Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ergo Jihad

I would urge you very strongly to read this article by John Rosenthal in the Policy Review about the formation and thought processes of Islamists, in particular the subjects of a recently released study of several in French jails. Quand Al-Qäida parle: Témoignages derrière les barreaux (When al Qaeda Talks: Testimonials from Behind Bars) is based on interviews conducted by Farhad Khosrokhavar of the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, and to judge from the account here, it should be required reading.

I wish to make one specific point related to one of my recent posts, but first I will give a quick summary of what John Rosenthal says.

The study is another nail in the coffin of the idea that the root of Islamist terror is poverty and economic inequality. In the French study, the subjects are mostly "highly educated, well-traveled, and multilingual". Many, if not most, come from non-practicing households - their passionate belief is newly acquired. The one thing they all have in common is a fervent hatred of a nation that has committed unforgivable crimes against them: France.

The source of this hatred is both political and intensely personal. For one, the decisive moment came in Algeria in 1992, when the election result, which would have brought the Islamic Salvation Front to power, was overturned by a military coup. This was almost certainly backed by France; evidently, Mitterand had said that he would not tolerate a “fanatic state” at just an hour by plane from Paris.

More powerful than this is the exclusion felt by these men in France. For one, Ousman, Rosenthal likens it to a case of 'unrequited love'.

[M]y ideal was to be French, to act like the French: to have my wife, my kids, my car, my apartment, my house in the country, to become an average Frenchman and live in peace. . . . [E]ven before I had French citizenship or I had work, in my mind, I wanted to conform to the image of the average Frenchman, to be like them, to make myself in their image.
Ardent desire that turns to hatred.
They looked down on me, they treated me like I was nothing, they despised me. This contempt was killing me. Were we really so despicable? . . . I went back and forth between what I was and what I wanted to be: a little Frenchman. Whereas I was an Algerian. I was tortured by it.
But then came Islam.
Islam was my salvation. I understood what I was: a Muslim. Someone with dignity, whom the French despised because they didn’t fear me enough. Thanks to Islam, the West respects us in a certain way. One is scared of us. We’re treated as fanatics, as holy madmen, as violent people who do not hesitate to die or to kill. But one doesn’t despise us anymore. That is the achievement of Islamism. Now, we are respected. Hated, but respected.
This raises a very interesting question. They hate France. OK. That is based on experience and dashed hopes. They also hate the United States and Israel, of which none of them has had any experience. Yet
Time and again, an inmate, having provided an inventory of the sources of his frustration in France, suddenly announces his intention to purge the full charge of his hatred in fighting against Israel and the United States.
How does this transfer of hatred occur? What is the mechanism?

One sees on the television how the Israeli Army, with the help of America, mistreats the youth of the Intifada. When I see that, I want to go fight against them, against the Americans, against all those who repress Islam
Just watch the TV and the humiliation to which the Israeli army subjects the Palestinian chebab [youth]
When one sees on the TV how the Israeli tanks fire on youths armed with slingshots or Molotov cocktails and no one moves a finger. One asks oneself whether there is any justice in the world.
Rosenthal makes the same point that I made recently. That the nature of the images broadcast out of Gaza and the West Bank, their drama, their "false immediacy", their lack of context, their framing only of the 'victim' in the act of suffering, is such that they take on the status of an icon, or rather, of a call to action. These men are French speakers; the news they watch is French. It comes from TF1 and, more importantly, the state-owned France2, the employer of Charles Enderlin and the man who edited, interpreted and broadcast the al-Dura video.

Ousman says
I watch the tv every day and it hurts me a lot. . . . One watches it all on the tv when they mistreat the young Palestinians and no one does anything.
He associates the images he sees on the TV with
all injustice ... the sexual exploitation of children, the Americans who exploit Asia with their dollars, a girl who is prevented from wearing the veil. All of that drives me wild with rage.
Ergo Jihad.

No comments: