My wife the fanatic


by Aparita
4th July, 2006 at 2:50 am    

For better or for worse, it’s expected of women to accept their roles as nurturers. So what happens when women nurture hatred?

A recent article described the views held by the wives of the 17 Toronto men arrested in connection with a terrorist conspiracy. The women did not directly answer any questions, refusing to comment to reporters.

However, their views were posted on personal blogs and an internet forum run by Nada Farooq, the wife of one of the leaders of the group, and gathered by The Globe and Mail.

It’s fair to say the women hold an extremist interpretation of Islam. The most pertinent example is that of Ms. Farooq, 18. In one post, for instance, she talks about wanting to have a son, whom she wants to name Khattab, after the commander of the mujahedeen in Chechnya who battled Moscow until he was assassinated in 2002.

According to the report, Ms. Farooq says, “And i pray to Allah my sons follow his footsteps Ameeen [Amen],”. Her avatar is a picture of the Koran and a rifle. (All the postings in the article are rendered verbatim from the internet forum.)

Born in Karachi, Ms. Farooq lived in Saudi Arabia through her childhood years, before her parents decided to come to Canada. The parents didn’t want to raise their children in Saudi Arabia’s conservative society. Ms. Farooq’s father is a pharmacist, working at Canadian Forces Base in Alberta. He supports of the presence of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

Unlike her father, Ms. Farooq finds little favour with the country she’s living in. She calls it a ‘filthy country,’ and deems Canadian laws irrelevant as they aren’t the laws of God. In her opinion, gay Muslim Canadians should be sent to Saudi Arabia where “these sickos are executed or crushed by a wall, in public.”

Some of her most vituperative comments have to do with the Israeli missile strike that killed the Hamas leader Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi. “May Allah crush these jews, bring them down to their kneees, humuliate them. Ya Allah make their women widows and their children orphans.”

What makes these young women so hateful? Could Ms. Farooq’s unpleasant experience when she first came to Canada – she was teased by school children – have something to do with her positions? Did she always have these opinions, or were they formed when she came in contact with her husband?

Gender politics would interpret Ms. Farooq’s views as an attempt to keep in with her traditional role as a caregiver. She’s married to 20-year-old Zakaria Amara. Not much is known of Mr. Amara beyond his personal blogs, through which emerges the personality of a devout Muslim man conflicted with his life in Canada. For instance, Mr. Amara advocates getting married early to a pious wife in order to escape the temptation.

It would be expected that Ms. Farooq’s hardline views would be inspired by her husband’s stance. (Mr. Amara’s blogs seem to suggest that his parents aren’t as religious as he is.) After all, as a wife and a mother, it would be traditionally her role to keep the family’s religious approach alive. However, it’s evident that of the two, Ms. Farooq has the more extremist views.

So, it could be quite possible that Ms. Farooq’s views are behind Mr. Amara’s actions with regards to his alleged role in the terrorism conspiracy. After all, she did consider a pre-nuptial contract requiring him to go to jihad, or else she would divorce him. (It’s not clear whether Ms. Farooq literally meant a holy war, although that’s what her message suggests.)

In the end, she didn’t ask for the jihad clause. But you can’t help but wonder whether that’s what their everyday pillow talk was about.


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  1. Bikhair aka Taqiyyah — on 4th July, 2006 at 4:18 am  

    Aparita,

    Poor sister she sounds like she is terribly misguided.

    “Not much is known of Mr. Amara beyond his personal blogs, through which emerges the personality of a devout Muslim man conflicted with his life in Canada. For instance, Mr. Amara advocates getting married early to a pious wife in order to escape the temptation.”

    His position on getting married has nothing to do with him being conflicted. Muslims have always been taught that we should get married in order to prevent commiting fornication or fast.

    “After all, she did consider a pre-nuptial contract requiring him to go to jihad, or else she would divorce him.”

    There are punishments for women who divorce their husbands for poor reaasons, which implies that they can actually divorce. Another issue altogether. She has no right to stipulate such rubbish into her contract. I’ve never heard of it. I am so happy I dont know Muslims like them. If she was concerned about her husband going on Jihad she should encourage him to teach the Muslim children Quran. Stupid women are so caught up in the glitz and glam of yuppy rebellion.

  2. Nav — on 4th July, 2006 at 7:57 am  

    “Poor sister she sounds like she is terribly misguided.”

    Somehow my sympathies aren’t with her, but the people who’d be tortured and killed if she had her way. But then I live in Toronto.

  3. inders — on 4th July, 2006 at 8:32 am  

    Is a pre-nup halal ?

  4. mellow — on 4th July, 2006 at 9:32 am  

    She’s 18 and probably not very well educated.
    Its typical, stupid, young and therefore open to radical views. We all were. Unfortunately her stupidity and others like her lead to people dying.

  5. Paul Moloney — on 4th July, 2006 at 11:31 am  

    Yes, somehow my sympathies don’t lie with her either. As a child of Irish descent growing up in England, I was at the brunt of some nasty anti-Irish sentiments. Ironically, our family then returned to Ireland just before the 1980s IRA hunger strikes, where I then got picked on for my English accent, including a few beatings. Somehow I came through all this an indecent muscular liberal who considers himself Irish but with a nostaligic fondness for Britain. We make of ourselves what we want.

    P.

  6. Aparita — on 4th July, 2006 at 11:39 am  

    Bikhair – I did not give a relevant example of Mr. Amara’s internal conflict. The article does a better job. It explains how Mr. Amara is your typical kid – more interested in playing Halo than chitchatting with his wife’s parents. He’s not happy with his parents, who bought a house with a mortgage to boot. Apparently some of his postings had to do with the chastity of non-Muslim Canadian girls – which is is why he advocated getting married young, to a pious Muslim girl. He searched for a father figure in the oldest member of the group.

    I want to know more about Ms. Farooq. She’s the daughter of a pharmacist, and, from what I can gather, comes from a middle class family. Her parents aren’t that religious. Her father seems to have been unaware of his daughter’s views and says that his daughter is more religious than he is. (He was interviewed as part of the article.) So I am not sure that Ms. Farooq is uneducated. But she must hold extremist views for some reason. Or is that just the academic in me trying to find reason where there is none?

  7. Paul Moloney — on 4th July, 2006 at 11:48 am  

    “But she must hold extremist views for some reason.”

    Whatever the teasing she received in childhood, Ms. Farooq was fortunate enough to be brought up by a seemingly well-balanced family in what the UN regards as the best country on earth to live.

    Why is it that with some people, we desperately seek a reason why they are hateful bigots, while we others such as the notorious Phelps family (of http://www.godhatesfags.com/ fame), we just settle for “well, they’re scum”? I don’t see any justification for the Phelps; I’m not sure why Farooq deserves one.

    P.

  8. soru — on 4th July, 2006 at 12:22 pm  

    There are definitely explainable reasons for why the Phelps family behave the way they do. They are a group of connected people, not individuals who all personally decided to become scum.

    In fact it’s quite likely a lot of the same reasons apply in both cases.

  9. sonia — on 4th July, 2006 at 12:38 pm  

    frankly i don’t see this at all different from patriotic women who marry soldiers and send their sons to follow their husbands into the army to die gloriously for their country. i’ve always wondered how its possible for women to want their kids to join armies, or marry soldiers, but hey.

    “But she must hold extremist views for some reason. Or is that just the academic in me trying to find reason where there is none?”

    well similary we can ask why do ‘normal’ people hold patriotic views? it’s not considered ‘extremist’ but perfectly normal and encouraged. Armies and honour…

  10. sonia — on 4th July, 2006 at 12:40 pm  

    ahem – i forgot to put ‘gloriously’ in inverted commas. of course it’s all relative – someone’s glory is someone else’s ignominy.

  11. sonia — on 4th July, 2006 at 12:42 pm  

    this ms. farooq sounds a bit like she shares some of Bikhairs sentiments.. and is a bit of a totalitarian freak herself.

  12. Rakhee — on 4th July, 2006 at 1:02 pm  

    Great article Aparita – unusual perspective.

    My view (it’s pretty simple) is that whether you are a man or a woman, breeding such hatred is just plain wrong. The fact that she’s so young and carries such venom is worrying also.

    It makes me think of a report I saw on Channel 4 news yesterday – http://www.channel4.com/news/special-reports/special-reports-storypage.jsp?id=2695 – which looks at the impact of Gaza bombings on Palestinian chilren. Kids such as 8/9 are already expressing such hatred.

    It sounds like a bit of a cop out but to a certain degree, we are all a product of our environment and the experiences we are exposed to. It doesn’t make it right, just very very difficult to rectify.

  13. Sid — on 4th July, 2006 at 2:02 pm  

    Sonia, I’m not sure I see the parallel between these louts and soldiers. Surely there is a difference between the behaviour of these people and those who marry career soldiers.

    The pattern of the first generation parent who doesn’t particularly hold religious identity as paramount who then end up raising kids whose values are distinctly at odds with their environments is one we keep seeing. I’m wondering that there should surely be enough data by now to analyse why some dysfunctional Muslim kids adopt the values of religious supremacism in order to make up for their own sense of inadequacy and identity.

  14. sonia — on 4th July, 2006 at 2:07 pm  

    well sid, you may well not. but career soldiers still kill – for a living – they may not subscribe to a patriotic concept themselves ( in fact usually not – this is particularly why its so annoying that governments usually employ poor people who don’t really have many other opportunities for their armies) but the ‘country’ and general society is expected to condone their killing because it’s in the name of the ‘country’ and to
    ‘protect’ us. so seeing the parallel comes down to whether one thinks its legitimate for the nation-state to have a monopoly on violence, basically whether one thinks a country can use violence legitimately full stop. in my mind it doesn’t make a difference who kills who – in terms of social legitimacy – for me it comes down to more fundamental simple if you kill someone, that’s unpleasant. so similarly, women who are married to soldiers may not think its a moral issue, because essentially the violence has been ‘legitimized’. Similarly for Mafia wives. it all depends one one’s viewpoint obviously.

  15. sonia — on 4th July, 2006 at 2:11 pm  

    of course i’m discussing this in a broad context – not specifically in this particular one.

    Sid – what you say is interesting. if you’re interested in identity construction perhaps you could look into the academic theorizing/and empirical research about construction of identity in general – and in particular ‘minority’ groups construct identity in hostile environments – looking at social group dynamics, perceived peer pressure, perceived belonging to a minority group. there’s lots of interesting research being done in the field of social psychology and social anthropology – worth looking into if those are the sorts of questions you’re interested in.

  16. Sunny — on 4th July, 2006 at 2:23 pm  

    I think Sonia has a point there about wives who marry men who they expect to go on for greater glory, whether that be in the army, in violent jihad, or mafia etc. I think the psychological impetus would probably be the same.

  17. Ravi Naik — on 4th July, 2006 at 2:27 pm  

    I can see a fine line between soldiers who follow a chain of command and have a code of conduct, and thugs who follow their own radical and selfish agenda. But where it gets worst is that these thugs camouflage themselves as normal members of their community and their actions ruin it for the rest of us by association.

    My question is this. If they think the West is so immoral and they rather prefer to live in a more repressed muslim state, why don’t they go and happily live in Pakistan?

  18. sonia — on 4th July, 2006 at 2:38 pm  

    good question! ->

    “If they think the West is so immoral and they rather prefer to live in a more repressed muslim state, why don’t they go and happily live in Pakistan?”

  19. Professor Sikander — on 4th July, 2006 at 2:59 pm  

    The answer to the above question as to why Islamic fundamentalists who hate this society dont go and live in paradises like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan is simple. According to their ideology all the Earth belongs to Allah and it is their duty to make non Muslim lands conducive to Islam. They see themselves as having a divine responsibility to change the society into a Muslim one, and to harass, intimidate and harangue the society in which they live in for its wickedness and to enforce submission to Islam or at least to Islamic ‘sentiments’. Note how Sacranie tried to destroy freedom of speech in order to persecute people like Rushdie. They are on a mission. That is the nature and mindset of the Islamic fundamentalist.

    Dr Bari, chairman of the MCB, also believes that this society needs to change in line with Islamic principles. This is why there is so much overlap with moderate and extremist Muslims; many of the sentiments are shared and the only difference is how they believe they should carry out their duties. The basic conception of Britain as a flawed nation in need of salvation by the word of Islam, the supreme and one and only true faith is the same between the MCB types and the fundamentalists. Except the MCB are not so shrill and urgent in their rhetoric.

  20. raz — on 4th July, 2006 at 3:00 pm  

    “why don’t they go and happily live in Pakistan?”

    Because in Pakistan, these fanatic Islamic assholes get the thrashing they deserve, instead of being mollycoddled the way they are in the West. Apparently ISI has a special torture unit for British Muslims who come there looking to make trouble. After a few days, they are begging to be sent back to the ‘immoral West’ – “I’m a British citizen!” Twats. That’s why Hizb-ut-Tahir, Al-Gurubaba types are flourishing in the tolerant West – its the only place they can get away with their bullshit.

  21. David T — on 4th July, 2006 at 3:21 pm  

    Sid

    I’m wondering that there should surely be enough data by now to analyse why some dysfunctional Muslim kids adopt the values of religious supremacism in order to make up for their own sense of inadequacy and identity.

    Why do we need to do a sociological analysis? The reason that people get involved in exciting, semi-clandestine, radical fringe political movements are pretty easy to divine. Whether it is the politics of the Muslim far right, or any other far right manifestation of identity politics, what is primarily attractive about it is the licence it gives to you to fight and generally throw your weight about. Some people enjoy conflict.

    The politics is just the loose theoretical construct which surrounds it. In the comfortable West, the political dimension is pretty unsophisticated: “we” are (or may be) physically (or existentially) attacked (or otherwise undermined) by “them”.

    But don’t underestimate the thrill of being able to get away with expressing – and occasionally carrying out – violent fantasies. Its no surprise that Zaraqawi went from street thug to jihadist: or that so many members of the BNP have convictions for violence.

    PS Sid – you missed an AMAZING night on Friday. You should have been there…

  22. Sunny — on 4th July, 2006 at 3:25 pm  

    Stupid women are so caught up in the glitz and glam of yuppy rebellion.
    Bikhari that is hilarious. We should do a collection of Bikhair one-liners.

  23. David T — on 4th July, 2006 at 3:28 pm  

    As a footnote: the fact that we’re seeing people attracted to a particular manifestation of that politics is an indirect function of the rise – as far as this country is concerned – of Jamaat, and of religious fascism generally, in Pakistan.

    I’d guess that is why the Pew Report found such a disparity between British Muslim attitudes and those of Muslims in continental Europe.

  24. raz — on 4th July, 2006 at 3:43 pm  

    David,

    It’s worth noting that there was very little religous fanaticism or terrorism in Pakistan prior to the 1980′s and the Soviet Invasion of Afganistan. Once the Arab’s began setting up madrassas and importing their hardline Islam, with the blessing of Zia and the USA, Pakistan swiftly saw an upsurge in religous zealotry and violence. While the communists were eventually vanquished in Afghanistan by this method, the blowback has had chilling effects, not just for the people of Pakistan but for the people of the West as well, as 7/7 proved. This is why Western governents need to work hand in hand with Pakistan to reverse the tide of fundamentalism which they both had a part in unleashing.

    It’s also worht noting that there are 140+ million Muslims in Pakistan, only a fractional minority are involved in terrorism. There are only 1.5 million Muslims in the UK, but if recent findings are to be believed a relatively high number are British Muslims are radicalised (several thousand sympathisers under investigation I belive was recently reported). On a per capita basis, I’d say the UK is now even more an epicentre of Islamic radicalism than Pakistan. It’s all very well trying to shift the blame onto Pakistan, but eventually Britian needs to take a good look at what has gone wrong with it’s Muslim minority. The 7/7 bombers were all born and bred here, after all.

  25. David T — on 4th July, 2006 at 3:53 pm  

    I’m not really sure what, if anything, can be ‘done’ by the Government. This will be something which culturally, the whole country will pull back from eventually, I think. The comparison is with Baader Meinhoff/Red Army Fraction/Red Brigades etc. style activity. It is likely to burn itself out.

    That’s my hope, anyhow.

    It’s worth noting that there was very little religous fanaticism or terrorism in Pakistan prior to the 1980’s and the Soviet Invasion of Afganistan.

    That is correct. Who knew?

  26. raz — on 4th July, 2006 at 4:04 pm  

    David,

    One is reminded of the famous quote by the former American National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski about supporting Islamic fighters in Afganistan:

    “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”

    Sadly, the stirred up Muslims are now proving a real pain in the backside. For everyone.

  27. Dolores Haze — on 4th July, 2006 at 4:06 pm  

    The influence of these Deobandi Jammati Tablighi people is what is causing this radicalisation and ultimately the terrorism. They are absolute far right wingers and a cancer on Muslims and the whole of Britain. They are so two faced and it is amazing how they get away with their hateful message in this country without greater scrutiny; although they do masquerade behind all sorts of ‘educational institutions’ and smile with Prince Charles at photo opportunities. If I could say one concrete thing that Muslims can do to improve the situation with extremism, and that the media can do to help them, it is to expose them and their ideology relentlessly. I do believe they are on an ideological continuum with the terrorists.

  28. Dolores Haze — on 4th July, 2006 at 4:07 pm  

    The Jamaat Tabligi have their headquarters in Dewsbury, same place that Mohammad Siddique Khan came from.

  29. David T — on 4th July, 2006 at 4:23 pm  

    Great name.

  30. Gaz — on 4th July, 2006 at 4:26 pm  

    The west seems to focus on overly on Pakistan and Afghanistan. Why not more action against Saudi Arabia for exporting all these preachers of hate? Who was it that ran the most extreme madrassas in Pakistan?

  31. Sid — on 4th July, 2006 at 4:51 pm  

    David T

    What was the name of the Smiths tribute band? I am sooooo looking forward to the Scritti Politti show next week.

  32. Ravi Naik — on 4th July, 2006 at 4:55 pm  

    “I’d guess that is why the Pew Report found such a disparity between British Muslim attitudes and those of Muslims in continental Europe.”

    The reason is simple: society and state in continental Europe do not accomodate or tolerate the demands of some muslims who think that their faith or culture are incompatible with the secular West, and thus expect a different treatment.

    All in the name of respecting cultural differences, of course.

    I wish the government would start treating those that preach hate with the same zealous treatment as they do with neo-nazi groups.

  33. Paul Moloney — on 4th July, 2006 at 4:55 pm  

    “These Charming Men”, if you’re thinking of the Irish band?

    P.

  34. Sid — on 4th July, 2006 at 4:57 pm  

    As a footnote: the fact that we’re seeing people attracted to a particular manifestation of that politics is an indirect function of the rise – as far as this country is concerned – of Jamaat, and of religious fascism generally, in Pakistan.

    I would say that the two are directly related. The Jamaat is extremely strong in South Asia now – where they are elected leaders by democratic processes. There are funding channels to these organisations which can be traced back to Saudi Arabia.

    But the reason why this information hardly ever sees any exposure is because Saudi is a true friend of all sides, aren’t they. For South Asian Muslims – they are exponents of the faith in its “truest form” and for the West, they represent big business.

  35. David T — on 4th July, 2006 at 5:08 pm  

    Quite so.

    It isn’t These Charming Men – although they were very good, they’re not around anymore, I think.

    No, these are The Smyths – doing a gig on the 14th July in Brixton, with Rourke and Joyce djing, if you fancy it… http://www.thesmyths.net

    Enjoy Scritti!

  36. Arif — on 4th July, 2006 at 5:08 pm  

    In a boringly predictable way, I agree with sonia.

    Identifying with the cause of national armies, glorifying their willingness to kill and egging them on strikes me as grotesque in the same way as the report of these women promoting their own cause.

    The chain of command idea does not settle the issue for me. Even if I did feel it was of much moral significance, transferring moral authority for your actions to others is itself a moral act for which you should be accountable. This also seems morally questionable to me whether it is transferred to a commanding officer or to a cell organiser. Whether these people themselves trace their chain of command to a political or religious authority of some kind.

    I think the shock people feel is more the shock that people can feel just as passionate in favour of a cause which they themselves passionately oppose. Some might be curious why this is, and others may be content to label the other side as simply evil. When I am in a mood for self-development more than feeling passion, I guess I’ll go in for the sociological anaylsis that other people find laughable.

  37. soru — on 4th July, 2006 at 5:13 pm  

    On the other hand, you could say hating Saudi Arabia is about the one thing Islamists, left-wing anti-imperialists, and right-wing Islamophobes can all agree on.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone argue the case for Saudi Arabia who wasn’t self-evidently being paid by the word.

  38. David T — on 4th July, 2006 at 5:28 pm  

    Nice point.

    Identifying with the cause of national armies, glorifying their willingness to kill and egging them on strikes me as grotesque in the same way as the report of these women promoting their own cause.

    But there is a countercultural element to identifying with/cheerleading/providing support to terrorist organisations. It is transgressive behaviour.

    There’s a significant element of “we rock the boat” self conscious subversiveness to this – notwithstanding that it might be tied into orthodox political activity in other countries. A friend once told me how a friend of his who had got involved with fringe islamist politics described it as “Punk Rock for our generation”. That seems a fairly useful analogy.

  39. Sid — on 4th July, 2006 at 5:29 pm  

    true, true.

    But Saudi Arabia does get off pretty lightly all round.

    There is a strange dichotomy within this theocratic autocracy. On the one hand the super-rich party of princes are known, in Islamic terms to be morally reprehensible. And on other hand, they launder their moral stock by funding the Jamaat parties of Pakistan and Bangladesh. This party now wins elections because they are considered to be morally pure.

    How to decouple this cycle of bullshit?

  40. Arif — on 4th July, 2006 at 6:04 pm  

    David, I agree, there can be a countercultural element which attracts people. But I wonder whether this is making it seem juvenile because we want to distance ourselves from seeing our own behaviour in the same moral terms as transgressive behaviour.

    Is there anything inherently better about being attracted to a conformist rather than a transgressive identity?

    Sid, soru, Saudi Arabia is a conundrum for me as well. I would compare it to China – opposition to which unites lefty humanitarians to neocon hawks, but mainstream realpoliticos treat them as important allies – and I daresay, David, that treating them like others the call “rogue states” would be a transgressive act.

  41. Bikhair aka Taqiyyah — on 4th July, 2006 at 7:07 pm  

    Professor Sikander,

    “The answer to the above question as to why Islamic fundamentalists who hate this society dont go and live in paradises like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan is simple. According to their ideology all the Earth belongs to Allah and it is their duty to make non Muslim lands conducive to Islam.”

    What a strange opinion. If that were trully the case Muslims wouldnt recieve such profound rewards for making hijrah- or migration. In fact if you read any opinion from scholars in places like Saudi Arabia they will tell you that it isnt permissible for Muslims to live in Darul Kufr, the land of disbelief. That they are encouraged to move to Muslim lands. All of the earth does belong to Allah. So does space, but we arent going there. You are confusing two issues.

  42. Bikhair aka Taqiyyah — on 4th July, 2006 at 7:17 pm  

    Raz & Gaz,

    I coudlnt disagree with you more. Everyone keeps blaming Saudi Arabia when in fact this ideology, has been around longer than the state of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabians are taught really traditional orthodox statis Islam, literally that I dont see as being the dynamic influence of “fundamentalist expansionist” ideology you see today. Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood on the otherhand has proven far more central to that ideology than anything that comes out of Saudi Arabia. Saudis have money, and lots of money comes from that place going to every corner of the earth but the ideas come from Egypt. A little lazy to conclude otherwise.

  43. Bikhair aka Taqiyyah — on 4th July, 2006 at 7:26 pm  

    Pickled Politics,

    Here is some interesting reading atleast on Indonesia.

    http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3005&l=1

    Though long, try to read the extended PDF file.

  44. soru — on 4th July, 2006 at 8:27 pm  

    I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone argue the case for Saudi Arabia who wasn’t self-evidently being paid by the word.

    Ok, now I have. Thank you Bikhair.

    I actually partly agree with you, ‘traditional orthodox statis(t?) Islam’ isn’t the issue in itself. However, combine those underlying assumptions with some basic (western) political theory, common sense and freedom of thought, and you are very likely to spot that the Saudi royal family are a bunch of morally corrupt US/UK stooges.

    That’s when things start getting radical.

  45. David T — on 4th July, 2006 at 9:07 pm  

    Is there anything inherently better about being attracted to a conformist rather than a transgressive identity?

    Oh, I’m not making a judgement about the relative moral merits of the diverse contexts within which people feel at home expressing joy over the destruction of human life.

    The point I’m making is that part of the attraction of extreme – and in particular violent – politics, including jihadism in this country is that it is specifically countercultural, and provides a focus for an identity which is meaningful to the individual, specifically because it is confrontational. It is a chance to set yourself against your peers.

    That is not to say that an entire culture cannot become radicalised, and embrace a politics of violence and anger.

    There is, I think, a difference between a conservative patriotism – the sort of conventional expression of group identity politics which you find in retired accountants living in Surrey who have always voted Tory, or the old folks, dreaming of the homeland – and the sort of people who find themselves attracted to jihadism or ‘white nationalist politics’.

  46. Ravi4 — on 4th July, 2006 at 10:05 pm  

    “frankly I don’t see this at all different from patriotic women who marry soldiers”

    I really have to agree with Sid on this one. Any attempt to equate the morality of soldiers and (wannabe) terrorists has serious flaws.

    There are no doubt some common motivations to both “professions” – the excitement of risk-taking, putting yourself in danger, of trying to best an opponent in “mortal combat”.

    But there are also big differences. There’s the transgressive nature of terrorism as described by DavidT.

    But there’s also the more general context of incredible hatred and contempt for fellow mankind and determination to purify society through destructive violence, as described in Aparita’s excellent article, which drove the wives and their wannabe terrorist husbands. We all know there are soldiers who are motivated by such feelings, and they are indeed morally no different to terrorists. But it would be wrong to describe the profession as a whole as being similarly motivated.

    I know several blokes from school and uni who became soldiers and they are certainly not motivated by a wish to cause pain and suffering to anyone, particularly civilians. They and their wives don’t glorify in the acts of violence that they may or may not have committed. Being nice public school boys, they’re not motivated by poverty either. As well as the excitement, they are also motivated by duty, patriotism, tradition, team spirit etc – which we can mock (and I occasionally do) but hatred does not figure for them as a motivation. I would be surprised if these blokes are atypical of the military.

    Sonia’s comment that “career soldiers still kill – for a living” is also misleading in that it implies that the whole point of armed forces is to kill people. In fact a major benefit of armed forces is to deter violence in various ways, whether by defending a border or through peacekeeping. Most soldiers go through whole tours of duty – whether in Northern Ireland or the Balkans – without harming anyone. Whole careers could be spent like this in the British Army, particularly during the Cold War, until Iraq and Afghanistan – which both actually represent a failure of this violence deterring role in one way or another.

    On the other hand, the point of being a terrorist is not to deter violence at all – the very act of destructive, nihilistic violence is the point of being a terrorist.

    To take this moral equivalence argument further, would we say that terrorists are no worse than the police, who routinely carry firearms in most countries in the world, just because the police too are theoretically trained to kill people? And that policemen’s wives are no different to these hate-filled lunatic women in Canada?

  47. Don — on 4th July, 2006 at 10:14 pm  

    Ravi4,

    Very well put.

  48. Bikhair aka Taqiyyah — on 5th July, 2006 at 12:21 am  

    Soru,

    The kinds of ideologies that are said to be being promoted from Saudi Arabia is the same one that threatens the kingdom today. What country do these people want more except Saudi Arabia? Palestine, KAshmir, Chechnya is nothing compared to Saudi Arabia. Nothing. When you have Saudi you have leverage.

  49. Sunny — on 5th July, 2006 at 1:03 am  

    Excellent link Bikhair. Quite an enlightening read that was.

    By the way, above I was referring only to the wives who want their husbands to join the army and “kick butt”. I said their sentiments sounded familiar. Given that I grew up amongst army personell, I certainly don’t see them as crazed, violent people.

  50. soru — on 5th July, 2006 at 11:30 am  

    ‘When you have Saudi you have leverage’

    In particular, you gain control of a military with a budget ranked 9th in the world, fractionally behind India and over double that of Turkey or Israel.

    Won’t be called ‘Saudi’ any more, of course.

    Historians may well refer to current events as the War of the Arabian Succession

  51. Arif — on 5th July, 2006 at 11:37 am  

    Ravi4 – thanks for putting your point of view in more detail. However I think that it left me more convinced than before that there is a moral equivalence between armies and terrorists.

    On the issue of being transgressive – I think David T puts his point fairly, that it is a motivation and that does not mean there is any particular moral lesson to be drawn from it. Other than, like all human beings, people in guerilla armies or terrorist cells will have base motivations alongside their ideals.

    The “incredible contempt and hatred for humankind” is a motivation you can ascribe to any opponent you might have. And I feel it is similar to the kinds of motivations routinely ascribed to the leaders of armies by their most threatened opponents.

    As you point out – people who have such motives might be attracted to join a conformist army as much as a transgressive army. And just as it would be wrong to tar professional soldiers with a simple negative set of motives, I think it would be wrong to assume unprofessional soldiers have simple negative motives, from a particular example.

    But it does make sense to argue that, since they are unpaid and put themselves in greater danger than professional soldiers, they are likely to have an ideological attachments to their leaders/causes more than soldiers who may be more thoughtless in giving up their moral authority. And I think this makes me agree with you to the extent that someone joining al Qaeda would have their hatred ready formed, rather than have to have it inculcated in preparation for a coming battle. But when a war is on, how much difference is their really between the attitudes of fighters on each side?

    Knowing people who go into the army (as I did too), and perhaps not knowing people who join terrorist groups, we might not be in a good position to tell how different they are in motivation. That soldiers are likely to be decent human beings is something I have never doubted, but I think they make moral choices which are indistinguishable from terrorists unless they join with the intention to become conscientious objectors when it comes to using violence.

    Deterring violence is a political goal which is equally applied by (other?) terrorist organisations. For example using violence to deter other countries from joining a military campaign, which (from their perspective) would be as moral a goal as armies deterring aggression across a border by other armies.

    The act of destructive nihilistic violence you ascribe to those you consider terrorists seems like an unfair projection which people can use both ways. I think David T’s approach is more even-handed. And his view of home counties gents who have self-righteous prejudices but essential kindness, and those who lack that kindness, seems to ring true enough to help me also understand the women who blogged their opinions on the state of a Canadian society they did not really care to understand.

    On discussing police, though I came to see your distinction more clearly. I would say militias (although in this case the accused were not seeming to organise as militias) are a form of volunteer policing. And like police they may be indisciplined, badly motivated, corrupt, threatening and unaccountable. Some may be attracted to militias in order to be predatory and others in order to protect the community. And I can see that in a well ordered militia or police force, predatory people will have less freedom to harm others and so find it unattractive, but a badly run police force or militia will attract precisely the most vicious personalities.

    I think your argument is really for armies and terrorist organisations to be well run with strong chains of command to minimise the freedom of psychopaths who would otherwise be attracted to join them. And I think you perceive terrorist organisations to be insufficiently disciplined, therefore attracting the people you characterise as nihilistic.

    Would you extend this idea to accept the possibility that terrorist groups are usually organised, with discplined members, but that these members may be used or controlled by psychopaths who want to vent their self-righteous anger? Would this also apply to normal armies? Your post has led me to reflect that the differences may be more based on technology, level of control over members, ease of communication and training, financial incentives and social acceptability.

    While you concentrate on the hatred that motivates such people, I think I perceive the same kind of hatreds all around me, coming through the mass media from the most respectable politicians and commentators. It does not seem a particularly abnormal way of thinking, but one we are all prone to unless we make conscious attempts to overcome it.

  52. soru — on 5th July, 2006 at 12:20 pm  

    But when a war is on, how much difference is their really between the attitudes of fighters on each side?.

    The real difference is when the time comes to declare peace. The guy who dropped the A bomb on Hiroshima took off his uniform, stopped taking orders, and went to leave a normal life, apparently with untroubled sleep.

    An equivalent terrorist bomber who did something like that out of uniform, with much more freedom of action, and because he believed much more strongly and explicitly in the cause, will follow a very different future life path.

    Veterans of the Falklands war drink in pubs together, and swap stories of how they tried to shoot each other down.

    The IRA always considered itself an Army, not a collection of gangs, and went to great lengths to maintain internal discipline, typically with shotguns to kneecaps. Nevertheless, it took it many years to actually stop fighting from the point its leadership decided to do so, and the end of violence was messy and partial.

    The same applies in quadruplicate to the Palestinians. I can’t see Hamas and Mossad sitting down together over a coffee anytime ever and laughing ‘remember that time you blew up my sister?’

    The wearing of uniforms, and the taking off of uniforms when a peace is declared, is the critical thing.

  53. Roger — on 5th July, 2006 at 12:35 pm  

    One important difference is the ability to “switch on” or off the ability to be violent. One of the most important things about soldiers is how very little time they actually spend being violent and how controlled military violence is. Norman Dixon, in The Psychology of Military Incompetence, showed this ata higher level. Even in actual combat it’s reckoned that only about half the soldiers involved use their weapons at all and only about a tenth use them effectively. Terrorists have something close to a hundred percent effectiveness.

  54. justforfun — on 5th July, 2006 at 12:49 pm  

    This thread is one of the best yet by all – so much to read and to think on and reflect. An 18year old has certainly made us all sit up and think.

    Is there a way of preserving it for easy reading when it finaly finishes?

    Justforfun.

  55. Arif — on 5th July, 2006 at 2:39 pm  

    Roger, soru, I hadn’t thought about that point, and it seems very plausible to me. My initial reaction was to think it would stem from the difference of fighting for things you really believe in and fighting for things you don’t really believe in. But I think that doesn’t make much sense, since soldiers are taught in a variety of ways to identify with the cause they are pursuing, just as terrorist recruits would be. I don’t know how I can assume that one person’s convictions are more deeply held than someone elses.

    What else might account for the ability to switch off after a conflict? What is it about taking off a uniform? It suggests that the hate is abstract (as for people who play for another team) or that it is a role (submitting to authority like civilians in the Milgram experiment). Either way they wouldn’t have to actually believe their opponents are evil so have no personal hostility. A terrorist would likely come to make their choice as a result of their own moral reasoning and emotional reactions, but why would they be more personally hostile to those they consider unjust?

    It could also be that the common identity of being a soldier (on whatever side) enables both sides to empathise with one another. And that terrorists may have a similar potential for empathy with other terrorists (or “unlawful combatants”). But that State and non-State combatants would have less of a common identity, hence more potential for ongoing hostility.

    Roger’s suggestion that military violence is more controlled, with little time spent on violence doesn’t seem to differ from terrorists, who seem to need to pre-plan actions a long time in advance, while training or going about their daily lives. Am I mistaken?

    The other point about how most soldiers on the field of battle actually avoid killing others is suggestive about human nature, but I don’t think you mean to suggest that human nature is different between volunteer soldiers and non-State actors. When you think of individuals planting bombs, they might be compared to soldiers laying mines. When you think of people killing civilians, they might be compared to soldiers on special missions, out of control, undertaking collective punishments or otherwise being used to suppress local opposition on behalf of the Government or following orders to break the will of the enemy. When you think of people making very intricate plans to take hostages or assassinate others, it is analogous to special operations. These are undertaken with effectiveness by both sides, and I don’t see a reason to believe there is much difference in the natures of people undertaking them – to the extent of condemning one while condoning the other.

    Is the difference in effectiveness something which has been studied or theorised about more deeply? It would be an interesting difference – suggesting maybe that terrorists should be compared to highly professional SAS type operatives rather than regular soldiers.

  56. soru — on 5th July, 2006 at 3:26 pm  

    Keegan’s A History of Warfare covers some of this stuff.

  57. Ravi4 — on 5th July, 2006 at 5:40 pm  

    I agree with justforfun – this has turned into a good discussion. I’ve certainly refined my thinking as a result of it. Let me add another verbose contribution to it by responding to some of the thought provoking points that Arif makes…

    Arif – I agree the transgressive nature of terrorism is not necessarily a factor in any moral judgement about it. To my mind “technology, level of control over members, ease of communication and training, financial incentives and social acceptability” would also be irrelevant to any moral judgement.

    Soru and Roger have pointed out other key differences between terrorists and national armies – uniform and “effective violence”. I’d add to Roger’s by pointing out that modern conventional armies actually have a minority of personnel – I think 10%-20% – designated for combat duties, the rest doing stuff like communications, logistics, transport etc. I can see though that, as you point out, factors like these might not be clinchers for a moral judgement – terrorist organisations could and do set up similar structures (quartermaster, bomb-maker, communicator, get-away driver etc).

    In my view, motivation is highly relevant to moral judgement. I don’t think the hatred I ascribe to the Canadian Wannabe Terrorists and their wives is an entirely subjective judgement or unfair projection by me onto these characters. The hatred is pretty evident to me from the statements these individuals have voluntarily posted on their blogs (see the article that Aparita links to). If soldiers or their wives or leaders expressed such sentiments then, as I said, I WOULD judge them as in many important ways morally equivalent to these terrorists and their spouses.

    For me the other major differences crucial to these moral judgements revolve around treatment of innocent civilians (where “innocent civilians” is defined as something like those who have nothing but most peripheral connection to command, control and support of “opposition” military activity). For example

    – strategy and tactics which deliberately cause death and harm to innocent civilians (eg 7/7, 9/11)

    – lack of system which tailors plans as far as possible to avoid killing/harming innocent civilians

    – lack of any system to inculcate values and behaviours which reduce propensity for deliberate killing/harming of innocent civilians and to investigate/punish/prevent such acts when they do occur

    – system which deliberately fosters the kind of hatred and love of nihilistic violence which reduces the inhibitions and increases the propensity to cause deliberate death and harm to innocent civilians

    For what it’s worth, you seem to draw your definition of terrorism wider than I would. A non-state force which applied all the various criteria above as far as they were practicably able (particularly care for civilians) would not in my mind be terrorists – just non-state combatants. Conversely, a national army or national leaders which failed these tests would to my mind (and I believe according to Geneva Conventions) be war criminals and no better than terrorists.

    This of course leads to uncomfortable conclusions. How would I judge an insurgent group in Iraq if it stuck to the criteria set out above as far as they were able? (Sadly for Iraq, no insurgent group I know of even remotely tries to meet such conditions. Clearly those pesky insurgents don’t care much about my opinion.)

    This brings us back to that age-old debate about defining terrorism.

    “Would you extend this idea to accept the possibility that terrorist groups are usually organised, with discplined members, but that these members may be used or controlled by psychopaths who want to vent their self-righteous anger”

    I would first disagree that most terrorist groups are usually organised with disciplined members. I think the 7/7 and 21/7 events showed the decentralised, fractured nature of these organisations, lack of fixed memberships or command and control structures etc etc and the relative lack of discipline of many of their members.

    I would also argue that any “member” of a terrorist “organisation” – one which fails the tests above – is not simply being used or controlled by “psychopaths” but is indeed a “psychopath” him-/herself (although probably not in the clinical sense).

    “I think I perceive the same kind of hatreds all around me, coming through the mass media from the most respectable politicians and commentators”

    That’s certainly true of certain quarters – commentators like Mark Steyn, Melanie Phillips, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin etc. But most – even the Sun and George Bush – are careful in their public pronouncements not to express these kinds of hatreds. (Whether you believe they secretly harbour these hatreds is a different matter of course. But that risks being the kind of unfair projection that you referred to.)

    There is a broader problem I have with seeking moral equivalence between all behaviours. Being an agnostic verging on atheist, I accept that any system of morality and any moral judgement is ultimately an abstract human construct. For me such abstract human constructs are only useful (and I find them very useful) in that they identify behaviours which a “society” (for which read something like “community of human beings”) does or does not want to encourage in order to safeguard or promote the welfare of its members.

    Moral equivalence between all behaviours therefore to my mind removes the very justification for having a system of morality at all. And that means? There is no good and evil. Only the strong and the weak. Winners and losers. George W Bush and Osama Bin Laden are the top dogs. Arif and Ravi4 are worthless insects skittering around struggling for survival under these demi-gods’ shoes …

  58. Arif — on 5th July, 2006 at 7:34 pm  

    Ravi4, I agree with you on a lot of things (as well as disagree on factual points which might be better exploring elsewhere), so I hope you don’t mind if I focus on the bits which I think get closest to the heart of my concerns.

    The main moral differences seem to be:

    1. motivation
    2. methods

    I agree with you that we should take what people say to be an honest reflection of their motivations in the first instance, and that if I were to look for underlying agendas, I should do the same for each side or individual.

    The article lists the most aggressive opinions on their website. I found the litany of bigotry and selectivity upsetting, but not in an exceptional way. I can imagine them appearing on Pickled Politics, for example, and I’d put them in a mental filing cabinet I have for “Daily Mail type attitudes”. If they had not been linked to a terrorist cell, it would be considered just the usual nuttiness. But I’m not going to diminish the hatred they have. It is there and it is dangerous. But I don’t think it is the final word on what attracts people to terrorism.

    I would expect that people have a wider range of motives to join an army. But I believe the reason for this is that armies are socially acceptable, so the threshold of identification with the causes you fight for is much lower and requires less reflection. If we were to decide terrorism is socially acceptable, there may also be a lot more people joining for different reasons.

    In terms of motives, a soldier or a terrorist can equally sign up because they are fired by incredible hatred, idealism or identification with a cause. Or they may have other personal reasons, in which case they are subordinating their moral judgments of rightful violence to another – in effect they do not so much care who they are responsible for killing and what it is for. None of this seems a good enough reason to help kill people. Yet we do not normally judge soldiers on their motives, except perhaps to glorify them for patriotism, but we do judge other warriors for their motives – usually to stigmatise them as fuelled by no objectives other than an irrational hatred. We give the best slant on one and the worst on another, and I’d like to be clearer why that is.

    You also draw attention to rules of engagement as the an important moral distinction. Or at last systems to inculcate rules of engagement. I do think these are important, but again, they are partly a function of resources which in turn are linked to social acceptability. They are also partly a function of motivation (in terms of objectives). Armies do not appear to shrink from using violence on civilians when it helps to meet a political objective. Terrorists do appear to shrink from using violence on civilians when doing so helps to meet a political objective. In both cases it is their objectives and resources that primarily seem to determine rules of engagement.

    I think once violence for political goals is seen as legitimate by armies, it is equally legitimate for non-State actors. You seem to say so too. If either an army or a non-State actor knowingly harms civilians, you would class them both as terrorist. I’d agree with that too. But then how would I two sets of terrorists without moral equivalence of all behaviours?

    Firstly by asking how much they tried to avoid violence in the first place and attempt to find peaceful solutions (whether it is aggressive or defensive). Secondly by the morality of their objectives (whether it is to remove an injustice or to be able to perpetuate an injustice). Thirdly by the humanity with which they treat their opponents (willing to bring down the level of hostility and come to a just peace at any time).

  59. soru — on 5th July, 2006 at 8:34 pm  

    Yet we do not normally judge soldiers on their motives, except perhaps to glorify them for patriotism, but we do judge other warriors for their motives – usually to stigmatise them as fuelled by no objectives other than an irrational hatred

    Who precisely is this ‘we’ you see as doing this? From a UK persepective, guerillas are heros, posters on walls, subjects of films.

    In the popular ‘SAS thriller’ genre (Andy McNabb and so on), one main theme is the lack of difference between the sides. Spy stories even more so (and the spy is really the closest cultural equivalent to the terrorist). Spies are seen as morally ambiguous even when they don’t kill anyone, precisely because they break all the rules about uniforms.

    It’s hard to name one british film produced post-1970 that had a soldier as hero. ‘Dog Soldiers’ comes as close as I can think, and that was still clear to paint the werewolves as just different, not evil, or ‘fuelled by an irrational hatred’.

    America is another place, of course.

  60. Ravi4 — on 5th July, 2006 at 9:56 pm  

    Arif

    “in which case they are subordinating their moral judgments of rightful violence to another – in effect they do not so much care who they are responsible for killing and what it is for.” Even though my “military experience” is limited to membership of the Cadet Corps at school, I know that inculcating the willingness to refuse unlawful orders (ie not in line with Geneva Conventions) is a key development in military training since WWII. The horrors of Nazi Germany have made the excuse “I was only obeying orders” a sick joke.

    “Armies do not appear to shrink from using violence on civilians when it helps to meet a political objective” Depends on which army you’re talking about, doesn’t it? If the UK army was to consider a deliberate tactic or strategy of using violence against civilians I imagine it would shrink from doing so – at least to the extent that they’d want to take extreme steps to hide it from the media, MPs, public and probably from most of their own troops too. I doubt if this has much to do with resources.

    I totally agree with your last para.

  61. Don — on 5th July, 2006 at 10:45 pm  

    ‘the morality of their objectives ‘

    How would you judge that, except by reference to your own moral convictions? Each man his own judge? Isn’t that where we are now?

    Our view of the morality of an armed forces objectives necessarily decides our stance, but I doubt it can be a criteria for deciding what is terrorism and what isn’t.

  62. Moom — on 7th July, 2006 at 5:07 am  

    All of you people seemed to be confused as to why Ms.Farooq breed hatred at such a yooung age.. Hmm..it seems like most of you must’ve been dead for the past few years. Open the TV. Do you not see the Abu ghraib scandal? The picture of men getting tortured, beaten up, and humuliated. Hmm..I guess that suppose to make any teenager just LOVE america and her allies right? Ok how about deaths in tens and thousands in Iraq? Oh its for democracy? Oh ok..it’s all right then.. What else..Oh yeah canada sending its troops to a country that HAS nothing to do with Canada…seems like a great favour to Afghanis who will be getting killed… I mean what the hell is this double standard. You talk about “war on terrorism” and how great it is. Does war not constitute terrorism? You talk about how come this young hates so much? Well maybe she had enough of this war crap. This global domination led by America and it allies. Oh man why am i even talking to you people. If I kill a million in front of you…you’ll just call them collateral damage. But if i kill one american…man the whole word is gonna bomb my heads off..Why? I guess the blood of a muslim is worth nothing…but i guess the blood of a western is worth 100 times more than the muslims…Justice..PSHH! You want hatred out of your countries?? I got a simple solution. GET THE HELL OUT OF OUR COUNTRIES AND STOP KILLING OUR PEOPLE..AND THEN MAYBE WE’LL FINALLY LIVE IN A PEACEFULL WORLD.

  63. Ravi4 — on 7th July, 2006 at 9:34 pm  

    Moom – The nature of your post and your failure to address the substantive arguments in this thread seem to indicate that you are not actually interested in the debate here. But allow me to respond to some of your comments:

    “You talk about “war on terrorism” and how great it is.”
    Who are you addressing? I can’t find any comment here which praises the “war on terrorism”.

    “I mean what the hell is this double standard. … Does war not constitute terrorism?”
    Does this mean you are a pacifist? This would be an honourable position to take, although one which should lead you to disapprove of terrorists and armies alike as I think Arif does. Or do you believe terrorism is a justified response to war? Or do you believe there is no difference between those who deliberately cause death and harm to innocent civilians and those who take care not to cause such death and harm?

    “I guess the blood of a muslim is worth nothing…”
    I presume you don’t have ready access to the western (European) media, the majority of whom condemn the Iraq war and many of whom give only lukewarm support for the Afghan war, because of the loss of Muslim lives. (see for example http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1805917,00.html )

    “GET THE HELL OUT OF OUR COUNTRIES AND STOP KILLING OUR PEOPLE..AND THEN MAYBE WE’LL FINALLY LIVE IN A PEACEFULL WORLD.”
    Sudan Darfur, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Algeria, India (Jammu-Kashmir, Assam). The West has – quite rightly – got the hell out of these countries and has stopped killing their people. How does the continuing violence there fit with your apparent world-view?

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