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August 23, 2006
Fast-Food Jihadists In Britain

Der Spiegel provides an extensive look at the background of the British conspirators who plotted attacks on international flights, now detained by the UK. After repeatedly noting neighbors' evaluation of the young men as "nice boys", DS makes an interesting point about the twisted perspective of homegrown jihadis:

About 100,000 people live in this idyllic commuter town, which seems to have preserved many of the more pleasant aspects of old England without ignoring the present. When the British Empire disintegrated, about 15,000 Pakistanis moved to High Wycombe, which would eventually boast one of the island's first ethnic Asian mayors. The town is widely seen as a "successfully integrated community."

But for at least one resident of High Wycombe, Jennifer Baker, the world is no longer what it once seemed. Baker lives at Number 17, Hepplewhite Close. Late in the night of August 10, several police cars stopped in front of a house down the street, Number 31, and dragged a man from a red Nissan Micra, a man Baker says was always a "particularly nice boy."

This particularly nice boy was named Don Stewart-Whyte until six months ago, when he converted to Islam and took the name Abdul Waheed. He and 23 accomplices were accused of having plotted to blow up 12 airliners en route from Britain to the United States. According to Home Secretary John Reid, the authorities had amassed "substantial evidence" against the would-be attackers. This evidence presumably includes intercepted emails and wiretapped phone conversations, but also large sums of money, weapons and bomb-making chemicals. A suitcase containing explosive chemicals was found in woods near High Wycombe on Thursday. Videos featuring the likely martyrs surfaced on Friday, and on the same day authorities in the Pakistani city of Bahawalpur arrested Matiur Rehman, a high-ranking al-Qaida terrorist believed to be behind the thwarted attack.

The story seems eerily similar to the report on the Toronto homegrown jihadis written by the Globe & Mail two months ago. Once again, a Western nation has a number of its citizens, the children of apparently fully-integrated immigrants, turning into Islamist terrorists. The same disaffection with Western culture appears as a theme in both stories, along with the helpful appearance of charismatic Islamist imams and teachers who help transform the young adults into walking timebombs, quite literally.

Der Spiegel refers to these converts as "fast-food jihadists", and the description has its advantages. None of them seem particularly oppressed by the culture they rejected, either in Britain or in Canada. Most of them came from middle-class families. Yet all of them went through some kind of identity crisis that one would have expected from their immigrant parents and not from the assimilated generation of native-born Britons and Canadians. The suspects went shopping for a new philosophy and seized upon the easy, quick, and satifying answer that everyone around them was to blame for their unhappiness.

However, Der Spiegel's description of a "fast-food Mohammed" doesn't ring true. If anything, it is the West that has a fast-food image of Islam's founder, a military conqueror and a strict administrator whose history hardly embodies the concept of peace. The description of Mohammed's exploits in the Qu'ran is what attracts these followers; they do not accept the historically illiterate notion of Mohammed as a peace-bringer. Moderate Islam teaches the history of Mohammed in its historical context; after all, those centuries were a time of conquest, an era that only ran out in the early 20th century. Literal teachings of Mohammed do not give a warm and fuzzy image to the first Muslim, and Der Spiegel seems confused at best in that passage.

One question may nag readers: why have we not seen the homegrown jihadis here in the US? Well, we have, but not to the extent that the British and Canadian examples show. That does not mean they don't exist -- it means we have not discovered any at this time. The only analogous examples we have are John Lindh and Jose Padilla, and the less-than-intelligent ring of would-be terrorists captured in Florida. AQ would love to have native jihadis carry out an attack here, and I'd be surprised if they haven't met with some success in organizing something.

How can we prevent these disaffected citizens from transforming into traitors? Perhaps we can start by teaching children early about why Western freedoms and liberty hold the best promise for prosperity and happiness, and that life has intrinsic value. If we stop derogating our own culture and history, our children may learn to value it. They won't then be tempted to sample drive-through philosophy in any form, especially the most virulent kinds.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 23, 2006 4:54 AM

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