Fear and Loathing

In a very clear essay on terror Bruce Schneier looks at many of the recent incidents of people reacting with fear of Muslims. Among several others he mentions this incident which has been in my thoughts too:

On Aug. 16, two men were escorted off a plane headed for Manchester, England, because some passengers thought they looked either Asian or Middle Eastern, might have been talking Arabic, wore leather jackets, and looked at their watches — and the passengers refused to fly with them on board. The men were questioned for several hours and then released.

He goes on to make what I think is a key point about terror.

The point of terrorism is to cause terror, sometimes to further a political goal and sometimes out of sheer hatred. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics. The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act.

And we’re doing exactly what the terrorists want.

I’m with Mr. Schneier right up to that last sentence. He goes on to make the argument that:

our job is to remain steadfast in the face of terror, to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to not panic every time two Muslims stand together checking their watches. There are approximately 1 billion Muslims in the world, a large percentage of them not Arab, and about 320 million Arabs in the Middle East, the overwhelming majority of them not terrorists. Our job is to think critically and rationally, and to ignore the cacophony of other interests trying to use terrorism to advance political careers or increase a television show’s viewership.

If we are just terrorized by terror then I agree the terrorists have won. But in addition to being terrorized those passengers showed they had a gut full. They felt strongly enough to act – evidently inappropriately in terms of the two passengers. But clearly they had had enough of the Islamist willingness to break the social contract which restrains us from indiscriminately attacking those around us. The passengers did not break that social contract – they just said they would not fly with them. They didn’t tear them limb from limb. When I look in my heart I don’t see just fear. I see a cold determination that began on 9/11 when I pulled back for moment and took stock of how I felt about it. I realized I knew how people felt after Pearl Harbor and I also heard my self say the words “Whoever did that is finished.”

That feeling has grown ever since with every terrorist incident successful or foiled. It is part anger but perhaps the best word for it is loathing. It is no accident that fear and loathing are words often paired. If you terrorize people they will loath you.

So what I see in addition to the panicky reaction of those plane passengers in Manchester is a hardening of attitudes toward Muslims. It may just be a minority that is causing the trouble but Islamism and its express intent to impose its totalitarian values upon us is steadily wearing away our hard won religious and cultural tolerance. Again all I need to do is look inside my own heart. When the US invaded Kuwait and Iraq in 1991 I was performing Muslim prayer in a Sufi Durga in California. I know these people really are ‘moderate Muslims’, and I know when they say ‘the only jihad you ever win is the one on the inside’ that they mean it. They are not just apologists for outer jihad like too many Muslim organizations. Indeed I know my own heart much better from working with these Sufis – their’s is a heart practice – and as a result I can say without apology that I loath these terrorists. That is the truth of my heart. I loath them for what they do to my people and what they do to their fellow Muslims. Everyday the MSM trumpets the toll of dead in Iraq in support of their meme of quagmire, I see only more reason to set my heart against murderers. Yet, when I look into my heart with the ruthlessness of jihad I see to my surprise that I do not hate them. If called upon to do so I would kill them, but not gladly or to slake bloodlust. Rather sadly, the way one shoots a mad dog or a psychopath. Because it must be done. For that is what they are- psychopaths. They indulge themselves in a psychopathic ideology and like individual psychopaths they cannot be stopped by the normal methods of negotiation, persuasion, appeasement or bribery. They must be stopped and killed or locked up permanently. They make it more obvious every day that is the only choice they give us.

It may be surprising to those of you who have read this far that I do not simply advocate all out war against Islamists. I think this kind of psychopathy fades with time and that what we are searching for – and have yet to find – is the right combination between containment and active fighting. I think what the West must get over is the idea it can talk our way out of this problem or that the public can simply ‘refuse to be terrorized’ as Mr. Schneier puts it – the Islamists wont let us.


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