Make a Splash

This comment says pretty much exactly what I was thinking (and saying) a few days ago. I would guess that a lot of other people are thinking it too – but that’s just a guess. But it is related to Mona Eltahawy’s point, that it’s insulting for non-Muslims to think Muslims can’t take responsibility.

The notion that the British Muslim suicide bombers of July 7 were spurred on by some passionate form of public-spiritedness, of course, is both flagrantly idiotic and deeply dangerous…Yet Mr Ahmed’s apparent reasoning – that his nephew was compelled to kill himself and seven innocent people near Liverpool Street station by a combination of righteous anger and sheer desperation at injustices suffered by fellow-Muslims – is not too distant from the explanations that have in the past been provided for Palestinian suicide bombers by non-Muslim British public figures…I wonder, however, if the recent apparition of British suicide bombers – raised in circumstances that were far from desperate – might have caused Baroness Tonge and Mrs Blair to reconsider the psychological ingredients they once naively deemed necessary to the phenomenon…Suicide bombing, however, fired by a volatile combination of religious and political fervour, is a vigorous act of self-assertion: the bomber hopes to make his triumphant, bloody mark upon the world before proceeding to his reward in Paradise.

Bingo. It’s not righteous anger, it’s not altruistic rage at injustices suffered by other people – it’s narcissistic mark-making (peeing on a bush writ large and bloody, one might say) and Look At Me-saying, dressed up as altruistic whatnot. It’s not about other people, it’s about me, me, me. Get me, look at me, admire me, respect me, fear me, scream when you see me, dream about me, run away from me, tremble at the thought of me, hate me, pay attention to me. Be blown to pieces by me, be blasted full of nails by me. I’m powerful, I’m scary, I’m brave, I can make things happen, I can pee higher than you.

That impulse should never be confused with altruism.

It is no accident that the bulk of suicide bombers are young men, a group particularly drawn, not necessarily to hopelessness, but to the potent romance of a “cause”. They are easily bored by the dreary, complicated business of living peacefully: the dull job, the squalling baby, and the round of minor compromises. Their professed desire to “avenge injustice” is not their driving motivation: that is a palatable excuse to buoy up their self-image. The real spur is an arrested, adolescent craving for immortality and legendary status among their peers.

Well – exactly. At least I think so. I think it’s all about self-image, combined with disaster-porn. A bunch of dreary shits bigging themselves up. No, I know, as commenters pointed out the other day, I don’t know that. But boy it’s plausible.

But let us be under no illusion that Islamist suicide bombers, whether they immolate themselves in a Haifa restaurant or the London Underground, have any love for justice: they murder the most vulnerable without compunction. Nor have they any protective instinct for their fellow-Muslims, despite their rhetoric: one glance at the newspaper photographs after the July 7 bombings will proclaim that. For there, staring back from the page of victims, is Shahara Islam, a beautiful 20-year-old bank cashier from Plaistow; Atique Sharifi, 24, an Afghan man whose parents were killed by the Taliban, and who was struggling to forge a new life in London; and Ihab Slimane, a 24-year-old student from France. They were all Muslims too, and they are all dead, their dreams forcibly extinguished by a bunch of selfish fools who hoped, with some frantic gesture, to render themselves more significant in death than they could ever be in life.

There it is, you see. Their desire for significance at the expense of other people’s dreams. That’s why pious talk of their grievances and disaffection is so – loathsome.

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