Meditations (Politics): Thinking Together
In " Terrorism Knows no Religion or Region," Kuwait's former Minister of Information, Dr. Saad Al Ajmi, has provided a framework for understanding the extremism that shapes terrorists of all stripes, not just "Islamic terrorists."
Citing the Oklahoma City bombing in America, Al Ajmi persuasively argues that certain ingredients are essential in manufacturing terrorists anywhere. (Having had a run-in the year before the Oklahoma City bombing with people of Timothy McVeigh's mindset in my home state of Michigan, where the plot was hatched, I can attest to his basic premise.)
Along with a minority of Americans, I felt at the time that if Arab terrorists had perpetrated the Oklahoma City bombing, the US would have gone to war then. Even in 1995, one did not need to be prescient to see where things were headed. The inevitable has happened, and bin Laden's minions have played right into the hands of the Bush clique's.
A close advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev told his American counterpart during the heady days of perestroika, "we are going to do the worst thing to you; we are going to deprive you of an enemy." Well, bin Laden gave the neo-cons and America an even better enemy than the Soviet Union. Now we have war without end, invasions to benefit corporations, and more and more military bases in every corner of the globe.
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Wolfowitz and company claim they are making the United States, and the world, more secure. But with their regressive, anachronistic mindset, their unquestioned belief in the righteousness of American power, and their disdain for emerging international law in favor of unilateral militaristic Œsolutions,' they have brought the world to the brink of catastrophe.
But because "in today's world, attention revolves around acts committed by so-called ŒIslamic' terrorists," Al Ajmi describes "four pillars of indoctrinationŠin manipulating disgruntled Arab Muslim youth into terrorists." They are: conspiracy, nihilism, the dream, and solitude.
Regarding conspiracy, Al Ajmi says, "terrorism is the product of paranoia," enabling even "the killing of Arab Muslims, brothers and sisters in both blood and belief, by young Arab Muslim terrorists." This fact alone supports his insight that terrorism is not a product of particular religions or peoples, but of a warped human psyche.
Nihilism is also a familiar pathology in the West, though it takes a different form than in the Arab world. Most young people in America also believe that "this life is worthless, full of ugliness and hate." The difference is that they don't believe life is a "transition to Paradise," which is a necessary precondition for someone blowing him or herself up.
By "the dream" Al Ajmi means "a true Islamic state, the ultimate utopia where real justice prevailsŠ and where Muslims lead the world." By solitude he means isolation, the necessity for "true Muslims to seal themselves off from the evil of the outside world." Given such isolation, other Muslims who become corrupted "must be taken out."
In reflecting on Al Ajmi's pillars of terrorism, I am struck by how the motivations behind the unspeakable horror of suicide bombings arise from impulses that, had they not become twisted and manipulated, could be positive forces. Perhaps, for some of the disaffected youth in the Arab world as well as the West, they still can.
Rather than the paranoia of conspiracy theories, there can be a growing understanding of how ruling elites are merging in a system of global control. Rather than nihilism, there can be depth of response. Rather than utopianism, there can be radical change beginning within the individual. Rather than isolation, there can be balance between solitude and thinking together.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.