May 30 2013
Dalrymple: What Woolwich Says about Us
When radical Muslims kill innocent people on our city streets, in Boston, London, or on an American military base at Fort Hood, they blame the West for their actions.
In a way, they have a point—just not in the way they intended.
Theodore Dalrymple has a terrific piece up at City Journal saying that the Woolwich murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, who was hacked to death in broad daylight, “tells us as much about contemporary society as it does about radical Islam.”
The killers, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, were sons of Christian Nigerian immigrants to the United Kingdom. Both had converted to Islam. It was Adebolajo, hands covered with blood, who was captured on a cell phone shortly after the beheading of Drummer Rigby:
The intonation of his speech was pure South London, as was the resentful tone of thwarted entitlement and its consequent self-righteousness. His every gesture was pure South London; the predatory lope with which he crossed the road after speaking into the camera was pure South London.
Adebolajo’s parents had at one point moved from London to get him away from the gang culture, but he nevertheless became part of one and stole phones from pedestrians. Dalrymple writes:
It is not true that the society in which he lived offered him no opportunity for personal betterment. Adebolajo was for a time a student at Greenwich University, graduation from which, whatever the real value of the education it offered him, would have improved his chances in the job market, especially in the public sector.
But it was at the university that he encountered radical Islam, that ideology that simultaneously succors people with an existential grudge against the world and flatters their inflated and inflamed self-importance. It also successfully squares the adolescent circle: the need both to conform to a peer group and to rebel against society.
Michael Adebowale took a different path to radical Islam and murder. When he was sixteen and smoking crack with friends, a white psychopath and addict names Lee James burst into the room in an apparent attempt to steal drugs. Instead, he stabbed Adebolwale in the hand and accuesed them of being members of al-Qaida. Adebowale shortly after the incident converted to Islam. Dalrymple writes:
James had a long history of criminal violence, the last such offense being an assault of someone with a claw hammer. In any sensible jurisdiction that took such acts seriously, he would almost certainly have been in prison for so long that he would not have had the opportunity to continue to take crack, kill Alizada, and wound Adebowale. It is impossible to know, of course, what the chain of events would have been if James had been properly incapacitated in prison, but they might well have been different, at least for Adebowale.
I don’t want to blame the West for Islamic killers—there is too much of that already—but I do think that we must recognize that our society is preparing fertile ground for them. Dalrymple concludes:
What these cases show is that it is not Islam that makes young converts violent; it is the violence within them that causes them to convert to Islam. The religion, in its most bloodthirsty form, supplies all their psychological needs and channels their anger into a supposedly higher purpose.
It gives them moral license to act upon their rage; for, like many in our society, they do not realize that anger is not self-justifying, that one is not necessarily right because one is angry, and that in any case even justified anger does not entail a license to act violently. The hacking to death of Lee Rigby on a street in Woolwich tells us as much about the society that we have created, or allowed to develop, as it does about radical Islam preached by fat, middle-aged clerics.
Rowan Scarborough has a good piece on al Qaeda (it’s not on the run, by the way, it’s diversifying) that contains this nugget:
“We definitely have seen, both from the al Qaeda core in Pakistan as well as AQAP in Yemen, an effort to reach out beyond those regions into the United States to radicalize individuals who are here, who may be susceptible to that kind of a message,” Mr. Olsen testified. “They may be simply wayward knuckleheads, but they may well be inspired by that message and seek to carry out an attack.”
We often act as if we are such an unjust society that people have a right to take up sword—or butcher cleaver, or crock pot bombs—against us.
If the West is unjust, this injustice lies not in trying to force our values upon newcomers but in not insisting upon a degree of assimilation from those to whom we open our doors.
It lies in having an academy that largely hates the values that make the cushy lives of such academics so pleasant.
It lies not in punishing criminals too harshly but in letting people like James Lee prowl our streets with impunity, after having committed sufficient crimes to keep him behind bars.
It lies in closing our eyes to clear signals from Major Nidal that he hated the nation in whose military he had signed up to serve.
No, I'm not letting radical Islam off the hook.
But I'm not letting us off the hook either.