Monday, June 05, 2006

The Motivations of Terror

Mohammed Abdelhaleen, father of suspect Shareef
Abdelhaleen, leaving courthouse (Nathan Denette/CP)

By now, it seems clear that the suspects arrested by Canadian police are "home-grown" terrorists. Almost all of them are Canadian citizens or at least permanent residents. Most of the younger individuals have lived in Canada for a long time. They also seem to have been very well-integrated. The Toronto Star described three of the suspects as follows:
They were the popular kids, outspoken, always getting the laughs and experiencing all the regular teenage angst. At Mississauga's Meadowvale Secondary School, Saad Khalid, Fahim Ahmad and Zakaria Amara — Zak, to his Grade 9 pals — were close friends and though they were observant Muslims, back in 2001 they spoke mainly of girls rather than Islam.
As anyone who knows the multicultural reality of Canadian cities and their suburbs can attest, Mississauga is no French banlieu. And still, somehow, in the wake of 9/11, these youths, perhaps directed by some older members at the fundamentalist mosque they attended, became filled with resentment at "the West," Israel, and even Canada, which they imagined had begun persecuting Muslims. Apparently, they attended a "training camp" north of Toronto, where they filmed themselves taken part in exercises that seemed inspired by al Qaeda videos (think camouflage and monkey bars).

The suspects allegedly became angry enough to attempt to smuggle guns across the border and to purchase three tonnes of ammonium nitrate (from undercover cops), which they hoped to use to blow up such buildings as the CN Tower.

If even Canada can inspire this kind of resentment in young people, a number of whom were university students, and most of whom lived privileged suburban lives, those who continue to insist that certain socio-economic grievances and objective conditions of political oppression are to blame for Islamist terrorism look increasingly silly.

It is true that many of these would-be terrorists and their apologists imagine that Christians and Jews (i.e., Crusaders and Zionists) are oppressing Muslims around the world. But it's time to subject these perceptions of oppression to the kind of criticism they deserve.

Last year, the father of one of the suspects, Tariq Abdelhaleem, issued a fatwa "against innovation in Islam." A Globe and Mail journalist drew attention to those earlier statements this week:
"Our Muslim brothers and sisters are dying in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Chechnya and other parts of the world," [Abdelhaleem] had written at the time on his website. "The puppet systems that are in power in the Islamic world are collaborating with the Crusaders and Zionists to keep the ummah [Muslim community] under oppression."
Interestingly enough, the reporter, Colin Freeze, also spoke to Abdelhaleem the younger:

It was in the basement that I met his son Shareef, and several of his friends, all young professionals eager to express their own views to a non-Muslim writer. They, too, were outraged by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. And they wanted to discuss racial profiling.

They were all upset, but they never appeared extremist. Now, one year later, 30-year-old Shareef Abdelhaleem was chained to other suspects, his anxious eyes meeting his father's wounded gaze in court.

Maybe it will turn out that Shareef Abdelhaleem is innocent; that he had nothing to do with terrorism. But obviously some of those around him listened to his father, the imam. It is hard to avoid the impression that these young men have convinced themselves that Muslims are being unjustly oppressed - whether by having their countries invaded or by being subject to racial profiling. Muslims are eternal victims. This mindset in turn transforms terrorist attacks on Canadian citizens and institutions (proxies for the oppressors of the ummah) into righteous violence. But it is patently absurd to regard these men as victims; and it is perverse to portray Canada as an oppressor of either them or other Muslims.

Canadian MP Wajid Khan recalled a conversation that he had a year ago with one of the older men arrested in the sweep, Abdul Qayyum Jamal:
[Jamal] said Canadian troops were (in Afghanistan) to rape Muslim women. That's exactly where I stopped him and said, "I don't talk nonsense," (CTV).
These would-be terrorists, like far too many people in the Muslim world today, are the victims of their own delusions, which have been fuelled by their anti-imperialist apologists on the radical left.


Derek said...

I am genuinely curious how much encouragement leftist ideologues actually create for islamists and jihadists to commit terrorist acts. It's probably more likely in Canada. When Chomsky meets with Hezbollah it makes me angry but I think it's more because it discredits the Left in the eyes of the Right. I just don't think that Arundhati Roy was the motivation for any Sunnis to fight for freedom in Iraq. Maybe the legitimacy filters from western leftists to Sunni moderates to terror apologists or something.

This week's "This American Life" has an interesting and sort of funny piece about Omar Bakri. It's the second story in a show called "Them"

Amos said...

Yes, I think you're right that it's in places like France, Britain, the Netherlands, and Canada where some of these ideologues (I wouldn't necessarily call them leftists) create a discursive climate that emboldens young European or N. American Muslims to turn against the societies amidst which they grew up.

I don't think Chomsky should be seen as a representative of the "left." Unless you would call people like Khomeini or Brezhnev leftists.

Arundathi Roy is a flake.