Monday, September 04, 2006

The makings of a terrorist

Last night's instalment of BBC 2 documentary Al Qaeda: Time to Talk?, hosted by Peter Taylor, made for some compelling if depressing viewing. Most of those profiled by the programme were men in their early 20s, angry for a variety of reasons, but all united by their resolve to embrace "radical Islam", go to Iraq and become martyrs "for the cause".

But that's where the similarities ended. Asked to describe what "the cause" actually was, most said retribution for Anglo-American foreign policy, namely the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which virtually all Muslims are said to consider illegal. And yet it seemed to me that a number of them had been convinced instead that going to Iraq and blowing themselves up was the only way to prevent themselves from falling into a downward spiral of mortal sin, which was the inevitable conclusion of living as a law-abiding citizen in the UK. In other words, becoming a suicide bomber wasn't a response to the individual jihadist recruit's hatred of a Western military presence in Iraq, it was complying with the instructions of radical imams and others, who basically brainwashed them.

What is even more tragic is that many of these foreign jihadi recruits often end up roped into killing other Iraqis - an example in the documentary is of Raed Elbana, a young Jordanian lawyer who spent some time living in the United States before returning home to Jordan and being "radicalised" on the idea of fighting a holy war against Americans. But is this what he did? No, Raed gained his "martyrdom" by blowing himself up outside a Shia clinic in Iraq, killing 118 Shia Iraqis in the process.

Interestingly, though, Taylor chose not to point out this opportunism by Sunni extremists, choosing instead to lump it in with the other terrorist atrocities as being driven purely by the U.S.-led occupation.

Taylor stops short of saying that the creation of British-born terrorists is reason enough to pull all troops out of Iraq. And yet, he consistently repeats that UK foreign policy towards Iraq is driving these people to become radicalised. That's fair enough, but as Norm recently pointed out, in response to this article by Inayat Bunglawala:

If terrorism motivated by anger over British foreign policy isn't - ever - justified, should the government in some way yield to this anger
nonetheless? What exactly, to put it otherwise, is Inayat Bunglawala asking for in asking that the government 'acknowledge' the causal influence of foreign policy on murderous anger, and in emphasizing that it should not be 'left unconsidered'? One has to presume that this isn't merely a demand for a thought process to occur or for some sort of acknowledging public statement. It's an argument for a change of policy.

Well quite, and I'm pretty sure that Taylor is echoing Bunglawala's argument.


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