Jewish World Review August 19, 2005 / 14 Av, 5765

Paul Greenberg

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The terrorists next door | Even more shocking than the murder and mayhem in London last month was the identity of the bombers. They weren't some shady foreigners out of a bad spy novel but home boys — four young men between the ages of 19 and 30, products of respectable, law-abiding Pakistani families, born and schooled in Britain.

Suicide Bombers from Suburbia, announced the Daily Mail above a photo of the quiet neighborhood in Leeds that was home to three of the four terrorists. How, it asked, had "these utterly British streets produced twisted young men who hated this country so much?"

THE BRIT BOMBERS, shouted the front page of the Sun. It found the news "shocking." So did the British home secretary, Charles Clarke. And to quote the Mirror: "They were four ordinary British lads from ordinary British homes. One was 19. One played cricket." A cricket-playing terrorist? Inconceivable. It was as if Osama bin Laden had turned out to be a second baseman.

And yet home-grown jihadis are scarcely unique in the West:

Ahmed Omar Sheikh, convicted in Pakistan of killing Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, was the son of a wholesale clothing merchant in Wanstead, and the product of a thoroughly British education, from prep school to the London School of Economics.

Zacarias Moussaoui, aka The Twentieth Hijacker, who has finally confessed his part in the planning of the Sept. 11 attacks, was born in France and radicalized at London's notorious Brixton mosque, which was also the alma mater of wannabe shoe bomber, British-born Richard Reid.

Reid's co-conspirator, Sajid Badat, was a product of more middle-class Gloucester and a good English prep school (Crypt Grammar School for Boys).

The notion that terrorism is a foreign import, or a product principally of ignorance and poverty, keeps running into the facts listed in the dossiers: Again and again al-Qaida's killers turn out to be Western products — as British or French as Timothy McVeigh was American.

How did it happen? Theodore Dalrymple, writing about the alienation of Muslim youth in France, asks us to imagine ourselves in their position, "believing yourself to be despised because of your origins by the larger society that you were born into . . . . Would you not seek a 'worthwhile' direction for the energy, hatred and violence seething within you, a direction that would enable you to do evil in the name of ultimate good? It would require only a relatively few of like mind to cause havoc." As in London on July 7th, the British September 11th.

It doesn't help when the larger society seems to have lost its self-confidence, its pride, its sense of its own history and destiny, and can offer nothing like the seeming integrity of the zealotry these vulnerable young men heard preached.

For some time now the whole of British education, at least for the elite, seems to have centered on Britain's sins against People of Color. (Sound familiar?) Young males harboring grudges against society find the society itself validating their sense of resentment. Is it any wonder they feel their worst suspicions and deepest rages justified?

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To quote Anthony Browne's unnerving but all too well-grounded theory in The Spectator, "the real answer to why Britain spawned people fuelled with maniacal hate for their country is that Britain hates itself . . . . We get bombed, and we say it's all our own fault. Schools refuse to teach history that risks making pupils proud, and use it instead as a means of instilling liberal guilt. The government and the BBC gush over 'the other,' but recoil at the merest hint of British culture. The only thing we are licensed to be proud of is London's internationalism — in other words, that there is little British left about it."

When leading British intellectuals, politicians and journalists find justifications for terrorism abroad, and explain suicide bombings in Jerusalem or Baghdad as only the revenge of the oppressed against their oppressors, why should they be shocked when bombs go off in the London subway, too?

Amid the dismal gray slog that has become official British education, these aimless young men encounter a creed to die for — and kill for. No wonder they fall for it. Here is a militant belief that gives them a sense of importance, burnishes their ethnic pride and sends them forth to take revenge for every wrong they can imagine.

All that's needed is a few fellow True Believers with whom to talk, murmur, seethe and plan, and a little direction from the kind of agitators who are careful never to risk their own lives . . . and the results can be murder.

There is a lesson here, and not just for the British.

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