Home-Grown Terrorists

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

This was an entry I started Thursday, but abandoned due to writer's block. I've decided to add some new material to it since the subject seems to have been discussed quite a bit since then.

Via Matt Drudge comes this story of a young woman who needed to hear the word "No" a few times from her parents. She did not, and so she grew up to become a suicide bomber.

Speaking to the Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure, Degauque's parents, Jean and Liliane, described the typical growing pains of an adolescent girl. She had a talent, they said "for sticking with the difficult kids" . On one occasion they had to travel 170km to the Ardennes to find her. Of her boyfriends, her mother said: "I don't know how many there were."
In response to that last sentence, the first question that comes to my mind is, "Why?" At Capitalism Magazine, the following rings true. Sure. It's about the "American" Taliban, John Walker Lindh, but the lack of parental guidance certainly sounds familiar.

Yes, it is, and it's a pity that that didn't occur to her sooner. If she and Lindh had been less concerned with flaunting their open-mindedness and more concerned with developing their son's moral judgment, he wouldn't be where he is today. Walker is responsible for his own behavior and he will pay the price the law requires. But his road to treason and jihad didn't begin in Afghanistan. It began in Marin County, with parents who never said "No."
It is this lack of guidance on the part of liberal parents who are unable or afraid to teach standards of conduct to their children that explains why some Western children are drawn to Islam, and, more generally, why France is in so much trouble today.

The distinctive trait of Western civilization is that it is a this-worldly culture. We therefore know that life has requirements that can be discovered and met by reason. We do not cower before capricious gods demanding painful, nonsensical sacrifices. We know better than that. And our children would too, if we would, only teach them to think for themselves, starting with the word, "No". (And, when they are old enough, explaining why they should and should not do things in relation to how they can best live their lives.)

Unguided youths like Lindh and Degauque eventually crash and burn since they have never been taught that crucial survival skill of thinking for themselves. Unconfident and ruined, they look for guidance, and sometimes find sinister people all too willing to give them orders, to save them from having to face the task of thinking for themselves or having to worry about the earthly consequences of their actions.

I quote Wretchard of The Belmont Club again.
The Idea of France, not the hodgepodge of welfare benefits, Marxist obscurantism and world-weariness that is palmed off as sophistication, is what has to present itself as an alternative to the Green Banner of Islam. Otherwise it will be a contest between something and nothing.
More broadly speaking than America, or Belgium, or France, the problem is that we are failing to impart Western values to our children. This is why a benighted, impotent culture is able to pluck our youths away from us.

Ah! But I misspeak. It is the Islamists who view the young as property, to be detonated or not as some flea-bitten mullah dictates. Our youth do not "belong" to "us" or to anyone else. Our children have precious lives of their own to be enjoyed here on this earth -- if they develop their minds well enough to do so. In Friday's TIA Daily, Robert Tracinski ties these points together far better than I.
Most people accept the religion they were brought up with, or something close to it. So what would cause a non-Muslim European woman to convert to militant Islam?

This profile [link added] of the bomber, Muriel Degauque, indicates the kind of person to whom Islam appeals: it appeals to someone who is purposeless, drifting, and without values. For someone with no productive goals and no self-esteem--whether it is an indolent Saudi prince or a Dutch juvenile delinquent--Islam offers the promise of values, goals, and heroism--without the need for independent thinking or purposeful effort.
The lack of effort is appealing, I think, for both moral and psychological reasons. Morally, this is a symptom of an unwillingness to expend the great effort needed to achieve heroism, or even rectitude. Psychologically, many children raised without guidance are unpracticed at best in thinking for themselves, and those without goals haven't the basis to prioritize.

Interestingly, Daniel Pipes noted today that those who convert to Islam are at a significantly higher risk of becoming terrorists. Not to exonerate Islam, which is, as Irshad Manji points out, an unreformed religion, but I have a hunch that many of these converts are influenced by nihilism, be they children of leftists like John Walker Lindh or disaffected blacks like John Muhammad, before turning to Islam.

Meanwhile, over at the New Republic, there is a long article on why America has less home-grown terrorism than Europe. This article is close to correct about why.
An important contribution to Muslims' comfort with the United States comes not only from the diversity of the neighborhoods they live in, but from the diversity of the Muslims themselves within those neighborhoods. While Middle Easterners still constitute a plurality of foreign-origin American Muslims--at 49 percent of the American Muslim population--South Asians represent nearly 23 percent of the total American Muslim population, North Africans nearly 15 percent, and Iranians 13 percent. For Patel, the high levels of internal diversity within Muslim communities coupled with high levels of integration and have allowed American Muslims to avoid the theological and ethnic rigidities that often characterize Muslim discourse in the Middle East and South Asia. "There are no Muslim 'apostates' here," he says. "That's a huge thing." [bold added]
The word "diversity" explains why I said "close". America, though multicultralism has made significant inroads in recent years, is a truly pluralistic society. Fortunately, the fact that our immigrant Moslem population is not monolithic seems to serve somewhat as a counterweight for the effects of multiculturalism.

The article makes other errors as well, most notably in tending to downplay the role American converts to Islam play in terrorism, and at one point, even seriously propounding the idea that "U.S. society is harmonious with Koranic injunctions without even trying" (!). (Quick, someone let Osama bin Laden in on our little secret!) It also misses the significance of the following passage.
Abdul Rauf is as blunt. "If I read something like [Harvard Professor Samuel] Huntington, who posits a clash between the West and Islam, it's very easy for a certain number of individuals to start internalizing that identity." Indeed, at least some already are. Zogby found an astonishingly high proportion--a plurality of 38 percent--of American Muslims believe that Washington is waging a war on Islam, not terrorism. U.S. foreign policy can't be held hostage to threats of domestic terrorism, but policymakers ignore such dissatisfaction at their peril. Indeed, this resentment is especially dangerous given that Logan found that, despite current high levels of integration among American Muslims, segregationist trends are beginning to emerge. "[Muslim] groups are clustering more over time and becoming more separated from whites," he writes. Coupled with the marginal disillusionment observed by Skerry among second- and third-generation American Muslims, the current lack of sensitivity to Islamic concerns could prove disastrous for U.S. national security and American liberalism.
I would attribute the "segregationist trends" at least partly to the greater influence of multiculturalist doctrines. I also wonder whether second- and third- generation Moslems are, like so many other immigrant populations, well-enough assimilated to be affected by the more nihilistic elements of American culture in addition to both the worst elements of their native religion and the danger to children uniquely posed by affluence and permissiveness: aimlessness without consequences. I think that we are indeed safer than Europe in the short term, but that our dominant culture and multiculturalism could combine to give us problems later on.

-- CAV

1 comment:

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the comment and the link. I'll reiterate one thing from my email to you, since you pointed out that others could be confused by the point.

"Your point that many use 'multiculturalism' when they mean 'pluralism' is a good one which I've touched on from time to time before, but don't always think to make clear."

This leads nicely into your question, which is whether I agree with Russell Fox's post. I quote here at length the paragraph that contains what I think is the nut of it.

"Observations like this can't help but underscore the degree to which some kind of 'faith' is a necessary component in establishing the boundaries within which a free and also multicultural society can operate. If the riots in France are even remotely the result of an anger which comes from the French establishment's inability to educate and incorporate the many North African Muslims who have called France their home for decades now into the mainstream of French life--an education and incorporation which would surely require, given France's (I think admirable) commitment to the republican ideal, a rethinking of just what destiny French men and women ought to have confidence in--then I would argue that much of this year's unrest was foretold a couple of years back, in the midst of the "headscarf" controversy regarding the banning of 'blatant' (which in practice meant primarily Muslim) religious garb and symbols in the country's schools."

I agree that the riots ultimately are due to a failure on France's part to assimilate its immigrant population. I disagree with Fox on what the appropriate foundation for the identity of a pluralistic society would be. He attacks "secularism" as being "a poor tool for solidarity". Here, he is half-right and half-wrong. He is half-right in that secularism is not per se a positive thing. It is only a denial of the supernatural. It is not a coherent belief system alone, which is what France (or any other society) must have to remain cohesive. But it is a good thing. Read on.

Where is he half-wrong, then? Religion need not be the source for this identity. In fact, I woild argue that it cannot be. Fox himself acknowledges that religion can lead to "Balkanization".

So how can a pluralistic society exist? If it respects the principle of individual rights. What are "Freedom, Equality, and Brotherhood", if not benefits to the individual of being French?

Part of pluralism -- the proper kind, based on individual rights -- is religious freedom, which despite protestations of many on the religious right, is freedom FROM religion: everyone else's religion. A Christian cannot stone a Moslem for heresy or vice versa. Each is free from the temporal consequences of the other's religion.

This would not entail an aggressive campaign by the state to ban headscarves but for the unfortunate fact that France has a socialized educational sector and permitting headscarves would in effect put the government in the position of promoting Islam.

So the headscrf ban, in that context was legitimate. But it also occurred in the unfortunate context of a general failure to assimilate Moslems (and nonwhites) that had ben going on for quite some time. This legitimate government action thus served to remind the Moslems that they'd been treated as second-class citizens for quite a while already.

Had France been living up to its professed ideals, the headscarf ban wouldn't have been the "straw that broke the camel's back".

In fact, if individual rights were fully respected in France, all schools would be private, and there would be no need to ban headscarves in schools at all, but that's a post for another day.

Hope that helps.