Should We Allow Ourselves To Be Terrorised?Posted: May 2, 2013
Andrew Sullivan argues that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – Boston bombing suspects – were motivated by religious terrorism:
We know full well that Tamerlan had become a total extremist in his religion. He was thrown out of his own mosque for being a bigot; his family complained about his obsessive religiosity; he berated others for not being sufficiently devout; he had archaic notions of women’s role in society; he gave up his beloved boxing because of Islam. His YouTube account is full of Islamist extremism. And he deployed terrorist violence because of it. That’s Jihad, Kevin. It’s religion in its most toxic form – as the AP finally acknowledged last night. It doesn’t need a foreign terror group for it to be Jihad; it’s obviously not Chechen nationalism – because that would mean attacking Russia, not the Boston Marathon, a symbol of co-ed multi-cultural secularism. I think some liberals who have never experienced religious faith find it hard to imagine how faith alone can spur someone to mass murder. They need to get out more.
There’s more than a whisper of racism about: irony seems lost on the latest edition of The Week, its cover portraying the – Caucasian – brothers as brown-skinned caricatures of the extremist the Islamists know and love well. It’s outrageously stupid and falls right into the net of the harpies capitalising on the moment to bang on about “Islamophobia”.
Running alongside this theme is one more troubling, though: we’re told that that the visceral portrait the media inevitably paints after these is itself a defeat. Long coverage, extended panic, flashes of photography flicking through our nightmares vindicate the terrorists whose aim was only ever to leave us feeling vulnerable and defenseless. None of this is justified given so low a death toll. Apparently. Peter Hitchens tell us:
In many cases they save us the trouble of killing them by doing it themselves. But if they survive, they deserve a fair trial and then a swift vertical journey through a trap door with a rope round their necks.
Yet instead, we do exactly what they hope we will do. We act as if they are important. We turn our countries upside down to take useless precautions against them. We give the police special powers. We make travel into a silly palaver of searches and checks of obviously harmless people. We destroy half our ancient liberties as we tramp and stamp about. Then, later on, we give in to the terrorists anyway.
None of these precautions works. They are as futile as the toy golf-ball detector which a cunning fraud successfully sold as an explosives scanner, and they work on the same principle. The client is so scared that he has stopped thinking, and will gullibly accept almost anything he is told.
The distinction between horror and hysteria is a pivotal one, since however slight the difference the repercussions are serious. The story that Hitchens outlines – of unwritten racial profiling, of written control orders, of treating every air passenger like a violent child – is the ultimate capitulation, making a suspect of everyone and a citizen of none. The same is true of those driven mad by the prospect of an Islamic community centre at Ground Zero as though all Muslims were agents of the Satan they saw in the smoke.
But not all horrors are hysterical; indeed it’s the rational nightmare that is the most truly terrifying. That, if nothing else, is what terrorists want us to abandon. Faces chilled by apathy are like broken instruments; because the terrorist want to stop the music, not just kill the musician. If we try to hide the disgust we feel towards murder then they win on both accounts. Consider the saying of the French when the Germans stripped them of Alsace and Lorraine in 1871: “Always think of it. Never speak of it.” Their rationale was impotence; and despair sealed their defeat. Western armies might never be able to stop lunatics grabbing bombs, but: religious terrorism assaults a culture to which arbitrary slaughter should forever be alien. In making that normative we sell off those very principles that they fear.
No one really knows who told us that good men who sit in silence allow for the prospering of evil. I suspect the reason is because it’s so obvious a dictum that attributing it to one person would be to sacrifice the integrity common to every decent person.