Terrorism's 'Brute Cause'?
I don't want to be one of those joining in the chorus clamoring against Ezra Klein for speculating on the root causes to Faisal Shahzad's attempt at terrorism, but we can at least examine what Klein said in a May 4th column titled "The economic crisis meets terrorism":
Annie Lowrey catches something unexpected: The arrested subject of last weekend’s Times Square bomb plot is a homeowner in the midst of foreclosure. Here's MSNBC:Klein is being cagy, careful not to say the wrong thing on the root causes of terrorism, but he does seem to be tracing, if obscurely, a line from foreclosure to terrorism in Shahzad's case. This line, however, only connects things if one holds the usually unarticulated assumption that Islam is a religion intrinsically more susceptible to violence on the part of its adherents. In fact, a lot of people appear to think this about Islam, including very many Muslims themselves since we're often warned by Muslim spokesmen that depictions of their prophet, for instance, will result in violent outbursts by Muslims around the world, violence that these same spokesmen can do nothing to forestall.[Faisal Shahzad] defaulted on a $200,000 mortgage on his Connecticut home and the Shelton property is now in foreclosure, according to court records. The foreclosure records show Faisal Shahzad took out the mortgage in 2004, and that he co-owned the home with a woman named Huma Mian. Chase Home Finance LLC sued Shahzad, 30, in September to force the foreclosure. The case is pending in Milford Superior Court.This guy is like string theory for the media: He brings together the seemingly incompatible stories that drove the past decade. That said, you of course don't want to speculate on why someone "really" did something. The hearts of men are opaque, and motives are complex. But it's a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don't make headlines but do ruin lives. And for all that we've done to save the financial sector, we've not done nearly enough to help struggling homeowners.
Call this the assumption of terrorism's 'brute cause': Islam.
But while Islam is certainly a factor, given the overwhelming fact of so many Islamist terrorists, not every Muslim turns to terrorism -- in fact, most do not. Obviously, other factors play a role, perhaps even a foreclosure on one's home.
But I doubt that foreclosure is the significant factor in Shahzad's case. Rather, I suspect that Pakistan's long-standing identity crisis as a Muslim state carved out of a larger 'infidel' state is the significant factor. Pakistan has gravitated over the years toward an Islamist identity supported by the army to encourage animosity toward India and use jihadist ideology to motivate Pakistanis against Hindu India, a policy Fareed Zakaria reminds us of in a recent Newsweek column, "Terrorism's Supermarket" (May 17, 2010):
[F]rom its founding, the Pakistani government has supported and encouraged jihadi groups, creating an atmosphere that has allowed them to flourish . . . . [T]he government's jihadist connections go back to the country's creation as an ideological, Islamic state and the decision by successive governments to use jihad both to gain domestic support and to hurt its perennial rival, India.The dictatorships of prior years in Pakistan have subsidized radical Islam and allowed it to set up thousands of madrassas and dominate the field of education there. The resulting radicalization many young Pakistanis should therefore hardly be surprising. This sort of thing, rather than the brute fact of Islam alone, accounts for the specter of Islamist terrorism that confronts the world.
Or so it seems to me from where I sit . . .