Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Terrorists born out of "internal jihad"?

Abu Ghraib 'Scream' Trying to blog on an emotive topic, especially one that involves religion and politics is always going to be difficult. This post is to explore further the concept of 'root causes' of terrorism.

I already raised the point that assuming 'root causes' of terrorism could be a worrying because it might fail to take into account both sides of a conflict, but Anthony Daniels (AKA Theodore Dalrymple) in an article in City Journal (USA-based urban policy magazine) makes a strong case for the 'root causes' theory. He suggests that Islamic suicide bombers carry out attacks to resolve their "internal jihad". That is, they accept martydom as a way to remove very real conflicts in their psyche (at least in the case of the London bombings).
...the term "jihad" has two meanings: inner struggle and holy war. While the political meaning connotes violence, though with such supposed justifications as the defense of Islam and the spread of the faith among the heathen, the personal meaning generally suggests something peaceful and inward-looking. The struggle this kind of jihad entails is spiritual; it is the effort to overcome the internal obstacles—above all, forbidden desires—that prevent the good Muslim from achieving complete submission to God's will...

...however, these two forms of jihad have coalesced in a most murderous fashion. Those who died in the London bombings were sacrificial victims to the need of four young men to resolve a conflict deep within themselves (and within many young Muslims), and they imagined they could do so only by the most extreme possible interpretation of their ancestral religion.
Dalrymple goes on to describe this internal conflict and how it is formed when British male Muslims embrace both their traditional values and contemporary Western "popular culture" values in London. This inevitably leads to a conflict, especially concerning the role of women, as Dalrymple points out:
However similar young Muslim men might be in their tastes to young white men, they would be horrified, and indeed turn extremely violent, if their sisters comported themselves as young white women [of British ethnicity] do.
If this internal conflict is as widespread in young male British muslims as Dalrymple purports, then it gives credibility to the idea that there is a 'root cause' for the suicide-bomber mentality.
Muslims who reject the West are therefore engaged in a losing and impossible inner jihad, or struggle, to expunge everything that is not Muslim from their breasts. It can't be done: for their technological and scientific dependence is necessarily also a cultural one. You can't believe in a return to seventh-century Arabia as being all-sufficient for human requirements, and at the same time drive around in a brand-new red Mercedes, as one of the London bombers did shortly before his murderous suicide. An awareness of the contradiction must gnaw in even the dullest fundamentalist brain.
I'm interested to know what other people think of this idea. Your thoughts?

Image (top) derived from The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893, and images of the Abu Ghraib tortures from 2003-2005. Image (bottom) from Manila Indymedia
Technorati Tags: , , , , ,


Blogger Beeeetle said...

I have just read your post... and having recently had first hand experiences with the Muslim culture (in jakarta, during ramadan, going to Mosks and celebrating Idu Fitri), I would say that the point of view of a violent outbreak of a terrorist born out of their internal jihad has very very valid points.

I witnessed many young Muslims - men and women, in complete despair, not because of the circumstances of their lives, but because of their internal struggle during Ramadan to cleanse their own soul, the inner battle they fight.

I think I am going to ponder on your post a bit more before adding to the discussion...

great stuff tho...

December 07, 2005 4:47 pm  
Blogger Stewart said...

I think that, while it's almost impossible to know, for example, the individual psychological motives of each London bomber, or each Bali bomber, - and community outrage has made it difficult to even raise the issue, or to humanise these people - I think it's a key issue, because these 'terrorists' often come from vastly different backgrounds and seem to have little in common with each other. Some come from poor backgrounds and seem to be happy to exchange a martyr's death for a life of struggle and failure, while others like the recently deceased, Adelaide Uni-educated Azahari appear to have given up a prestigious and comfortable life for jihad.
There's also the big question of whether understanding these individuals' private motives and conflicts gets us one whit closer to solving them and eliminating the threat they pose to us. This is the classic liberal dilemma - we hope that being nice to or expressing sympathy for these deeply conflicted people will make all the difference, but unfortunately it's not that easy, and we're tempted to give in to the simplistic solution of calling them all terrorists and making war on them, just as they find simplistic solutions to their conflict by calling us all infidels and trying to blow us all up.

December 10, 2005 12:58 am  
Blogger Dima said...

Tough questions (as usual) which i am not sure have any single answer. There is a movie that was released recently, called "Paradise Now". It's a story of two Palestinian guys who are on they way to commit a suicide bombing, told from their perspective. I didn't see the movie yet, but there is growing debate over it. Some people view it as an attempt to justify their act. Others as an attempt to understand their motives. Others view it as a self criticism. Again, i didn't see it yet, but this may add more food for thought... (maybe not of course).

December 10, 2005 3:13 am  
Blogger Lisa said...

It seems to be agreed in these comments that the "inner conflict" does exist and it's a contributor to the development of a suicide bomber.

I see your point on the classic liberal dilemma, Stewart, but it makes the assumption that understanding something negative (or trying to) is the same as expressing sympath or even tacit approval. It's not really, or is it?

Dima, I'll look forward to your upcoming review of Paradise Now :) I did hear about this movie, but forgot about it until now.

December 11, 2005 11:56 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home