Tuesday, November 01, 2005

City Journal Autumn 2005 | The Suicide Bombers Among Us by Theodore Dalrymple

The Suicide Bombers Among Us


In Britain, however, these two forms of jihad have coalesced in a most murderous fashion. Those who died in the London bombings were sacrificial victims to the need of four young men to resolve a conflict deep within themselves (and within many young Muslims), and they imagined they could do so only by the most extreme possible interpretation of their ancestral religion.

Young Muslim men in Britain—as in France and elsewhere in the West—have a problem of personal, cultural, and national identity. They are deeply secularized, with little religious faith, even if most will admit to a belief in God. Their interest in Islam is slight. They do not pray or keep Ramadan (except if it brings them some practical advantage, such as the postponement of a court appearance). Their tastes are for the most part those of non-Muslim lower-class young men. They dress indistinguishably from their white and black contemporaries, and affect the same hairstyles and mannerisms, including the vulpine lope of the slums. Gold chains, the heavier the better, and gold front teeth, without dental justification, are symbols of their success in the streets, which is to say of illicit enrichment.

Many young Muslims, unlike the sons of Hindus and Sikhs who immigrated into Britain at the same time as their parents, take drugs, including heroin. They drink, indulge in casual sex, and make nightclubs the focus of their lives. Work and careers are at best a painful necessity, a slow and inferior means of obtaining the money for their distractions.

But if in many respects their tastes and behavior are indistinguishable from those of underclass white males, there are nevertheless clear and important differences. Most obviously, whatever the similarity between them and their white counterparts in their taste for sex, drugs, and rock and roll, they nevertheless do not mix with young white men, even in the neighborhoods devoted to the satisfaction of their tastes. They are in parallel with the whites, rather than intersecting with them.

Another obvious difference is the absence of young Muslim women from the resorts of mass distraction. However similar young Muslim men might be in their tastes to young white men, they would be horrified, and indeed turn extremely violent, if their sisters comported themselves as young white women do. They satisfy their sexual needs with prostitutes and those whom they quite openly call “white sluts.” (Many a young white female patient of mine has described being taunted in this fashion as she walked through a street inhabited by Muslims.) And, of course, they do not have to suffer much sexual frustration in an environment where people decide on sexual liaisons within seconds of acquaintance.

However secular the tastes of the young Muslim men, they strongly wish to maintain the male dominance they have inherited from their parents. A sister who has the temerity to choose a boyfriend for herself, or who even expresses a desire for an independent social life, is likely to suffer a beating, followed by surveillance of Stasi-like thoroughness. The young men instinctively understand that their inherited system of male domination—which provides them, by means of forced marriage, with sexual gratification at home while simultaneously freeing them from domestic chores and allowing them to live completely Westernized lives outside the home, including further sexual adventures into which their wives cannot inquire—is strong but brittle, rather as communism was: it is an all or nothing phenomenon, and every breach must meet swift punishment.

Even if for no other reason, then (and there are in fact other reasons), young Muslim males have a strong motive for maintaining an identity apart. And since people rarely like to admit low motives for their behavior, such as the wish to maintain a self-gratifying dominance, these young Muslims need a more elevated justification for their conduct toward women. They find it, of course, in a residual Islam: not the Islam of onerous duties, rituals, and prohibitions, which interferes so insistently in day-to-day life, but in an Islam of residual feeling, which allows them a sense of moral superiority to everything around them, including women, without in any way cramping their style.

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