Wednesday January 13, 2010
Jihadists and the "Wretched of the Earth"
One of the striking things in the three most recent high profile jihadist
attacks -- the "Underpants Bomber," the Ft. Hood assassin and the attacker on the CIA base in Afghanistan -- has been the attackers themselves.
While many studying terrorism have understood that the threat is not from the dispossessed of the earth, but from an educated elite in the semi-Westernized (or completely Westernized) world who radicalize in different ways.
Yet there is still a policy, going back many years and continued now, that aims at a completely different social and economic demographic -- the poor and wretched of the earth who are believed to be angry at the U.S. and the West for its policies in the Middle East.
We spend vast amounts of money to convince one group that we have virtually no way to reach that they should like us, while having little strategy to deal with those who have repeatedly shown themselves to be the greater danger.
Yet we have Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a a doctor who was the son of middle-class, English-speaking Jordanians; Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who grew up in a wealthy Nigerian family and studied at University College London; and Nidal Hasan, who was born in Arlington, graduated from Virginia Tech and did his psychiatric residency at Walter Reed.
One of the chief radicalizing influences in the case of the latter two was Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who did not rise out of the teeming ghettos or dirt-poor villages, but family that lived in the United States, a country he returned to in order to study at George Washington University.
Perhaps this will put an end to the myth of the poor and wretched jihadist
waging a form of religious class struggle.
As Anne Applebaum wrote in the Washington Post,
we are seeing a "international jihadi elite" that resembles international elites of the Bolshevik days who were no more working class than the Tsar. As she notes:
These people are not the wretched of the Earth. Nor do they have much in common, sociologically speaking, with the illiterate warlords of Waziristan. They haven't emerged from repressive Islamic societies such as Iran, or been forced to live under extreme forms of sharia law, as in Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, they are children of ambitious, "Westernized" parents who sacrificed for their education -- though they are often people who, for one reason or another, didn't "make it," or didn't feel comfortable, in their respective societies.
What makes this slice of Islamists so difficult to counter is that they move with ease in Western societies, acquire passports or citizenship in countries that do not arouse suspicion, and have no ethical difficulties in hiding their Islamist beliefs if necessary to advance the cause of
How to counter this is something we should spend much more time on than trying to figure out how to get the average Yemeni to embrace Western liberal democracy.
One of the fascinating things to note is the perceived affinity by many of the international jihadists with the radical left or radical right. Defne Bayrak, the wife of al Balawi, wrote a book titled "Bin Laden: Che Guevara of the East," apparently trying to link the two to liberation struggles of the poor. Iran's Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez (along with his acolyte, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega) regularly link the authoritarian governments of the Bolivarian revolution with the repressive Muslim revolution of Iran.
On the other side, one of the great deniers of the Holocaust was Ahmed Hubber, a neo-Nazi leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, and others like him.
It is interesting to note that Hubber, like Chávez and those who claim the mantle of the revolutionary left, was welcomed by Ahmadinejad. Perhaps that is because all three totalitarian tendencies, from the neo-Nazi to the 21st Century Socialism to Islamism, have more in common than any of them would care to recognize.
POSTED BY DOUGLAS FARAH