Sunday, June 18, 2006

Teaching Terrorism

In John Updike's new book “Terrorist”, Updike attempts to describe how a Western-raised person can become a suicide-bomber-terrorist. Literally, he describes what has just happened in Canada: that 17 young Canadians, from hard-working immigrant families, having gone through the Canadian school system, with all that Western indoctrination, still became suicide-bomber-terrorists. In the news in Canada, this is today’s most vexing issue.

I've never liked reading Updike books. But this one has elements that are gripping and very informative. He has written in two different mind sets: that of the young, somewhat impoverished New Jersey half-Irish, half-Egyptian Muslim high school student being taught in regular after-school one-on-one sessions by a local Inman, a radical view of the Koran which justifies the mistreatment of everyone except true believers. Every teaching leads to the same conclusion: that American culture and all it’s people are enemies of the true believers of Islam because their every action is an offense to that religion.
This viewpoint is offset by the Western Judeo-Christian mind-set of semi-religiousity, plentiful "stuff," generosity, competition, ambiguities, and infidelities galore. This latter mind-set is represented both by the New Jersey town and of it’s high school guidance counselor.

The story itself leaves something to be desired and is what I don’t like about Updike – it’s not very well developed. But the characters are, and their competing philosophies are intricately shown, and these mind-sets seem to be true to what is going on in our world today and Canada this moment.

In a recent Canadian editorial/interview, a U of Calgary political theorist and author of “New Political Religions: An Analysis of Modern Terrorism,” Barry Cooper, predicts that soon Muslims will rebel and fix these antithetical teaching engines within their religion because these twisted interpretations of Islam are not real and reality will prevail.

[In answer to the question: What will defeat them, practically speaking?] I honestly think that it will be Muslims saying: These people are doing evil, this is not what God wants us to do. And they will be helped by us because we want to trade with the Muslim world. Westerners like to get along because then we can all be prosperous. We’ve got our own materialistic reasons. The Muslims who will be arguing against the jihadists will be helped by us – because we will give them stuff, for our own reasons; not for their reasons… and the jihadists will fail for the same reasons that the Nazis could never work, or the Bolsheviks could never work, because they did not base their action on an understanding of human nature. And neither do these guys.

“Terrorist” is a thought-provoking read which I highly recommend.