March 1, 2003
responded to This
post at The Art of Peace with the following comment:
do they hate us?" is an important question. But it seems that the way we answer
it says more about us than it does about "them". We assume that people who are
eager to die in the act of killing random strangers think like us. Maybe people
who don't act like us, don't think like us either.
look for reasons in the Israeli oppression of Palestinians (and US support of
Israel). But Palestinians have been oppressed by Jordan, Kuwait and others without
arousing similar ire. Muslims are massacred by Indians and Russians (in Chechnya)
and it passes almost unremarked in the Muslim world. So, our romantic idea of
terrorists as "freedom fighters" is hard to reconcile with Islamist acceptance
of oppression. Maybe we are overlaying the template of our perspective when we
imagine Muslim terrorism as a liberation struggle.
goal of eliminating (or at least reducing) poverty is a worthy goal in itself,
but there is no correlation between poverty and terrorism. The terrorists tend
to come from the upper strata of Muslim society while in most poor societies,
terrorism is virtually unknown. In this case too, it looks like we are applying
our template of social justice and material progress to circumstances where it
may not fit. This
article by Ralph Peters suggests that illiteracy and the oppression of women
may be more significant factors.
we really want to know "why they hate us", we should take a look at the reasons
they provide when they tell us. This is what bin
Laden said. He was not speaking about freedom and social justice, he was speaking
about religion. For a western analysis of apocalyptic Islamist thought the Center
for Millennial Studies is an informative
resource. Interested readers might want to start with this
article. These ideas probably don't fully explain the phenomenon of Islamist
terrorism...but they have the virtue of beginning with the beliefs of the terrorists
will not defeat terrorism if we don't understand it. Understanding someone's actions
begins with understanding his beliefs. We should be trying to identify the motivations
of terrorists rather than trying to identify with their motivations.
March 09, 2003
responds to this note here.