Every week another lad or lass from St. Louis, Toronto or Sydney makes the trip through Turkey to the Islamic State. A reporter dispatched by a local paper to talk to the neighbors scribbles down the same recollections about how nice and normal Jihad Joe or Jihad Jane was.
Classmates remember a loud partier or a shy student. Neighbors mention that everything seemed normal until those last few years when he began wearing a robe and she began wearing a burka.
The Somali and Algerian immigrants, the German and American converts, the black burkas and dyed beards, headed into the dying summer to kill Christians and Kurds, Turkmen and Shiites, to behead babies and crucify critics, don’t seem like monsters. They loved their parents. They posed for jokey snapshots on Facebook. They had dreams of becoming biologists or boxers. Until they began killing people, they seemed just like the rest of us.
And with one difference, they were.
The forensic examinations of their lives rarely reveal anything of significance. The extensive digging into the lives of the Boston bombers told us nothing about why they would plant a bomb near a little boy.
The answer lay in the topic that the media carefully avoided. As with the other Muslim terrorists, the meaning of their motives was in the little black book of their religion which commanded them to kill.
The Jihadist isn’t a serial killer. While there are some converts attracted to Islam for its violence, the Muslim convert usually doesn’t convert for the killing, he kills because he converted. Likewise the nice Muslim Jihadist next door might well be moderate by inclination and immoderate by faith.
As the Koran says, “Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah knows, while you know not.” (Quran 2:216)
Allah knows you have to kill. Even if you think you shouldn’t.
The nice Jihadists flocking to rape Yazidi girls in Mosul are convinced that Allah knows best and his Caliph knows best. The worst of them are acting on impulse. The best of them are acting on faith.
Faith is irrational. Believers believe without understanding and act without thinking. The holy men of our religions acted on faith. So do the holy men of Islam. It’s what they have faith in that is the problem.
Charles Manson’s girls, Jim Jones’ followers and Mohammed’s companions all believed in much the same things. They saw the world as a fundamentally hostile place and they believed that only one man could change the world. And they believed that people had to die for that change to come about.
In a multicultural environment in which we believe that all religions are the same, we don’t like to think about what might have happened if Charles Manson had a million groupies instead of a few elderly women locked up in prison. Nor do we like to think about how we would handle Jim Jones if he were running California, instead of just being closely linked to the political infrastructure of the men like Governor Brown and Harvey Milk who did run it.