But he was good to his mother: Murdering for militant Islam
by Daniel Pipes
Translations of this item:
The news last week that police had arrested Sajid Badat at his home in Gloucester, England, shook many Britons.
The charges against him concerned his training with al-Qaida in Afghanistan and his possessing PETN explosives, the same substance would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid had tried to set off. Police believe Badat intended to carry off the very first suicide bombing in the United Kingdom.
But not everyone was shaken by this news. Gloucester's Muslim community esteemed Badat too much to credit the charges. One admirer called him "a walking angel" and "the bright star of our mosque."
Another described him as "a friendly, warm, fun-loving character." A cousin insisted Badat was "nothing more than a friendly, sociable, normal young lad, who had lots of friends and did not hold extreme views in any way."
Interestingly, a similar gulf in attitudes recurs almost every time a supporter of militant Islam has either been arrested on terrorism-related charges or engaged in an actual terrorist operation.
Consider three other European examples:
The same admiration for accused terrorists also gets expressed in the United States:
And similar responses are found in the Muslim world – for example this case from Thailand's Muslim-majority south:
Such high regard for terrorists has several important implications. First, it points to the adherents of militant Islam being indeed "normal, good-natured young" people, and not misfits. In common with other totalitarian movements, militant Islam finds support among many accomplished, talented, and attractive individuals – which renders it all the more dangerous a threat.
Second, the fact that those who murder on behalf of militant Islam often enjoy psychological soundness, educational attainment, sporting success, economic achievement, or social esteem suggests that Islamist violence cannot be reduced by adopting the "root causes" approach of addressing personal poverty and despair. The phenomenon needs to be fought head-on.
Third, that terrorists are (unsurprisingly) skilled at hiding their intentions has the unfortunate consequence of making them harder to discern and therefore spreads suspicion to the larger Muslim community. This in turn points to that community's heightened responsibility and incentive to ferret out potential terrorists in its midst.
Feb. 28, 2005 update: Sajed Badat, the "walking angel," pleaded guilty today to charges that he conspired with Richard Reid to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner in 2001 with a shoe bomb. He was sentenced to life in prison.
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