Salman Rushdie has noticed.
Spiegel asked him, “Leading British Muslims have written a letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair claiming that the growing willingness to engage in terrorism is due to Bush’s and Blair’s policies in Iraq and in Lebanon. Are they completely wrong?”
There are always reasons for criticism, also for outrage. But there’s one thing we must all be clear about: terrorism is not the pursuit of legitimate goals by some sort of illegitimate means. Whatever the murderers may be trying to achieve, creating a better world certainly isn’t one of their goals. Instead they are out to murder innocent people.
Spiegel protested a little, “And yet there must be reasons, or at least triggers, for this terrible willingness to wipe out the lives of others — and of oneself.
Well obviously there must be reasons; these things aren’t causeless eruptions; but that doesn’t mean there must be sane or reasonable or sensible or genuine political reasons; that doesn’t mean there must be reasons that anyone is obliged to take at all seriously, much less so seriously as to credit them with being a criticism of UK-US foreign policy. One might as well say football hooliganism is a criticism of UK-US foreign policy, one might as well say gang-rape is a criticism of UK-US foreign policy.
Upbringing certainly plays a major role there, imparting a misconceived sense of mission which pushes people towards “actions.” Added to that there is a herd mentality once you have become integrated in a group and everyone continues to drive everyone else on and on into a forced situation. There’s the type of person who believes his action will make mankind listen to him and turn him into a historic figure. Then there’s the type who simply feels attracted to violence. And yes, I think glamour plays a role too.
Spiegel protests again, even more foolishly. “Do you seriously mean that terrorism is glamorous?” Do you seriously mean you think it isn’t? Come on. All that media attention, those glam “martyrdom videos,” the outfits, the drama, the “courage,” the self-importance? How could it possibly not be glamourous? This is what I meant after 7/7 by saying everyone should make fun of them and call them bedwetters and pathetic attention-seeking dweebs. I mean that.
Yes. Terror is glamour – not only, but also. I am firmly convinced that there’s something like a fascination with death among suicide bombers. Many are influenced by the misdirected image of a kind of magic that is inherent in these insane acts. The suicide bomber’s imagination leads him to believe in a brilliant act of heroism, when in fact he is simply blowing himself up pointlessly and taking other peoples lives. There’s one thing you mustn’t forget here: the victims terrorized by radical Muslims are mostly other Muslims.
Absolutely. It’s a little scary and depressing that so many people don’t get that and don’t even find it plausible. Look: terrorists are young men: that’s probably the most crucial fact about them. This is young guy stuff; it’s the same stuff that fills prisons with young men; it’s a lot more about young guyism than it is about serious political criticism. The foreign policy is mostly a fig leaf, a smoke screen, a pretext, a pseudo-explanation. It’s the glamour and the herd mentality that really crank thing up. (No, you’re right, I don’t know that for a fact, I’m just saying it as if I do. But like Rushdie, I’m convinced of it.)