The Atlantic Online | June 2003 | The Logic of Suicide Terrorism | Bruce Hoffman

15 Jul

This is well worth reading.

…The terrorists are lethally flexible and inventive. A person wearing a bomb is far more dangerous and far more difficult to defend against than a timed device left to explode in a marketplace. This human weapons system can effect last-minute changes based on the ease of approach, the paucity or density of people, and the security measures in evidence. On a Thursday afternoon in March of last year a reportedly smiling, self-satisfied bomber strolled down King George Street, in the heart of Jerusalem, looking for just the right target. He found it in a crowd of shoppers gathered in front of the trendy Aroma Café, near the corner of Agrippas Street. In a fusillade of nails and other bits of metal two victims were killed and fifty-six wounded. Similarly, in April of last year a female suicide bomber tried to enter the Mahane Yehuda open-air market—the fourth woman to make such an attempt in four months—but was deterred by a strong police presence. So she simply walked up to a bus stop packed with shoppers hurrying home before the Sabbath and detonated her explosives, killing six and wounding seventy-three.

Suicide bombing initially seemed the desperate act of lone individuals, but it is not undertaken alone. Invariably, a terrorist organization such as Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement), the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), or the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has recruited the bomber, conducted reconnaissance, prepared the explosive device, and identified a target—explaining that if it turns out to be guarded or protected, any crowded place nearby will do. “We hardly ever find that the suicide bomber came by himself,” a police officer explained to me. “There is always a handler.” In fact, in some cases a handler has used a cell phone or other device to trigger the blast from a distance. A policeman told me, “There was one event where a suicide bomber had been told all he had to do was to carry the bomb and plant explosives in a certain place. But the bomb was remote-control detonated.”

Not martyrs but murderers. Repeat. Not martyrs but murderers.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAnd so what about that bigoted old fool in Melbourne? The Daily Terror, as you can see, is giving him the full jingoistic tabloid paranoid works. But the point is not, surely, that he is an Australian citizen. The point is he’s a bigoted old tosser whose opinions are manifestly worthless, a pin-up boy for everything that intelligent Muslims, indeed intelligent people, everywhere should roundly reject. But he has a right to his opinions.

Unfortunately the kind of paranoid antisemitic filth that seems to inhabit his mind is only too prevalent both on the loony fringes of White Amerika (it is amazing how much Neo-Nazis and this old fool have in common) and in the sewers of the Islamic world. As even The Terror reports, but way down in the article past where its more intellectually challenged readers are likely to go:

His inflammatory comments have stirred an undercurrent of discontent among Australian Muslims and even calls for his removal . Many Muslim-orientated websites and chat rooms have accused senior clerics of making statements that are in poor taste and a misrepresentation of the Islamic community’s actual perspective.

Some members of chat groups have gone so far as to state: “We tell Omran to shut his mouth. If he doesn’t, we disown him.” One contributor wrote: “He comes along and has his two minutes of fame on Lateline and says things that hijack the entire campaign [against the new anti-terror laws].”

Kuranda Seyfi Seyit, executive director of FAIR Australia, an Islamic organisation and newspaper publisher, shares the growing concern. “Omran has a very ludicrous and extreme point of view that is held by a small minority which is not upheld by the Islamic community,” Mr Seyit said yesterday. He said Australia’s most senior Muslim cleric, Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly was never held as a leader for the whole Islamic community and only had that position in Lakemba mosque. “[Hilaly] does not share the mainstream moderate [Islamic] view . . . Muslim should assist authorities against suspicious activity of any radical groups in society” Mr Sayit said.

Let’s hear more of the same from you Aussie Mossies! Loud and clear! Reject these bigots in your midst, as we all should, wherever bigotry raises its destructive flag. Christians too have quite a bit of rejection to do…

Wouldn’t it be nice to see seven-day-creationists seen by all as the joke they are, and Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Salman Rushdie freely studied in the madrasas of Pakistan.

But as Wikipedia notes: “A bigot will continue to hold these opinions even when confronted with evidence that challenges such stereotypes. To protect his views, he may either dismiss the challenges he encounters as an aberration to the norm and ignore the fact that they threaten to undercut his prejudices. On a more extreme level, he may deny the evidence altogether. Both reactions can be classified as forms of cognitive dissonance.” God there’s a lot of it around these days…

Here is a great book to look out for: Malise Ruthven, A Fury for God.

A Fury for God is reasoned and circumspect but never wishy-washy. And it is meticulously detailed without ever being ponderous. Though he tips his hat to numerous other breakthrough studies like Benjamin Barber’s collection, Jihad vs. McWorld, Ruthven fleshes out his narrative accounts of the forces that led to 9/11 by drawing on everything from obscure concepts such as Islamic orthopraxy and istishhad to global macroeconomics and FBI field reports.

Ruthven’s basic premise is this: the rampant anti-Western Islamic terrorist attacks and ongoing threats facing the U.S. and Europe today were inspired by an Egyptian anarchist and intellectual named Sayyid Qutb who was executed by the Nasser government in 1966. Inspired by his literal-minded readings of Nietzsche and The Koran, Qutb’s fascist writings advocate an aesthetic-existential approach to dealing with modern spiritual crisis: namely, go and kill the infidels through self-martyrdom. Qutb’s followers went on to form militant Islamist groups which were the forbears of al Qaeda and whose “disciples” were behind the assassination of the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

Given this violent irrationality of Islamists, why is it, you might have asked, that such terrorists tend to be middle-class men with scientific and technical backgrounds? For one, Ruthven points out, despite all the ongoing scientific and philosophical impulses of Arab culture, the largely dominant Sunni tradition of Islam emphasizes “revelation over reason.” And most terrorists, Ruthven points out, leave rural backwaters to join the professional and academic classes in cities like Cairo and Hamburg where their privileged, aimless mediocrity seeks its redemption through a born-again embrace of religious fundamentalism (sound familiar?). Aspiring jihadists work as electrical engineers and computer technicians and they consume the most violent, metaphorical passages in the Koran as if they are operational directives from military HQ. And so then it’s not surprising when Ruthven tells us, almost in passing, that Ramzi Yousef, who coordinated the 1993 World Trade Center attack reportedly met Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols in The Philippines for a bizarre trans-denominational bomb-makers’ tête-à-tête….

In that review Tim Keane concludes, very wisely I feel:

Also, Ruthven’s book begs a bigger question: Is it God, ultimately, about which “religious fanatics” are furious? It’s a terrorizing rage for simplicity in an age of unparalleled complexity, to be sure. But what about the tradition of believers — from East to West — from the discourses of Rumi to the Summa Theologica of Aquinas, emphatic about God’s complexity and near immutability as the very basis for spiritual exaltation? And listen to the devotional awe for Allah which moves Pakistan’s Qawwali musicians as they sing their way to ecstatic revelation. Or read Zionist philosopher Martin Buber’s insistence on Arab rights, ideas emerging from his Hasidic perspectives on God alive within man.

The spirit of religiosity has lost out to the guns and butter of religion. Or, put another way, we are fallen subjects whom leaders from Washington D.C. to Fallujah must redeem, because — as Ruthven writes, citing a fundamentalist credo — “God knows and you know not.” They’ve given God and belief a bad name. And they’re armed.

Somehow we do need to rise above the bigots and the tabloid press and see the good there is as well, and also see the fact that “our” side, the present world order and the Bush Republicans, do not represent heaven on earth either.

Discovered also in the above: Swans, not a Sydney footie team, but a rather amazing Californian website. “Swans endeavors to bring food for thought to the readers and to provide a quality literary and political site on the Web. Swans is a co-operative effort. We look for people who understand that the only way not to play a game is to not play it; that problems cannot be solved by using the tools and thought processes that were used to create them in the first place. Swans refuses advertising and condemns the commercialization of the Web.”

Do read Richard Ackland today: “Bombs incite even more of the tripe.”

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2 responses to “The Atlantic Online | June 2003 | The Logic of Suicide Terrorism | Bruce Hoffman

  1. Anonymous

    June 19, 2006 at 6:36 pm

    why can’t the west admit to it self that Islam and the quran is what inspires all Muslims their dark age belief is to populate and take the world back to the dark ages because that’s the only way Islam can exist by brain washing Fear and terror on all of humanity

  2. ninglun

    June 19, 2006 at 6:55 pm

    But is that all there is? If so, it is hopeless all round, don’t you think? What exactly do you want the West to do? Kill them all? See other things I have written here.

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