It would almost be easier to get a handle on brain surgery than to have the ability of tapping into the terrorist mindset.
“Experts” are good at coming up with theories, but in reality, like the fingers on our hands, those supporting extremist ideologies hold to an entire spectrum of motivations.
This point struck home while I was watching the televised coverage of the Paris attacks. “Why do they do it?” is a question that’s been asked of guest commentators over and over on a variety of channels.
These are some of the paraphrased answers. “They are sick psychopaths.” “These are revenge attacks in response to western interventions in the Middle East.” “They’ve been brainwashed by radical clerics.” “They feel socially and economically excluded from society to the extent they are unable to identify with the country in which they were born.”
“They romanticize the Golden Age of Islam and seek to recreate that era via an Islamic State.” “They are convinced the West is waging war on Islam.”
There may be elements of truth in all those analyses but they don’t explain why this phenomenon is exploding during this moment in time. And what’s more, one important factor is usually missing from such discussions. Far more Muslims have been targeted by radicals than non-Muslims.
On the day when the international community stood cheek to jowl with France — up to 50 world leaders attended the solidarity “Je suis Charlie” march last Sunday — a suicide bomber killed seven in the Lebanese city of Tripoli and it was reported that Boko Haram sacked an entire town leaving as many as 2,000 bodies in their wake.
Such is their depravity, they strapped an explosive belt onto a ten-year-old girl, dropped her at a crowded marketplace before detonating the device by remote control. Just days before, 23 Iraqis lost their lives during a series of suicide attacks around Baghdad and Samarra.
The only thing that all the above attacks, including those in Paris, have in common is that they were committed by haters who feel justified in ending the lives of innocents because they consider human life as valueless, other than to be disposed of as a tool to advance their aims.
Members of France’s rightwing are using the Paris incidents as political fodder announcing radicals are waging war on the West. If this were the case, then why are they, first and foremost, going after their fellow Muslims?
It’s ironic that Ahmed Merabet, the 42-year-old French policeman tasked with guarding Charlie Hebdo who was shot in the head at point blank range after pleading for his life, was not only a Muslim but also shared the gunman’s Algerian roots.
Despite his grief, Ahmed’s brother Malek came out as a voice of reason. “I address myself now to all the racists, Islamophobes and anti-Semites. One must not confuse extremists with Muslims. Mad people have neither color nor religion,” he said.
Calling for unity and an end to reprisals against mosques and Muslim-owned stores he said his brother was murdered by “fake Muslims.”
A second question being widely asked is how do we eradicate this menace? Again, there are no clear answers; some advocate heavy-handed law-enforcement and intrusive intelligence gathering.
Others are keen to see the vulnerable pinpointed so they can be rehabilitated before their ideology is expressed in violence. Yet others seek a hearts and minds approach that would require working with Muslim communities or would involve efforts to provide Muslim youth, who feel they’ve been relegated to ghetto-type soulless tower blocks in the suburbs, with job opportunities.
The elephant in the room is the ideology, which bears no relation to Islam, and should be exposed as false. There is no heroism in strapping little girls with bombs. Heroes don’t bury children alive or sell women in a market like cattle. And they don’t commit crimes that are likely to negatively impact their own communities. Many French Muslims are anxious that they will be the ones to pick up the bill in terms of new law enforcement measures and rising Islamophobia that’s sweeping not only France but also Germany. Reporters on the scene say many French Muslims are too afraid to speak out on this topic.
There is no upside to terrorism. 9/11 was the catalyst for the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The terrorist trio in Paris has managed to unify France as never before and their actions have galvanized Europe to work with other countries to eradicate their ilk. So what they’ve achieved spilling blood runs contrary to their cause.
So why do they do it? I’ll bet most of them are still trying to figure that out themselves.
LINDA S. HEARD