Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Thursday, July 14, 2005


"The first reason I became a suicide bomber was because my friend was killed. The second reason I did it is because I didn't want to go to school. I would become a martyr and go to my God. It's better than being a singer or a footballer. It's better than everything"

The words of would be Palestinian suicide bomber, 15 year old Hussam Abdo. He was arrested by Israeli troops before detonating his charge.

Yesterday on BBC World I saw at least five different interviews with an array of experts, analysts and politicians, all attempting to answer the same questions – why? Why were the terrorists seemingly ordinary young British Muslims? How could they have arisen from within our own society? How could they have bombed their fellow citizens?

Finding the answers to these questions is clearly going to become one the greatest dilemma’s of the 21st century. It is tempting to write off terrorists and suicide bombers as crazy animals with no respect for human life, but as much as you may believe this to be true, ultimately this way of thinking will get us nowhere. What we really need to do is try and understand the mind set of these young Muslims who are obviously in some kind of psychological state that makes them susceptible to being brainwashed by fanatics who distort their faith into the complete opposite of all that religion is meant to be. What is it about a person's state of being that would make a 15 year old choose death and mayhem over going to school?

In trying to gets to grips with this terrorist threat we unfortunately have to ask, what it is about Islam in particular that allows it to become a religious paradigm for violence in the way that it has? At the same time, just as importantly we need to look at ourselves, and we need to ask what it is about western policies and expansionism that have been the catalyst for the rise of radical Islam? Has it been partially responsible? What are the other factors? What is it about globalization and the 21st century way of being that is bringing out Samuel Huntington’s so called “clash of civilizations?” The 9/11 attackers didn’t just wake up one morning and decide that blowing up the World Trade Centre would be a fun thing to do on a sunny day.

I don’t know what the answers are, and I certainly don’t know what the solutions may be, but more than ever we need to somehow forge a climate of understanding and robust debate. Can we afford not to?


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