Ed Driscoll

The Overeager Fundamentalist

At Boing Boing they note, “Times Square bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad’s résumé is terrifyingly mundane: ‘PowerPoint, email tools, internet experience.'” But as Mark Steyn has noted in the past, most terrorists look like amateur nutters until they succeed.

And speaking of which, as Mark writes in his latest column, even beyond his resume, Faisal Shahzad’s background is typical of so many would-be terrorists: “Men who could be pulling down big six-figure salaries anywhere on the planet – were it not that their Islamic identity trumps everything else: elite education, high-paying job, Western passport: ”

Faisal Shahzad’s curriculum vitae rang a vague bell with me. A couple of years back, I read a bestselling novel by Mohsin Hamid called “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” His protagonist, Changez, is not so very different from young Faisal: They’re both young, educated, Westernized Muslims from prominent Pakistani families. Changez went to Princeton; Faisal to the non-Ivy University of Bridgeport, but he nevertheless emerged with an MBA. Both men graduate to the high-flying sector of Wall Street analysts. On returning to New York from overseas, both men get singled out and questioned by Immigration officials. Both men sour on America and grow beards. Previously “moderate,” they are now “radicalized.”

The difference is that Faisal tries to blow up midtown Manhattan while Changez becomes the amused detached narrator of a critically acclaimed novel genially mocking America’s parochialism and paranoia. Mohsin Hamed’s book was hailed as “elegant” (The Observer), “charming” (The Village Voice), “playful” (The Financial Times), “rich in irony” (The Sydney Morning Herald) and “finely tuned to the ironies of mutual – but especially American – prejudice” (The Guardian). If only life were like an elegantly playful novel rich in irony. Instead, the real-life counterpart to the elegant charmer holes up in a jihadist training camp for months, flies back “home” and parks a fully loaded SUV in Times Square.

He’s not an exception, he’s the rule. The Pantybomber is a wealthy Nigerian who lived in a London flat worth two million pounds. Kafeel Ahmed, who died driving a flaming SUV into the concourse of Glasgow Airport, was president of the Islamic Society of Queen’s University, Belfast. Omar Sheikh, the man who beheaded Daniel Pearl, was a graduate of the London School of Economics. Mohammed Atta was a Hamburg University engineering student. Osama bin Laden went to summer school at Oxford. Educated men. Westernized men. Men who could be pulling down big six-figure salaries anywhere on the planet – were it not that their Islamic identity trumps everything else: elite education, high-paying job, Western passport.

As for the idea that America has become fanatically “Islamophobic” since 9/11, au contraire: Were America even mildly “Islamophobic,” it would have curtailed Muslim immigration, or at least subjected immigrants from Pakistan, Yemen and a handful of other hotbeds to an additional level of screening. Instead, Muslim immigration to the West has accelerated in the past nine years, and, as the case of Faisal Shahzad demonstrates, being investigated by terrorism task forces is no obstacle to breezing through your U.S. citizenship application. An “Islamophobic” America might have pondered whether the more extreme elements of self-segregation were compatible with participation in a pluralist society: Instead, President Barack Obama makes fawning speeches boasting that he supports the rights of women to be “covered” – rather than the rights of the ever-lengthening numbers of European and North American Muslim women beaten, brutalized and murdered for not wanting to be covered. America is so un-Islamophobic that at Ground Zero they’re building a 13-story mosque – on the site of an old Burlington Coat Factory damaged by airplane debris that Tuesday morning.

So, in the ruins of a building reduced to rubble in the name of Islam, a temple to Islam will arise.

More on that last item, here.