The Islamic Roots of Abdulmutallab's Suicidal Odyssey
The liberal milieu and mainstream media are baffled: What could have possibly led the 23-year-old Nigerian boy Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to attempt jihadi suicide on a passenger plane? How could such a nice, educated Islamic boy, who grew up in a rich and prosperous family, have come under the “radical” and “extreme” influences that set him on his violent course? It’s just all so mysterious.
It’s so mysterious that the news anchors on CNN continue to incredulously ask each other and their guests these questions -- back and forth, over and over again, in a cyclical circus that has no end and that never produces the most obvious answer staring any sensible person right in the face. In the liberal imagination, there is just this “extremist ideology” out there somewhere and somehow this unfortunate Muslim boy fell under its spell, but no one can be exactly sure how or why it happened. All one can be sure of is that an adversarial culture or ideology must not be blamed and that America, somewhere, somehow, must definitely be at fault.
And so, when it comes to the liberal left trying to digest Abdulmutallab and his suicidal quest, perplexed dismay becomes a much safer hiding place than honesty, because the basic truth threatens the very survival of the liberal faith. For the liberal to accept the evident reason why Abdulmutallab set off on his suicide odyssey would necessitate him having to completely shed himself of his entire worldview and personal identity. The much easier route, therefore, is to keep oneself confused and to stay focused on how American capitalism and imperialism must have surely had something to do with it -- even though, as is the case with the cause of Islamic terror itself, these factors are so obviously not involved in Abdulmutallab’s suicidal and murderous yearnings (i.e., Abdulmutallab comes from a privileged, wealthy, and educated life, etc.).
What the lib-left milieu simply can’t digest is what Islamic terrorists like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab themselves insist motivated them. And these are things like, you know, reading certain religious texts and following a certain religion’s teachings. They are things, sort of like, well, following Islam and reading the Koran and stuff like that.
When all is said and done, the true reasons why Abdulmutallab embarked on his murderous mission of suicide are completely understandable -- and only to be expected -- in the context of his Islamic odyssey. And Abdulmutallab himself clearly points to the influence of his religion in his own personal writings on the internet.
In his 300 postings under the name “farouk1986” in an online forum, Abdulmutallab sheds light on how the Islamic theology that he follows marginalized him from human life and led him on his hateful and suicidal road. One of the main themes in his postings, for instance, is a recurring complaint about his loneliness and how he has “never found a true Muslim friend.” While liberals will expectedly blame capitalism for Abdulmutallab’s estrangement, a certain question has to be asked, a question that will never be asked, or answered, on CNN or in the Nation magazine:
From where, oh where, did Abdulmutallab get the self-ostracizing and hateful idea that only Muslims could be his friends?
Indeed, from where did this young man absorb an ideology that eliminated billions of people on the planet from the pool in which he could make friendships and nurture human connection? Hmmm, could it possibly be that the self-marginalization he inflicted on himself had something to do with his religion’s instruction that he not only never make friends with infidels (Koran 5:51), but also wage war on them? (Koran 9:5, 9:29, etc.).
Abdulmutallab also agonizes about his behavior when he does manage, on the rare occasion, to join the human race. He admits that when he socializes he does “laugh and joke” but he stresses, in self-defense, that he does not do this “excessively.” Pray, do tell, from where the need to make confessions and self-justifications about such beautiful elements of life? What could this possibly be about? Could it be that it has nothing to do with American capitalism and imperialism at all, but maybe with the life-hating teaching of a religion that demonizes earthly happiness, joy, and pleasure? Could it be somehow connected to a certain religion’s hatred of music, frivolity, and, above all, a woman’s laughter? Could this all have something to do with why Ayatollah Khomeini insisted that “there is no fun in Islam”?
In his posting for December 2005, Abdulmutallab shares a monumental crisis he is facing: While victims of poverty are starving throughout the world, the young Muslim boy is faced with a doomsday scenario: his wealthy family will be visiting him in London and he might have to join them and eat meat. Abdulmutallab is full of panic, sharing that “I am of the view meat not slaughtered by Muslims … is haram [forbidden] for consumption unless necessary.” He thus disagrees with his parents’ view that “as foreigners, we are allowed to … eat any meat” and worries that if he doesn’t eat it this “might cause division and other complicated family problems.”
Abdulmutallab reveals the crucial inspiration to his murderous and suicidal yearnings when he agonizes about his inner struggle between being a devout Muslim and a member of a society infected by Western values. He writes of his “dilemma between liberalism and extremism” and, as a Muslim, he strives to live his life “according to the Koran and Sunnah to the best of my ability. I do almost everything, sports, TV, books … (of course trying not to cross the limits in the deen).” The deen is the dutiful way of life demanded by Islam.
In these circumstances, the most obvious torment that arises in the life of a young devout Muslim like Abdulmutallab is what he himself honestly describes: the tension between sexual desires and the Islamic mandate of, as he writes, “lowering the gaze” in the presence of women. “The Prophet (S) advised young men to fast if they can’t get married,” he agonizes, “but it has not been helping me much and I seriously don’t want to wait for years before I get married.”
It is precisely in this context that we see the origins of the Muslim suicide bomber’s journey into the heart of jihadi darkness.
For a pious Muslim who is attempting to obey the pleasure-denying mandates of his religion, the totalitarian and often sole choice available to him becomes purifying himself by extinguishing his own earthly sinful existence.
Thus, despite liberal fantasies, it is not Muslims’ lack of access to Western prosperity that spawns their terror, but exactly the opposite: it is Muslims’ contact with and ability to reap the benefits of Western values that end up serving as key inspirations for jihad.
Indeed, there is a morbid dilemma for the devout Muslim who has experienced and come into contact with the temptations of Western freedom. These Muslims end up feeling infected and fault America and the West for the excruciating guilt they feel over the desires that freedom plants within their hearts. To disinfect themselves, they end up lashing out violently at the tempter -- and then ultimately at themselves for the impurity and desires that the tempter instilled. In this light, Theodore Dalrymple brilliantly analyzes the impulses and motivations of the young suicide bombers who struck in London in July 2005. He demonstrates how they saw no way out of their confrontation with freedom and modernity except through death:
Muslims who reject the West are therefore engaged in a losing and impossible inner jihad, or struggle, to expunge everything that is not Muslim from their breasts. It can’t be done: for their technological and scientific dependence is necessarily also a cultural one. You can’t believe in a return to seventh-century Arabia as being all-sufficient for human requirements, and at the same time drive around in a brand-new red Mercedes, as one of the London bombers did shortly before his murderous suicide. An awareness of the contradiction must gnaw in even the dullest fundamentalist brain.
Furthermore, fundamentalists must be sufficiently self-aware to know that they will never be willing to forgo the appurtenances of Western life: the taste for them is too deeply implanted in their souls, too deeply a part of what they are as human beings, ever to be eradicated. It is possible to reject isolated aspects of modernity but not modernity itself. Whether they like it or not, Muslim fundamentalists are modern men -- modern men trying, impossibly, to be something else. … How to persuade themselves and others that their lack of faith, their vacillation, is really the strongest possible faith? What more convincing evidence of faith could there be than to die for its sake? How can a person be really attached or attracted to rap music and cricket and Mercedes cars if he is prepared to blow himself up as a means of destroying the society that produces them? Death will be the end of the illicit attachment that he cannot entirely eliminate from his heart. … By means of suicide bombing, the bombers overcome moral impurities and religious doubts within themselves and, supposedly, strike an external blow for the propagation of the faith.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that in the Islamic paradigm, the pleasures denied on earth are exactly the pleasures offered in heaven. For a typical Muslim male like Abdulmutallab who desperately yearns for sex but does not want to offend Allah, the only escape route becomes to die -- and kill -- for Islam.
Pierre Rehov, the French filmmaker of the documentary Suicide Killers, spent hours speaking with would-be martyrs in Israeli jails and with their families. He noted that they not only spoke about the obvious Islamic instruction to kill Jews and Christians, but also articulated a consistent theme of not being allowed to do anything pleasurable on earth; and so they sought death in order to do it in heaven. Rehov writes:
Imagine a world where separation between men and women is virtually absolute. Where not only sex is a taboo, but where a woman’s body is considered to be so impure that it must be hidden at all times. … In this chauvinistic land, a 16-or 18-year-old boy has a 99% chance of having never touched the hand of a girl or having spoken to one, except for his sister. At this age where libido is at its peak, a young male is in need of these beautiful and forbidden sensations. He needs to prove to himself that he is a man, a future man. But, in this arena, there is no hope -- only frustration. Dating and flirting are forbidden. Marriage is the only tolerated path to sex in the Muslim world. But without money there is no wife. Ironically, while women are the object of the highest contempt, while the temporal existence of flesh is considered despicable (“seek for death, and eternal life will be given to you” -- Prophet Muhammad), the promise of eternal life surrounded by 72 virgins is popularized daily through every arm of the Muslim media. The misguided kids I interviewed while shooting Suicide Killers spoke of the 72 virgins with total conviction. “No one knows how much Allah would have given me in heaven if I had succeeded,” said one of them, who described his ideal target as a mall, a school, or a hospital in Netanya.
Within the confines of this Islamic concentration camp, the young tormented Abdulmutallab desperately sought to purify himself. With his religion informing him of his sinful, despicable, Allah-negating, unwanted physical self, the only way out became to rid himself of his earthly flesh, ideally by taking some infidels along with him. Abdulmutallab hoped to annihilate all that was impure in his earthly existence -- and to gain in Islamic paradise everything that he had denied himself, ever so mercilessly, on earth.