Nidal Hasan, Abdulmutallab and Humam al-Balawi are jihadists who were educated and came from privileged middle- and upper-class backgrounds. Hasan was an American-trained U. S. Army doctor, Abdulmutallab was a London engineering student and the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker, and double-agent Dr. Humam al-Balawi was a member of the Jordanian professional class.
Many Westerners are confused by the willingness of university-educated middle-class Muslims to perpetrate barbarous acts of terrorism. It appears to be a reversal of the usual process: typically college students raised in religious households become more secularized by exposure to the humanities and sciences, and the rationalist values of the European Enlightenment.
Yet when embryonic jihadists attend Western universities they graduate with their faith intact: 9/11 terrorists Mohammed Atta and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were both beneficiaries of Western university educations.
These men, who sought to advance themselves with Western training and technical skills, ultimately turned against, and attempted to destroy, the very society that provided them with the means to that advancement. Instead of employing their newly acquired learning and knowledge to improve the lot of their fellow countrymen and co-religionists, they turned this very learning and knowledge against their Western benefactors.
This phenomenon begs the question: How do jihadists reconcile such hypocrisy and ingratitude in their own minds?
As the 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie proved, the list of Jihad’s grievances against the West is subtle and inventive. The exquisite sensitivities of the faithful guarantee the manufacture of injury and insult without end, providing inspiration for Islam’s perennial street theater; for no sooner does the Arab street grow tired of one threadbare grievance, e.g. Israel, than it discovers another in an irreverent Danish cartoon.
The familiar explanations for the fierce hatred of Muslim extremists for the West—the presence of Western military forces in sacred Arab lands, that holy war against infidels is a duty sanctioned by the Koran, or the millennial fantasy that a supreme caliphate is destined to rule the world—are as irrational as they are implausible.
For example, before 9/11, America’s military deployment in Islamic countries, in Bosnia, Kosovo and in Kuwait, had been in the defense of Islam itself; but for the timely intervention of American forces in these three places, tens of thousands of Bosnian and Albanian Muslims would have perished in an orgy ‘ethnic cleansing,’ and Kuwait (and eventually Saudi Arabia) would have become provinces of Iraq.
(The only other time Muslims were likely to encounter the U.S. military was when a Navy relief task force arrived with aid for victims of a natural disaster in an Islamic state like Bangladesh.) And though some imams, mullahs and ayatollahs may harbor utopian dreams of world domination and of heavenly rewards for martyrdom, it is hard to believe such apocalyptic visions could motivate educated Muslims.
There is evidently something else at play here.
Genetic biologists tell us that the principle stages of man’s evolution, from the fish to primate, can be discerned in time-lapse photography of the human embryo.
The evolution of the educated Muslim terrorist is one of those mysteries that, like human evolution, resides in the terms of the problem itself and is only waiting to be made explicit, i.e. the very fact of the terrorist’s contact with the West.
The common strand running through the backgrounds of middle-class jihadists is prolonged and close interaction with Western society, a clue in plain sight that is too often overlooked in the search for esoteric causation, such as religion and culture. Indeed, according to British historian Arnold Toynbee, contact with the dominant universal society is always the first step in the radicalization of Third World revolutionaries and terrorists.
Here is the critical path.....
Read it all at FPMWilliam Fankboner is the author of The Triumph of Political Correctness and A Hypertext Field Guide to Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media. He runs a web site at: http://home.roadrunner.com/~lifetime. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.