The Washington Post has a piece that ostensibly educates WaPo readers about the true nature of today’s terrorists. Interestingly (or do I mean typically) it tries to erase Islam from the equation:
3. Al-Qaeda is made up of religious zealots.
To the contrary, rank-and-file terrorists who claim to be motivated by religious ideology often turn out to be ignorant about Islam. The Saudi Interior Ministry has questioned thousands of terrorists in custody about why they turned to violence, and found that the majority did not have much formal religious instruction and had only a limited understanding of Islam. According to Saudi officials, one-quarter of the participants in a rehabilitation program for former jihadis had criminal histories, often for drug-related offenses, whereas only 5 percent had been prayer leaders or had other formal religious roles.
In the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, second- and third-generation Muslim youths are rebelling against what they consider the culturally contaminated Islam that their parents practice and that is promoted in their local mosques, favoring instead the allegedly purer Islam that they discover online or via imams from the Middle East. But the form of Islam they turn to is often highly unorthodox. For example, the Hofstad group in the Netherlands — a network of radicalized young Muslims — practiced a sort of do-it-yourself Islam cobbled together from Web sites and the teachings of a self-taught Syrian imam who is also a former drug dealer.
And groups linked to al-Qaeda, including in Somalia, have been begun using anti-American hip-hop music or “jihad rap” in their recruitment videos, even though such music is considered counter to the extremist version of Islam promoted by the terror network. Rather than Islam leading young recruits toward al-Qaeda, it may be an ignorance of Islam that renders youths vulnerable to al-Qaeda’s violent ideology.
Maybe I’m reading the above text wrong, but it seems to say that, if you’re not deeply familiar with Islamic doctrine, at a scholarly level, then you’re not religiously motivated. And if you’re not religiously motivated, of course, than you’re not really an Islamic terrorist. Instead, you’re just one more piece of the “man-caused disasters” currently plaguing the West.
As far as I’m concerned, if you use Islam, no matter how limited your understanding, as the justification for slaughtering civilians all over the world, than you are by definition an Islamic terrorist.
Jessica Stern, who wrote the above, works for the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law. As far as I know, the Hoover Institution is a somewhat conservative outlet. On the other hand, she’s also a Harvard Law lecturer. I think, though, that what one mostly sees in the above few paragraphs is the curse of the Ivory Tower. In that rarefied little world, unless one has achieved the abstract professorial knowledge Stern and her colleagues enjoy, one is not the real thing. Those men and women hollering “Ala Akbar” as the last words in their (and their victims) lives are just making it up as they go along.