Friday, July 22, 2005

Why They Hate Us

Olivier Roy, a professor at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences and the author of "Globalized Islam,"has an op-ed in the New York Times attempting to explain just why Islamic extremists are blowing themselves up and attacking Western societies. Others will most certainly disagree with this piece, but I think it does make some strong points. For example, Roy argues that we need to look beyond the Western prescence in the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, we need to better examine 'the radicalization of young, Westernized Muslims.'
He has a point. Consider the recent bombings in London. These do not seem to be the actions of poor, ill-educated Muslim immigrants, but of radicalized and Westernized British Muslims. Roy argues that these young men have bought into the following idea:
From the beginning, Al Qaeda's fighters were global jihadists, and their favored battlegrounds have been outside the Middle East: Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and Kashmir. For them, every conflict is simply a part of the Western encroachment on the Muslim ummah, the worldwide community of believers.
Bin Laden's mentor, Abdullah Azzam, did not support the PLO because he felt that 'to fight for a localized political cause was to forsake the real jihad, which he felt should be international and religious in character.'
Roy also asks us to consider who exactly is involved in the terror attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bali, London, and other locales. He wonders why
"...if the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine are at the core of the radicalization, why are there virtually no Afghans, Iraqis or Palestinians among the terrorists? Rather, the bombers are mostly from the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, Egypt and Pakistan - or they are Western-born converts to Islam. Why would a Pakistani or a Spaniard be more angry than an Afghan about American troops in Afghanistan? It is precisely because they do not care about Afghanistan as such, but see the United States involvement there as part of a global phenomenon of cultural domination."

I would note that in Iraq at least, a significant percentage of the insurgents are certainly native Iraqis, though the most recent horror of murdered children was almost certainly the work of foreign jihadists. Still, he makes a good point. Much of the rage goes beyond simple Western involvement in Middle Eastern disputes.
Roy continues in the op-ed, arguing that this newest generation of terrorist, the radicalized and Westernized young Muslims, are no different than the 'Red' terrorists of the 1970's and 1980's, rebels seeking a cause and claiming to fight for a worldwide utopia they have no idea how to create. They are isolated, excluded, and angry young men turning to radical religion to find a place for themselves.
"What was true for the first generation of Al Qaeda is also relevant for the present generation: even if these young men are from Middle Eastern or South Asian families, they are for the most part Westernized Muslims living or even born in Europe who turn to radical Islam. Moreover, converts are to be found in almost every Qaeda cell: they did not turn fundamentalist because of Iraq, but because they felt excluded from Western society (this is especially true of the many converts from the Caribbean islands, both in Britain and France). "Born again" or converts, they are rebels looking for a cause. They find it in the dream of a virtual, universal ummah, the same way the ultraleftists of the 1970's (the Baader-Meinhof Gang, the Italian Red Brigades) cast their terrorist actions in the name of the "world proletariat" and "Revolution" without really caring about what would happen after."

As Roy points out, since Spain withdrew from Iraq, the Spanish police have continued to discover and prevent terror attacks in Madrid. Would pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan cause the Islamic terrorists to cease their actions? From Roy's point of view, probably not. Consider, for example, the fact that much of Bin Laden's early rhetoric was directed at American troops stationed on 'holy' Saudi ground (and was a justification for 9/11). Since American troops have left Saudi Arabia, he has found new reasons and new excuses for advocating terror against Western targets. His goal, and the goal of related Islamic terror groups, is the establishment of a pure Islamic caliphate encompasing the boundaries of the old Ottoman Empire, if not beyond.
Leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, while desirable, would not stop the terror attacks.
Roy finishes his piece with this disturbing close:
"The Western-based Islamic terrorists are not the militant vanguard of the Muslim community; they are a lost generation, unmoored from traditional societies and cultures, frustrated by a Western society that does not meet their expectations. And their vision of a global ummah is both a mirror of and a form of revenge against the globalization that has made them what they are."

A lost generation. Perhaps a good phrase to use in describing these young men who die for the ravings and rantings of self-proclaimed imams and religious scholars. The question I leave you with is simple: what do we do to save this 'lost generation'? How, indeed, do they save themselves?
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)
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