Sunday, December 04, 2005

Islamic terrorism redefined

Francis Fukuyama's cult status as one of the foremost political thinkers in America today precedes him by a long shot. So when one sits down to read a piece by him that's been gathering plenty of eyeballs on the net, one naturally is a tad guarded himself. In a scathing critique of the conventional wisdom on Islamic terrorism, Fukuyama tears apart received notions of "jihadist terrorism as something produced in dysfunctional parts of the world, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan or the Middle East, and exported to Western countries." Speaking of the London and Madrid bombers, he elucidates on how none of them fit the conventional terrorist mould:

In addition to Bouyeri and the London bombers, the March 11 Madrid bombers and ringleaders of the September 11 attacks such as Mohamed Atta were radicalized in Europe. In the Netherlands, where upwards of 6% of the population is Muslim, there is plenty of radicalism despite the fact that Holland is both modern and democratic.

He delves on the problems in integrating Muslim youth in western cultures and the dicey menace of a nationless pan-Islamic identity:

In a traditional Muslim country, your religious identity is not a matter of choice; you receive it, along with your social status, customs and habits, even your future marriage partner, from your social environment. In such a society there is no confusion as to who you are, since your identity is given to you and sanctioned by all of the society's institutions, from the family to the mosque to the state.

The same is not true for a Muslim who lives as an immigrant in a suburb of Amsterdam or Paris. All of a sudden, your identity is up for grabs; you have seemingly infinite choices in deciding how far you want to try to integrate into the surrounding, non-Muslim society.

Contemporary Europeans downplay national identity in favor of an open, tolerant, "post-national" Europeanness. But the Dutch, Germans, French and others all retain a strong sense of their national identity, and, to differing degrees, it is one that is not accessible to people coming from Turkey, Morocco or Pakistan. Integration is further inhibited by the fact that rigid European labor laws have made low-skill jobs hard to find for recent immigrants or their children. A significant proportion of immigrants are on welfare, meaning that they do not have the dignity of contributing through their labor to the surrounding society. They and their children understand themselves as outsiders.

It is in this context that someone like Osama bin Laden appears, offering young converts a universalistic, pure version of Islam that has been stripped of its local saints, customs and traditions. Radical Islamism tells them exactly who they are--respected members of a global Muslim umma to which they can belong despite their lives in lands of unbelief. Religion is no longer supported, as in a true Muslim society, through conformity to a host of external social customs and observances; rather it is more a question of inward belief.

Fukuyama's observations on the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh acquire an ominous edge as Europe grapples with its first female suicide bomber, a white Belgian convert to Islam. Guardian reports on the personal story of Muriel Degauque. She died on a roadside in Baquba, north of Baghdad, when she blew herself up in an attack on an Iraqi police patrol on November 9. Five policemen were killed outright and a sixth officer and four civilians were seriously injured. Here.

No comments: