them.

I suppose the extreme conservative reason for the current wave of bombings, from 9/11 to the ongoing Iraqi and Palestian insurgencies, is that the bombers hate our freedom and prosperity; conversely, the extreme liberal reason would be something about how American hegemony has oppressed them and they have nowhere else to turn. Neither of these explanations is satisfactory, because they don't take any psychological factors into account.

While most of today's suicide bombers are young Islamic men, that is as far as you are going to get demographically. They're not necessarily poor, they're not necessarily uneducated, and they probably believe that they are carrying out their mission for a plurality of factors: money, respect, pride, war, loyalty, anger, protest, etc. For example, you can read about Theo Van Gogh's killer
here. He was an upstanding, middle class member of his community until he was taken in by a radical mosque:

"Mohammed was never a hangabout. On the contrary, he had a good high-school education, and was known to his teachers as a promising young man. He was, as they say in the neighborhood, a positivo, who would surely make it in Dutch society. Not just ambitious for himself, Mohammed was always helping out troubled Moroccan kids, making plans for a youth program at his old school, and writing uplifting articles for a neighborhood bulletin. He was someone who could talk to city councillors and social workers. He knew his way around the intricate byways of Holland’s generous welfare system, where applying for subsidies is an essential skill. Things didn’t quite work out as Mohammed had hoped, however. A subsidy for a community center he’d been lobbying for was turned down. A promised renovation scheme for public housing never materialized. His mother’s death came as a shock. That year, Mohammed abandoned his studies in social work, went on welfare, and behaved in ways that were increasingly odd. In a meeting with community officials, he loudly proclaimed that Allah was the only God. He gave up alcohol, prayed all the time, refused to shake hands with women, and drifted to a fundamentalist mosque, El Tawheed." (Bold mine.)

What we forget is that behind every suicide bomber is a comfortable, powerful, well-fed, influential, angry Islamic cleric actively touting suicide or murder as an attractive option. One never sees a turban-wearing, serious-looking older gentleman carrying out such a mission: the mullahs are content to hold court from their mosques, and remain the engine driving the destruction from behind the scenes. The suicide bombers are just a weapon being cleverly manipulated and wielded effectively. Whether or not what they do takes some amount of courage is utterly irrelevant. The clerics are the real cowards, hidden behind robes and fiery speeches and comfortable ensconced in mosques and palaces.

We need to shift our focus in order to understand this crisis. Until Frenchmen start blowing up American malls, 'hatred of America' is an inadequate explanation.


At 11:56 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

Sounds about right to me. Is there any movement in the Islamic world to overthrow the mullah's? It sounds like they're the Islamic projection of the oppressive other class we're more familiar with seeing in robber barons, tyrannical kings, or corrupt clergy.

At 10:34 AM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

Its just like the Catholic Church and the Crusades. The clergy tells the people that their sins will be forgiven and they will get an automatic pass into heaven -- something other people have to work for -- if they join in violence against a group of 'infidels'. (Ironic that they use that word for us now, since its the exact word used for them during the Crusades). Radical, fundamentalist muslim teachers teach that their is an extra Pillar of Islam, I believe an eighth. That Pillar is martyrdom and jihad. They teach that if a muslim dies as a martyr fighting jihad then they get to the highest part of heaven automatically (lots of virgins to attend to them and all that). For other muslims its just a scale -- when you die Allah weighs your good works against your bad and uses the result to decide your place in heaven, or hell. From Christian history we know that the pressure of trying to live a righteous life is overwhelming, and thats without following many of the strict social laws that the muslims have to follow. I suppose that the average muslim person often feels despair, knowing that there is little hope that they can achieve more good than bad in their lifetime. So, the offer of automatic amnesty so quickly (I would say easily, because its a lot easier to die once than to live perfectly every day, but whether it is easy to die or not is not relevant to the point) is irresistable. These people are killing innocent people with suicide bombings not because they hate us (although that probably happens too), not because our way of life offends them, not because we've taken their land, not for any reason except that they are taught that doing so will cover up a lifetime of sins. If that were the truth, could any of us resist?

At 10:45 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

Islam usually has 5 pillars:

The 'Five Pillars' of Islam are the foundation of Muslim life:

Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad;
Establishment of the daily prayers;
Concern for and almsgiving to the needy;
Self-purification through fasting; and
The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.

so I guess martyrdom and jihad would be the 6th.


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