Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Michael Burleigh: Weakness of "Global Jihadists"

Michael Burleigh
"reluctant guru"?
(Image by Frank Baron for Guardian)

In searching for articles on problems associated with multiculturalism for my course on European multiculturalism this fall at Yonsei's Underwood College, I came across an interesting if tangential article by the British historian Michael Burleigh, "How To Defeat The Global Jihadists," in the June 2008 issue of the British magazine Standpoint.Online, apparently a conservative publication.

I say "tangential" because although the article does allude to problems with multiculturalism in Europe, for example, in referring to a German islamist terrorist cell "rounded up in late April 2008 from the purlieus of the Multicultural House mosque in Ulm -- an appropriately named monument to that disgraced ideology," Burleigh does not make multiculturalism his focus.

Interestingly, however, the article makes clear that Al Qa'eda has its own 'multicultural' problems:
The multi-ethnic composition of al-Qa'eda is one weak point, since rewards and risks seem to run along ethnic lines. The risks undertaken by Lebanese money-launderers handling conflict diamonds from West Africa are of a different order to those of a Moroccan suicide bomber. Interrogations of detainees reveal much bad blood between ethnic Chechens, Tajiks or Uzbeks and their Arab masters, who despise them. Al-Qa'eda's bid for supremacy extends to its own cohorts.
I write 'multicultural' -- but note the 'scare' quotes (indicating irony) -- where Burleigh writes "multi-ethnic," but neither term is exactly right since an ethnic difference between a Lebanese Arab and a Moroccan Arab might be a matter for dispute. If Arab is an ethnicity, then both are ethnically Arab.

Ironically, Al Qa'eda's problem would seem to be an insufficiently 'multicultural' perspective. The Arab elite who fill the upper echelons of the Al Qa'eda organization look down on the non-Arabs in the lower ranks -- a cultural (or is it ethnic?) arrogance not lost on those non-Arabs, according to Burleigh.

Be that as it may, Burleigh would seem to be a historian to become familiar with, for he's just this year published Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism, which he features on his website.

Other than what I've learned today -- and a Guardian article by John Crace, "Michael Burleigh: The reluctant guru" (March 11, 2008), helps introduce him -- I know nothing about the man, so this is my first impression -- though I've previously come across his name in my historical researches.

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