Chapter 1: Introduction
In the dissertation I will try to show how young Muslims become radicalized by Islam and ultimately join terrorist organisations. Firstly focusing on Albert Cohen’s work on the delinquent subculture, I will look at how young boys become part of a delinquent group. Is it just the working class who are frustrated by society, who feel inferior to the middle class and feel they must reject society and create their own set of rules, values and norms. However is it also the middle class boys who feel isolated by their position in society, frustrated at that fact their parents set high standards and give them no freedom and then they ultimately become delinquent. I will then focus on the work by Ian Buruma who wrote ‘Murder in Amsterdam’ and look at what drove Mohammed Bouyeri to murder Theo Van Gogh. What made Bouyeri commit a murderous act? Was it that society rejected him, made him feel inferior, was it jealously of Western culture, and did he turn to Islam for answers. Mohammed Bouyeri’s frustrations are similar to that of the young delinquent boy’s frustrations in Cohen’s work. I will then discuss the radical loser and sexual inadequacy and see if these factors can also cause young Muslim men to become Islamic extremists. Following on from this, I will then look at what possible responses there are to counter Islamic terrorism and finally offer a conclusion on the topic.
In introducing the topic, why is the West despised so much by the Middle East? Why do young Muslims join Islamic extremist groups with the goal to commit murder? What can these extremist groups offer young men? Is it that they’re frustrated by society and feel they must take revenge on the infidels? Where does the future lie for other young Muslims? What are the responses to Islamic terrorism? These questions will be answered and hopefully shed some light on this difficult area.
Before looking at these important questions just mentioned, it’s important to first discuss how delinquent subcultures was first interpreted and the main theorist around this area was Albert Cohen who wrote ‘Delinquent Boys’.
Chapter 2: Cohen’s work on young delinquent subcultures
When we see a group of young people together we immediately label them to be deviant even though they may have done nothing wrong, they’re seen as deviant, malicious and non –utilitarian. When one thinks of these groups its thought that these people steal things because they want them. They want to eat, wear or otherwise use them or maybe because they can sell there stolen item. These explanations assume that the possession of something is an object of value, and it was of rational choice that they steal the desired object. However in most cases of theft in delinquent gangs, it’s not because they want the object of value, but what motivates them is the stealing itself. To steal something just for a rush gives them power and satisfaction, usually the stolen item may have no use to them what so ever and will be destroyed, discarded or given away (Cohen 1955 p25-26).
In this sense that stealing is done for satisfaction, the same could be said about Islamic extremists and that blowing up a building does not motivate them, they do it because they want to, because they can, it gives them power the same way a delinquent gang steal’s something of no value.
“Unquestionably, most delinquents are from the more needy and underprivileged classes and unquestionably many things are stolen because they are intrinsically valued. However, a humane and compassionate regard for their economic disabilities should not blind us to the fact that stealing is not merely an alternative means to the acquisition of objects otherwise difficult of attainment” (Cohen 1955 p26).
Can stealing then be a form of reaction? Why does stealing attract some and others would never steal? Stealing to young delinquents gives them status in a group, stealing gives them recognition, gives them a purpose, makes them feel that they are good at something and with being in a group it avoids isolation. If then stealing itself is not motivated by rational or utilitarian considerations, then stealing is an activity of enjoyment and fun to these gangs and they find it a challenge to defy taboos. All that matters to the gang is that it gets a good ‘laugh’ (Cohen 1955 p27).
“The delinquent subculture takes its norms from the larger culture but turns them upside down. The delinquent’s conduct is right, by the standards of his subculture, precisely because it is wrong by the norms of the larger culture.
“Another characteristic of the subculture of the delinquent is short run hedonism; there is little interest in long run goals, in planning activities and budgeting time, or in activities involving knowledge and skills to be acquired only through practice, deliberation and study, the members of the gang typically congregate with no specific activity in mind, at some street corner, candy store or other regular rendezvous. Furthermore short run hedonism is not characteristic of delinquent groups alone. It is common throughout the social class from which delinquents characteristically come” (Cohen 1955 p28-30).
“A theory, which may explain why young boys become delinquent, is the culture conflict theory. Areas of high mobility and diverse composition are lacking in cultural unity. The diverse ethnic and racial stocks have diverse and incongruent standards and codes, and these standards and codes are in turn inconsistent with those of the schools and other official representatives of the larger society. In this welter of conflicting cultures, the young person is confused and bedevilled. The adult world presents him with no clear-cut and authoritative models. Subject to a multitude of conflicting patterns, he respects none and assimilates none. He develops no respect for the legal order because it represents a culture, where he finds no support in his social world. He becomes delinquent” (Cohen 1955 p33-34).
Another theory that should be noted in relation to delinquent behaviour is ‘anomie’, in egalitarian societies like America, cultural goals are set as examples for everyone to achieve such as money success, in America everyone has a chance to live the ‘American Dream’, however people who cannot achieve these goals have feelings of frustration by the society in which they are in and have to find other ways to achieve status and achievement, crime and deviance may be a response. This theory offers plausible explanations for property delinquency of some older and semi professional juvenile thieves, however it fails to account the non-utilitarian quality of the subculture mentioned before. The delinquent in this theory would respect the goods he has acquired, where as the delinquent subculture would not care for material goods so this theory has no relevance in terms of the delinquent subculture (Cohen 1955 p35-36).
Who are the members of delinquent subcultures? Are they mainly under educated working class individuals who know nothing else than to commit acts of delinquency or are they middle class educated people who feel frustrated of the constant rules and laws they must abide by?
Cohen (1955 p37-38) argues “Juvenile delinquency and the delinquent subculture in particular are overwhelmingly concentrated in the male working class sector, most statistical analyses of juvenile delinquency agree that delinquency in general is predominantly working class phenomenon. It is logically conceivable, however that the correlation between juvenile delinquency and social class is a statistical artefact produced by the biases of the police and the courts. All children, regardless of social class commit delinquent acts”.
Middle class parents are more likely to be concerned about achievement and they will let the child know this. The child must live up to his parent’s expectations and not disappoint. His life may be dominated by the parents, they will surround him with books and educational toys, and they supervise his activities, his friends and his basic life. He will more than likely retire to bed early and be present at family meals. The middle class child becomes dependent upon his parents; he constantly wants their praise and affection, however this is only given by achievement and effort. Failure to achieve the goals set by his parents may lead to his parents abandoning him and embarrassment that their child has failed, this will lead the child feeling isolated, frustrated and ultimately to delinquency. Even if a middle class child was to succeed and live up to the expectations set by his parents, he may still grow up frustrated at not being allowed to break the middle class values and rules set, he may feel trapped, and in order to release this feeling may perform delinquent acts (Cohen 1955 p98-99).
Unlike the middle class child, the working class child is less likely to develop overwhelming dependency on the love of one or two adults, furthermore the working class child may be more dependent emotionally and have more friends than the middle class child, the middle class child may have little or no friends and again this will lead to frustration and deviancy (Cohen 1955 p101).
What causes the delinquent subculture? Is the delinquent subculture a response to problems of adjustment? This problem of adjusting is down to the fact that the working class child shares the low status of his parents, he starts life out with a disadvantage and he cares what the middle class think of him. With his parent’s failure he is more than likely he will fail also, this again comes to the question of; why young delinquents join subcultures? This in part can be answered here, the child will see the failings of his parent’s and will see no future for himself, in his mind if his parent’s fail then there is not much hope for him, a solution is to join a delinquent gang, it offers him acceptance, something he can excel at, and feel part of something. The working class child is most likely to cause problems because of their relative lack of training in order and discipline, their lack of interest in intellectual achievement and their lack of reinforcement by home in conformity to the requirements of the school. Their failings in the classroom are linked to the fact that they’re from a lower social level. If the working class child wishes to win favour of middle class people, he will have to change his habits, his values, his speech and whom he associates with. However in the area he has grown up it would be of no gain to him, so he would eventually turn back to the street corner to satisfy his needs. The working class boy in his working class area is likely to be a failure.
The people of status will treat their children to be respectful and law abiding as mentioned before, but as the middle class parents provide money, clothes, cars etc they are trapping the child and making them live up to the status into which they have been brought up. It seems some middle class children have low ascribed status and low self-esteem and feelings of resentment and inferiority (Cohen 1955 p111-116).
Many middle class Muslims also feel this way, a feeling of being inferior, rejected, isolated and frustrated, and ultimately join Islamic extremist groups to express their anger and take revenge on society, this will be looked at in further detail later.
In summary of this, Cohen (1955 p119) states, “it may be confidently said that the working class boy, particularly if his training and values be those we have defined as working class, is more likely than his middle class peers to find himself at the bottom of the status hierarchy whenever he moves in a middle class world, whether it be of adults or of children. To the degree to which he values middle class status, either because he values the good opinion of middle class persons or because he has to some degree internalized middle class standards himself, he faces a problem of adjustment and is in the market for a solution”.
When speaking of delinquent subcultures, it’s a way of life for some, the members of these gangs grow up, and some of them will become law-abiding citizens while others will graduate to adult forms of criminality. The difference between the delinquents and the non-delinquents is that of the exposure to the subcultures. The culture into which a person is brought up ultimately decides their fate, if they’re brought up into a family with no rules and no guidelines and where the family never shows love for the child and where he is constantly put down, then they will get away with anything and think nothing of stealing. A family with no rules will expose him to delinquent groups. Delinquency is seen as a result of some attribute of the personality of the child, an attribute that the non-delinquent child does not possess nor does not posses in the same degree. The delinquent differs from the non-delinquent in that he has frustrations, deprivations, insecurities, anxieties or mental conflicts, which differ in some degree from those of non-delinquent children (Cohen 1955 p13-15).
Cohen (1955 p16) argues, “Psychogenic theories of both classes recognize the importance of the child’s social environment in producing the character structure or the problem of adjustment, but give it relatively little weight in determining the particular manner in which it finds expression. For the first class of psychogenic theories, the Id is already there at birth in all people (the Id meaning that every human being is endowed with a fund of inborn or instinctual anti social impulses). It is criminal from the very start and never changes. What is acquired through experience is the shell of inhibition. For the second class, as a symptom or mode of adjustment is contrived or hit upon by the child himself, perhaps through one or more of the familiar mechanisms of substitution, regression, displacement, compensation, rationalization and projection. If other children exhibit the same behaviour it is because they have independently contrived the same solution”.
These psychogenic theories don’t apply to all juvenile delinquency, but they offer another explanation into why and how young people join delinquent groups.
Finally on delinquent subcultures, as mentioned before on adjustment, “these problems are status problems, certain children are denied status in a respectable society because they cannot meet the criteria of the respectable status system. The delinquent subculture deals with these problems by providing criteria of status, which these children can meet. It is not, for example that people whose status positions are low must necessarily feel deprived, injured or ego-involved in that low status. Whether they will or not depends upon several considerations. Whom do we measure ourselves against is the crucial question” (Cohen 1955 p121).
In America, “children and adults sense of personal worth is at stake in status comparisons with all other persons, at least of one’s own age and sex. This means that in the lower levels of status hierarchies there is a chronic motivation to elevate one’s status position, either by striving to climb within the established status system or by redefining the criteria of status so that one’s present attributes become status giving assets” (Cohen 1955 p122).
As for Muslims living in these Western areas they have a sense of inferiority, in a globalized world they don’t value the Western culture, they become radicalized into Islamist groups.
The working class boy may not care what middle class people think of him, this in a way applies to young western Muslims, they may not care what people think of them but to degree they are both sensitive about the attitudes of persons with whom they have superficial contact such as school friends and teachers. They may make an effort to change with conformity, or they may attempt to justify or explain why their inferiority in terms which will exculpate them, they may decide they don’t actually care what they think and react with anger and aggression, in the case of the young Muslims this may be through acts of terrorism (Cohen 1955 p124).
Cohen (1955 p128) argues “it is a plausible assumption, then, that working class boys whose status is low in middle class terms cares about that status, that this status confronts him with a genuine problem of adjustment. To this problem of adjustment there are a variety of conceivable responses, of which participation in the creation and the maintenance of the delinquent subculture is one. Each mode of response entails costs and yields gratifications of its own”.
Another important function of the delinquent subculture is the legitimation of aggression. There is a certain amount of hostility among the working class towards the middle classes, their middle class superiority and wealth frustrates the working class, the working class are against middle class norms, which in a sense is a cause of their status frustration. This frustration is not the only cause of aggression, in some there may be other forms present. This connection between status frustration and the aggressiveness of the delinquent subculture is a good plausible explanation for delinquent behaviour. They become frustrated at the disadvantages and inequalities they face, this then leads to reaction formation, were these young men replace societies norms and replace them with their own or alternative ones. Instead of striving for money or success, they join delinquent subcultures in order to steal or commit acts of vandalism in order to gain respect. The status they receive in the gang for their delinquency gives them a sense of status and belonging, something that the larger society cannot give them. The group adopts its own means and values in order to exclude themselves from society. This theory explains non- utilitarian crime such as stealing objects of no value, vandalism and general delinquency (Cohen 1955 p132-135).
However Cohen (1955 p135) states, “For most delinquents, delinquency would not be available as a response were it not socially legitimized and given a kind of respectability, albeit by a restricted community of fellow adventurers. If one senses that others are prepared to go along if someone makes the first tentative gesture then people will follow. When we are dealing with status frustration. Status, by definition, is a grant of respect from others. A new system of norms, which measures status by criteria which one can meet is of no value unless others are prepared to apply those criteria, and others are not likely to do so unless one is prepared to reciprocate”.
As mentioned before that delinquency may also appear in middle class society. A delinquent subculture of middle class values will have similar aspects of the working class subculture but different frustrations from that of the working class subculture. Delinquency in the middle class will differ in quality as well as frequency from what is found in the working class. This again is another difference between middle class and working class. There may also be different motivations to committing acts of delinquency (Cohen 1955 p165-167).
“Male delinquency in families which are culturally middle class is primarily an attempt to cope with a basic anxiety in the area of sex role identification; it has the primary function of giving reassurance of one’s essential masculinity. The motivation to working class delinquency is more complicated. The primary problem of adjustment is in the area of ego-involved status differences in a status system defined by the norms of respectable middle class society. The delinquent subculture of the working class boy can more easily succeed, and second, enabling him to retaliate against the norms at whose impact his ego has suffered, by defining merit in terms of the opposite of those norms and by sanctioning aggression against them and those who exemplify and apply them” (Cohen 1955 p168).
I have tried to show and answer why particular individuals engage in delinquency or participate in a delinquent subculture. I’ve tried to show that a subculture is a result of certain problems shared in a community. I tried to explain my points through theories and looked at social class to see if delinquency is just a working class phenomenon. Also I’ve tried to show that delinquent subcultures may be a result of adjustment. These gangs of boys who stand on street corners and loiter around shops, they are joint activities deriving their meaning and flavour from the fact of togetherness and governed by a set of common understandings, common sentiments and common loyalties. The delinquent subculture has similar problems to that of the Islamic extremist groups, through the ideas of frustration, rejection and adjustment. I will now be concentrating on Islam and extremism and the try to answer the questions, which were first asked in the introduction.
Chapter 3: Islamic extremism: The limits of tolerance
Firstly to understand Islamic extremism it’s relevant to look first at an example of how extreme some Muslims are, this example being the death of Theo Van Gogh and what limits a person will go to in the name of Islam.
“Mohammed Bouyeri was a twenty six year old Moroccan Dutchman who took the life of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. In his grey raincoat and prayer hat Bouyeri blasted Theo Van Gogh off his bicycle on a dreary morning in Amsterdam. He shot him calmly in the stomach, and after the victim had staggered to the other side of the street, shot him several more times, pulled out a curved machete, and cut his throat. Leaving the machete planted firmly in Van Gogh’s chest, he then pulled out a smaller knife from a bag, scribbled something on a piece of paper, folded the letter neatly and pinned it to the body with this second knife” (Buruma 2007 p2).
Van Gogh was a short fat man with blond curls. Most people in Holland who watch TV and read the papers knew him less for his films but for his provocative statements on radio, television and Internet columns. Bouyeri gave his victim a few hard kicks and walked away without a hurry as if he had done nothing wrong, with no attempt to escape he reloaded his gun, Bouyeri then walked into a nearby car park and shot at a policeman, however Bouyeri caught a bullet of his own and was arrested. This was not part of Bouyeri’s plan, as he had wanted to die as a martyr to his faith, this is known from statements he made later and from the letter pinned to Van Gogh’s chest. The letter, which had been pinned to Van Gogh’s chest, was written in Dutch and some Arabic, it called for a holy war against the unbelievers, and the deaths of a number of people mentioned by name. A CD disk was found in Bouyeri’s apartment with videos of more than twenty killings of the enemies of Allah (Buruma 2006 p4-5).
The reason behind Van Gogh’s death was because of his insults to Islam, it was not the only religions in which Van Gogh insulted he also insulted the Jews and the Christians. Various politicians and public figures that crossed Van Gogh were told to die slowly of terrible diseases. When Van Gogh was speaking of Muslims he insulted them with constant abuse mainly calling them ‘goat fuckers’. Van Gogh was in constant need of attention it was not enough for him to be a well-regarded filmmaker, he hungered for publicity, perhaps his personal attacks were inspired less by theme envy than attention envy. The short film entitled Submission by Van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, shows a woman about to kneel on a prayer mat. The camera then slowly pans from her head to her toes, revealing her naked body under the thin material of her burqa, the film then projects quotations from the Koran onto the naked bodies of several young women. Text that points to the submission of women, submission to their fathers, brothers, husbands and to Allah. For many Muslims this was deliberate provocation. Van Gogh knew people didn’t enjoy his films and his abuse, but he would never of imagined someone would kill him for it. He made the mistake of assuming that the wider world would not intrude on his Amsterdam scene (Buruma 2007 p91-98).
Bouyeri was of Moroccan heritage like many in Amsterdam most of them in the Netherlands are Berbers not Arabs from remote villages in the RIF Mountains, Moroccan immigrants lack many things which may give them a sense of not belonging. The women are normally illiterate, and both sexes are widely distrusted and often many are in the lower classes of society and in poverty. They have to try to fit into a European society that they don’t understand but also try to stay true to their motherland. Those who try to succeed through intelligence; hard work and good fortune in Dutch society often do very well. Those who don’t often drift into a world of gang violence and petty crime, the most vulnerable are those individuals who have their ambitions blocked despite trying to fit into a Dutch society. Anything can trigger a mood of violence and self destruction, a job offer withdrawn, a grant not given, to many doors shut in one’s face. Such a man was Mohammed Bouyeri who adopted Islamic extremism and decided to join a war against the society in which he felt excluded. This sense of not belonging led him to murder (Buruma 2007 p22-23).
There are many young men in society who feel the same way as Mohammed Bouyeri that they do not belong in Western society, which makes them become isolated. Some young Muslims who use the Internet may download English translations of Arabic texts because they are severed from their culture and traditions. Many people who see themselves as Muslim are in fact converts to that religion and believe they are fighting in a revolutionary war. The murder of Theo Van Gogh is not the only exposure to Islam being present in European nations. The bombings in London and Madrid and the worldwide Muslim protest against cartoons of the Prophet in a Danish newspaper exposed and highlighted these dangerous fractures that run through many European nations. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and winning converts in the Western world (Buruma 2007 p35).
Why do these young Muslims living in the Western world become frustrated and isolated, what triggers this? “In part this can be answered here. Schizophrenia was seen to be a logical answer but this condition did not seem to affect first generation immigrants, it was the second generation of Moroccans, born and educated in the Netherlands that suffered from schizophrenia. A young Moroccan male of the second generation was ten times more likely to be schizophrenic than a native Dutchman from a similar economic background. There are several explanations for these startling figures. A sense of humiliation could be a factor, or the fact that immigrants tend to visit a psychiatrist only when things have come to a crisis. However these explanations are incorrect. The problem lies in the adaptation of a strictly regulated society to a freer more open one; this can lead to disintegration of the personality. The pressure to assimilate is one of the risk factors for schizophrenia. Men suffer more than women because they have more freedom to interact with mainstream Western society. When the process of integration goes too fast, when the son of Moroccan villagers throws himself too quickly into the bewildering maelstrom of Western temptations his cognitive wiring can go badly awry” (Buruma 2007 p121).
Girls or young women have the opposite problem. They have to live with many traditional constraints, the older order still exists for many of them, and so they long for more freedom. Religion for women is seen as a stabilizing factor without it there would be no rules for them and they could do as they please. Muslim men prefer to marry girls from the own country; girls from Western society are seen as unstable and threatening. Many young Muslim women will end up marrying non-Muslims and young Muslim men become jealous of this Western culture; it encourages women to throw away their traditional attire. Western culture offers freedom, offers a culture without religious barriers and equality (Buruma 2007 p122).
Why is it the case in Western society that immigrants and especially Muslims are widely distrusted? Ever since the 9/11 attack on America, all Muslims are seen as potential terrorists and not to be trusted. Many of them are blamed not just because of the terrible images of the twin towers collapsing but the images on television of young Muslims dancing with joy. Before the attacks on America, the well-educated Muslims had confidence and trust in their future in Western society and felt they belonged, it was the under educated and working class who felt isolated. This changed with the terrorist atrocities, and educated young Muslims started to feel inferior and isolated because they were being discriminated against. This then leads them to aggression and self-hatred, finally resulting in self-destruction (Buruma 2007 p139).
Buruma (2007 p140) “argues that frustrated well educated Muslims need to prove their existence, to themselves and to the world, people sometimes join great revolutionary causes, or embark on a mission to spread the word of god. Others, even more desperate, might commit a spectacular crime, like vengeful gods, assassinating a famous person, or shooting at random into a terrified crowd. Some lost souls, in order to feel truly alive, to prove their individuality, have to kill it in the process: suicide as the ultimate act of will. These are the most dangerous ‘radical losers’, the lone killers who cannot bear to live with themselves any longer and want to drag the world down with them”.
The radical loser will be looked at more closely in detail later. It’s not just Western society that radical Muslims hate but also the culture. Muslims who watch Hollywood films see a vision of liberty. They see young people kissing without fear and showing their sexual feeling for one another, something that is forbidden for Muslims. Young Muslims become jealous of Western culture growing up hating the fact that they cannot do as the please. They become sexually frustrated and blame the West for living unruly lives. For many Muslims there seems to be an obsession with virginity. Such value is attributed to virginity that people become blinded to the human and social catastrophes that result from this obsession. Men in Muslim cultures are seen to be irresponsible when it comes to sex and often they will lose their self-control when they see women, hence the need for veils, which keeps them out of sight. In the West were there is not as many Muslim women, and more revealing Western women, Muslim men will become sexually frustrated often participating sometimes in rape and turning their frustration into acts of terrorism (Buruma 2007 p146-147).
“Why was it the case then that Mohammed Bouyeri who was neither poor nor oppressed, who had received a decent education, a man who never had trouble making friends, who enjoyed smoking dope and drinking beer, why would such a man turn into a holy warrior whose only wish was to kill, and perhaps more mysteriously, to die? It is the same question people asked after the bombings in the London underground, set off by similar young men, who played cricket, had girlfriends, went to the pub. All we know is that they murdered in the name of Allah and his prophet” (Buruma 2007 p193).
Mohammed had begun rejecting Western values around February 2003; in October he began rejecting the democratic state and its legal institution. Then in March 2004 he called for a global jihad against democracy. Finally in July he advocated violence against individuals who had insulted Islam and the prophet. This build up to his release of aggression comes from his past in which there is a build of disappointment and frustration. His first disappointment was in 1994 when the youth club he often visited was to be closed and to make way for new apartment building. Then another set back in November 1997 when he got into a brawl with a number of policemen in Amsterdam. When he applied for a security job he was turned down because of his negative police report. He met his first and possibly only girlfriend, but this did not last long, attracting women was never easy for Mohammed. This rejection made him violent; he would blame it on racism. This ultimately led to Bouyeri murdering Van Gogh (Buruma 2007 p197-200).
“While many women embrace Western life, men, faced with rejection and frustration, turn away to a fantasy of tribal honour and religious rectitude. A teenage desire for easy women makes way for disgust and rage” (Buruma 2007 p201).
Mohammed was trying to shut out Western culture even though his native dialect was Dutch and not Arabic. Islam was his new identity and it would be Islam that would protect him against all the hostile forces around him. It gave him a sense of power, a meaning, a sense of belonging and he would live for Islam alone. Mohammed often wrote bizarre writing, which he posted on the Internet, saying how Westerners are slaves to the entertainment culture and are seduced by dance bars and gambling halls. Muslims were also slaves to the Western culture, but rescue was at hand, the knights of Islam would rise from the Netherlands and Holland would be the cradle of religious revolution. Mohammed’s problem with democracy was how people become sinful to immoral pleasures; he could not bear freedom in society, this made him frustrated so in his mind he has to destroy the civilization that tormented him (Buruma 2007 p216-218).
“In the muddled mind of Mohammed Bouyeri, then, ran a deep current of European anti-liberalism combined with self righteous moralism and Islamist revolutionary passion. This explosive mixture gave him a reason to murder the enemies who stood in the way of his vision of world salvation. The targets of his rage could be quite random, from a security guard at a local welfare office, whom Mohammed threatened with murder, to the entire Dutch people” (Buruma 2007 p219).
In concluding this, in most of Western society there is always going to be Muslims living in the society. For some, religion provides rules of behaviour, it answers questions of what is morally right and what is wrong, it can give people a sense of pride. The rules may be questionable and the answers open to challenge, but people should be free to work these issues out for themselves. On the other hand in the case of Mohammed Bouyeri religion can also fuel hatred and become a source of political violence (Buruma 2007 p260).
“Amsterdam or any other major city in Europe is now linked through a network of instant communication to a global revolutionary movement based on an extremist, and largely modern, interpretation of Islam. To join this movement was the choice of Mohammed Bouyeri. Like all forms of political violence, this is indefensible, not only from the perspective of secular law abiding citizens, but from the perspective of most Muslim believers as well. There may be many more who wish to join in on his murderous cause, but such a choice depends partly on the way they are treated by the country in which they are born, and this depends of another choice: whether to accept an orthodox Muslim as fellow free citizen of a European country” (Buruma 2007 p260-261).
From using the example of the murder of Theo Van Gogh, and looking closely into Mohammed Bouyeri, it is clear to say that it is partly society, which helps to create modern day terrorists. The idea of frustration, rejection and disappointment, which is created overtime, explodes into an unstable form of aggression and violence against the society in which made them feel isolated. Mohammed Bouyeri could not tolerate the society in which he lived so he took action to change society, and with the help of Islam to protect him, went on a murderous cause in the name of Allah and the prophet, which he believed would lead him to martyrdom.
Chapter 4: Sexual Frustration and the ‘radical loser’
Now focusing on the ideas of sexual frustration and the radical loser, which were briefly mentioned earlier, can sexual inadequacy or deprivation turn angry young men into killers. According to Buruma (2006 p1) “does masturbation lead to suicide bombings? One would think not. There is no more direct link to suicide bombing than there is to blindness or schizophrenia. But there may be a connection between sexual inadequacy or frustration and the pull towards violent extremism. Sexual deprivation may a factor in the current wave of suicidal violence, unleahed by the Palestinian cause as well as revolutionary Islamism. The tantalising prospect of having one’s pick of the loveliest virgins in paradise is deliberately dangled in front of young men trained for violent death, and even those who are not trained to kill and die, often live in authoritarian societies in which sex before marriage is strictly forbidden, in which women outside the family home are not only supposed to be untouchable, but invisible. Access to MTV, the Internet, DVDs and global advertising reinforces the notion that westerners live in a degenerate garden of sinful delights. This makes the millions of young Arab men even harder to bear, and can provoke a mixture of rage and envy. Once in a while, this rage will explode in carefully orchestrated orgies of violence. It is said that Mohammed Atta visited a striptease bar before crashing a plane into the Twin Towers. Perhaps he craved one nibble of the forbidden fruit before his earthly extinction. The fact that it was forbidden, repulsive but also terribly seductive marked his view of women in general. He made it clear in his will that he did not want any women to defile his grave with their presence”.
This is not to say that sexual frustration leads directly to mass murder. However it cannot be dismissed as a factor, it’s been assumed that young men are better fighters when they are deprived of sex, the same can be said about football players, often their wives are banned from seeing them before important games in order for the men to perform better, sex will be a reward when the enemy is defeated. Extremism is the loser’s revenge on society (Buruma 2006 p2).
Now focusing on the radical loser and there decadence into violence and terroism, the loser is an isolated individual. The way humanity is organised, around the notions of globalization, competition and capitalism, the number of losers increases every day. They feel disconnected from society and from the members in that society. The loser accepts his fate and isolates himself, he becomes invisible, he saves his energy, and knowing one day his hour will come and people in society will pay. The radical loser himself must take an active part, he must tell himself that he is a loser and nothing but a loser. He must convince himself that life treats him badly, it defeats him, makes him feel depressed and miserable (Enzensberger 2005 part 1)
Enzensberger (2005 part 1) “states that since the attack on the World trade centre, political scientists, sociologists and psychologists have been searching in vain for a reliable pattern. Neither poverty nor the experience of political repression alone seems to provide a satisfactory explanation for why young people actively seek out death in a grand bloody finale and aim take as many people with them as possible.
No one pays any mind to the radical loser if they do not have to. And the feeling is mutual. As long as he is alone, and he is very much alone, he does not strike out. He appears unobtrusive, silent, a sleeper. But when he does draw attention to himself and enters the statistics, then he sparks consternation bordering on shock. For his very existence reminds the others of how little it would take to put them in his position”.
Identifying the radical loser is a difficult thing, he is unpredictable and out of hundreds of people in cities and towns, hospitals and offices, the loser keeps his ideas to himself, he lets nothing show, he keeps quiet and waits for his moment. This is why people fear this type of person know one can identify him, no one knows when he will explode, no one knows when he will carry out his acts of bloody vengeance. What triggers this explosion remains unclear. His wife nagging at him, an argument at the pub, job applications rejected, noisy neighbours. When he explodes though he intends to take as many others as possible in order to accelerate his own end (Enzensberger 2005 part 1).
The loser targets those who he sees as threatening and that are out to get him. The usual suspects are foreigners, communists, Americans, big corporations, politicians, unbelievers and of course the Jews. When the loser self-destructs, for a moment the loser experiences a feeling of true power, his power being, that he can annihilate people. This act of armed force gets the outside world involved in his murderous activities, the outside world that made him isolated and to become a radical loser, for the first time they want to know everything about him and the media makes sure he is granted round the clock coverage and publicity. Television spreads propaganda for his act, making potential others carry out similar acts of violence (Enzensberger 2005 part 1).
Enzensberger (2005 part 2) argues “but what happens when the radical loser overcomes his isolation, when he becomes socialized, finds a loser-home, from which he can expect not only understanding but also recognition, a collective of people like himself who welcomes him, who need him? Then the destructive energy that lies within him is multiplied. The radical loser has no notion of resolving conflicts, of compromise that might involve him in a normal network of interests and defuse his destructive energy. The more hopeless his project, the more fanatically he clings to it. There are grounds to suspect that Hitler and his followers were interested not in victory, but in radicalizing and eternalizing their own status as losers. The radical loser will never disappear, he is still among us, on every continent, and there are leaders who welcome him with open arms”.
As a radical loser and being convinced that he is one, he does not care about his own life and the lives of other people in society. They also have no regard for their own followers and often they will end up kidnapping and murdering people who are trying to help a poor region, such as doctors, teachers and aid workers. Many losers across the world thought that they could take down the world, but most of these losers and mobs have been unable to keep up with globalization. Instead they terrorize their local clientele. Only one violent movement has been capable of acting globally, Islamism (Enzensberger 2005 part 2).
“Islamism is undertaking large scale attempts to siphon off the religious energy of a world faith with around 1.3 billion believers that is not only still very much alive, but which even in purely demographic terms is also expanding on every continent. The ideology of Islamism is an ideal means of mobilizing radical losers because of the way it amalgamates religious, political and social motives. Contrary to what the West appears to believe, the destructive energy of Islamist actions is directed mainly against Muslims. In Algeria alone, Islamist terror has cost the lives of at least 50,000 fellow Algerians. Other sources speak of as many as 150,000 murders, although the military and the secret services were also involved. In Iraq and Afghanistan, too, the number of Muslim victims far outstrips the death toll of foreigners. Furthermore, terrorism has been highly detrimental not only to the image of Islam but also to the living conditions of Muslims around the world” (Enzensberger 2005 part 2).
The Islamists have no regard for their fellow believer, in the eyes of the Islamists the fact that most Muslims would never blow themselves up and others, shows them that they do not deserve to live. The aim of the radical loser is to make many other people losers as well, not many people want to be in their group, so the loser thinks they are a special chosen few. The Islamist movement however has been able to recruit many activists around the world with its promises.
A further point that should be noted is that in the Arab world, there sense of pride is often damaged by military inferiority to that of the West. Also they feel less intellectual and not a single noteworthy invention has been made by the Arabs in the last 400 years. Furthermore even with the huge amount of oil, which is situated in many Arab states, they could not profit of it without the inventions and expertise from the West in extracting the oil. Their wealth is a constant reminder of the dependency they have on the West. This hurt pride will produce more radical losers and Islamist extremists (Enzensberger 2005 part 2).
This dependency on the West also stretches out to Islamist terrorism. Firearms, explosives, mobile phones, televisions and aircraft are all brought from the despised West. This dependency often show’s the Islamists that their own culture is somewhat backwards in terms of economy, politics, technology and sexual options. With this embarrassment of ones own culture, they may have to punish those who live in the advanced West because of their own and their culture’s failings (Enzensberger 2005 part 2)
Enzensberger (2005 part 2) argues “the destructive energy of the radical losers is doubtless sufficient to kill thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and to cause lasting damage to the civilization on which they declared war. Basically they would like the majority of the planet’s inhabitants, all the unbelievers and apostates, to capitulate or be killed”.
To conclude this, the ever-present danger of a human bomb walking into a crowd of people has meant day-to-day controls and new laws being passed that try to prevent this situation happening. These controls are to be seen mainly at airports, seaports, shopping centres, really anywhere that potential terrorists could target. These extra precautions have seen an increase of fear among the general public. Moral panics around terrorism have been created by the media, which is triggering reactions of panic. The UK government tried to counter act this panic by introducing new laws such as the Terrorism act 2006, and the Anti Terrorism, Crime and security act 2001 which provides stronger powers to investigate terrorist activities and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The Islamists may think that their terrorist attacks have given them victory, but even with the attacks on the World trade centre, Madrid and London most of the cities were back to normal within a few days. The New York stock exchange reopened the Monday after the attacks and the tube in London was running as soon as possible. There is no victory for the Islamist terrorists; it is their native Arab countries that will suffer devastating long-term effects, for example the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The people who live in the Arab societies will have to pay for the actions of the terrorists who caused death in the West (Enzensberger 2005 part 2).
This notion of the radical loser who was converted to Islamism and who wants to destroy humanity, and to eliminate the world. He has little chance of succeeding in his quest. As mentioned earlier, this does not matter to him, the harder the mission the more he becomes extreme in his beliefs. In a global society that constantly produces new losers, it is something that is going to be ever present in society and something that we will have to live with (Enzensberger 2005 part 2).
To summarize around this question of why some young Muslims join Islamic terrorist groups? I have tried to show that some young Muslims are motivated by rage, frustration and hatred towards those that they see as the oppressors, the main oppressors being the West. They feel the West humiliates them, their people and their religion. It’s not just the poor communities struggling to survive with no employment opportunities that are good breeding grounds for terrorism. Many terrorists are from middle class well educated backgrounds who also feel frustrated by society but for them there frustration comes from racism, and the fact that they are distrusted by society even if they are well educated, this racism makes them isolated and can ultimately lead them to these Islamic groups. Islamism offers these lone individuals a purpose, they feel they belong somewhere. Most suicide bombers within the Islamic tradition are almost always single and young, and are most commonly men. The Islamic terrorist groups they join, first recruit them, train them in an arsenal of weapons and bombs and support them on every level. When their hour comes and they commit acts of vengeance they are treated as heroes, this hour of revenge however make take years of planning, in the case of September 11th; years had been spent on planning and preparation. These acts of rage and terror would not exist if groups like Al-Qaeda and Hamas did not train the individuals and back them up (Sookhedo 2004 p173-174).
“Finally then the logic is that frustrated young men, who have no other way to change their situation and no other purpose to motivate themselves, are likely to find terrorism an attractive option. They have nothing to lose and potentially they could gain personal glory and play a part in ushering in the true Islamic state, which they see as the solution to all their ills. Lack of education, it is argues, makes them more susceptible to the rhetoric and persuasion of terrorist organisations. While there is surely truth in this, it must be remembered that many Islamic terrorists are both affluent and well educated. Many have been educated up to tertiary level in the West, so poverty and deprivation can be a contributory factor to the making of an Islamic terrorist, but would rarely be the only factor” (Sookhedo 2004 p174).
Chapter 5: The responses to Islamic terrorism
What can the responses be to Islamic terrorism? What can be done to solve this growing hostile relationship between the West and Islam? According to Sookhedo (2004 p202) “In order to tackle Islamic terrorism effectively, greater surveillance and penetration of the networks between Muslim communities is vital. It is the networking of groups, which gives them their strength, so efforts should be made to isolate the groups from each other, and prevent the flow of funds. Strategies are available for dealing with Islamic terrorism. One of the first strategies that could be considered is of Elimination. By killing all known terrorists and crushing their groups this is surely a good strategy in dealing with terrorism, however it is not, because of the way in which terrorists are interlinked, to remove ringleaders of Islamic groups is very unlikely and will not have any effect on the movement as a whole. Even if this method were considered acceptable, it could not be permanently effective. Sooner or later terrorism would remerge, as individual Muslims examined the roots of Islam, gave them a particular interpretation, and made their own decisions to return to the violence of the early days of their faith”.
Another potential strategy is improving economies in poor Muslim regions. Islamic terrorism can thrive in impoverished, undereducated and low employment areas, and many young Muslims feel they have no hope and become frustrated. To solve this problem an injection of aid into the poorest Muslim regions would enable development and economic improvement; this may see an end to militant Islam. However many Islamic terrorists are neither poor nor undereducated; many leaders of these groups come from wealthy middle class backgrounds. Osama Bin Laden for example is very wealthy and funds much of Al-Qaeda’s activities out of his own pocket. Nevertheless this strategy of economic assistance may mean that fewer individuals are interested in becoming terrorists (Sookhdeo 2004 p208).
Another strategy to think about is the denial of human rights. “In Western democracies the method of brutal repression is not an option, hence the flourishing centres of radical Islam which now exist in the Western world, directing and funding the activities of terrorists. The most the West can do to control or limit these activities is a suspension of certain human rights to permit, for example, the detention of suspects without trial and rendition flights. For such methods to be accepted and workable requires overwhelming public support which in turn requires a public awareness of the threat of Islamic terrorism” (Sookhedo 2004 p207).
A final potential strategy to consider would be the reform of Islam. If terrorism is going to be dealt with at its source, Islam has change and undergo a transformation. In the long term it would be seen that the only way to bring an end to Islamic terrorism is to reform the teachings of Islam with regard to war and violence. Some Muslims have embraced the concept of change and are calling for the origins of their faith to be reinterpreted in the light of modern standards of human rights, freedom and democracy. For a real permanent and widespread change, the central institutions of Islam need to be engaged so that they can bring about a reform. Following the suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia on the 12th of May 2003, in which Saudi civilians were killed, it has been reported that Saudi Arabia intends to set up a commission to formally re-examine the concept of jihad in Islam (Sookhdeo 2004 p214-215).
Of these strategies mentioned the most likely one, with the best hope in the long term succeeding is Islamic reform, a non-violent method that has potential to permanently eliminate the threat of Islamic terrorism. This method is closely linked to that of undermining the terrorist’s motivation by theological pronouncements. Without a theology to fuel it, Islamic terrorism would eventually shrivel and die.
“The cone of non-violent Islam would now be resting on its base, stable and very difficult to knock over. Consequently, individuals who interpreted the sources in the traditional way would have a problem trying to gain a following from the Muslim public at large. In seeking to promote a reform of Islam resulting in the removal of its violent tradition, the West would be moving towards a strategy which begins to address the underlying ideology rather than merely combating the numerous individuals. It is vital that the West should begin to give active support to Muslims seeking reform and to challenge the leaders of the Muslim world to take up this cause with urgency. Such a strategy could thus isolate remaining Muslim militants from their support base amongst wider Islamic society. This method however must be pursued with great care, as Western intervention in Muslim affairs; especially Muslim theology would be seen by many Muslims as being itself a justification for violent jihad. Such a dual approach, coupled with going some way towards meeting certain Muslim grievances, could offer the possibility of a more peaceful future” (Sookhdeo 2004 p217-218).
Chapter 6: Conclusion
In conclusion, I have tried to show how young Muslims become involved in Islamic terrorist groups. By looking first at Albert Cohen’s work on delinquent subcultures I was able to show a link that many working class boy’s who feel frustrated at their position in society and who feel inferior by others, form their own groups with their own rules, which do not obey with the law abiding society. They don’t steal because they desire something; it’s not the stealing of an object that motivates them but the stealing itself, even if the object is worthless. This can be linked here to Islamic terrorism, young frustrated Muslims who also feel inferior by society, rejected by a society that discriminates them because of their colour or their dress. Islam radicalizes them and like the young delinquent subcultures, but in a more violent way they perform acts of revenge by often shooting civilians and perform suicide bombings. The frustrated young Muslims have similar motivations but they differ on larger scale, in that they do not really care who dies, they just want to take down as many infidels as possible and to be saluted as a martyr when they ultimately meet their death.
Society and the culture into which one is born will have an ever-lasting effect on a person. A culture that rejects people, makes people become ‘losers’ will produce people who look for a group that will accept them as ‘losers’ often Islamism is the answer for these young Muslims. Sex inadequacy is another key factor that I explained in explaining frustration and inferiority in young Muslims.
Islam in its classical interpretation finds it difficult to coexist with the modern world. Such coexistence will remain a challenge unless Islam can examine itself and make modification. No matter how much is done to improve the socio-economic status of impoverished Muslim population, no matter how carefully the West tries to avoid causing any kind of humiliation, which might inflict psychological pain on Muslims, there will still remain reasons for Muslims to wage war on non-Muslims, unless Islam itself can change (Sookhedo 2004 p222).
Hoffman (1995 p225) states ” the message of Islamic fundamentalism is capable of attracting a broad spectrum of society because it links the core beliefs of Islam, shared by the vast majority of the population, with the solution of such basic problems as identity, morality and economics in a rapidly changing society. In an age when secular solutions have been discredited by the failures and repressions of earlier governments, when rapid modernization meant that the introduction of new social problems perceived as moral, the promise of a comprehensive Islamic solution is appealing, even if doubts concerning details are expressed by many. Many Muslims see religion as the major force in society, without religion human beings become animals. Furthermore given the acuteness of anxiety evoked by the problems of modern urban society, as long as Muslim fundamentalists are not allowed to test their solutions by actual application, it is unlikely these movements will die out. Government repression has not succeeded in eliminating Islamic fundamentalism, partly because it’s ideological legitimacy, and partly because religious gatherings cannot be outlawed”.
“Although the dilemmas of identity and alienation are more keenly felt by the young, and as fundamentalists move into middle age they may abandon some of their earlier dogmatism, there is a ready pool of new recruits to take their place. Implementing economic policies that reduce the gap between rich and poor may help defuse a potentially volatile situation, but they will not, by themselves, remove the incentives for seeking societal solutions in Islam” (Hoffman 1995 p225).
In addition “Islamism depends for it’s following on the paranoid perception that the West is virulently anti Islamic. That perception is reinforced when western governments give there backing to regimes that systemically violate right of their subjects. At the same time, public opinion rallies behind regimes deemed to be under Western attack, however repressive they are. Islamic solidarity always operates negatively, rarely positively” (Ruthven 2002 p288).
The menace posed by Islamic terrorism is greater than it has ever been, with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still waging, young Muslims become forever frustrated with Western presence in their motherland countries. If peace is ever going to happen, then pulling troops out of the countries mentioned will be a good start to reconstructing Muslim societies. Freedom and democracy must be key factors in reconstruction, and not to live by the rule of God. Let the Muslim people decide on how they want to be governed, with no Western influence, frustration and acts of violence against Western countries may one day cease to exist (Ruthven 2002 291).
However, Hoffman argues (1995 p225) “although the violent fringes are often discounted as ‘crazy’, the words of the fundamentalists often make a good deal of sense to many people. It is unlikely that for some time to come people will easily dismiss Islam as irrelevant to social and political life”.