Last week once again we reflected on the memory of the 9-11 terrorist attacks that almost seem ancient to some and just last week for others. The 9-11 responders are still suffering tragic health crises as a result of their heroic actions of that day. We often think of those that are deceased and often don't remember those that suffered loss of health, way of life, and any meaning to their day to day living. We consistently discuss if this can ever happen again on American soil and if we are better prepared today. Many are still stunned that there's hasn't been a terrorist attack on our soil since that tragic day in '01. Obviously we have learned much from the past and without doubt we are a more secure and determined nation. However, I feel much is loss if we don't take the time to assess the mind and faith of these terrorist and why they continue their death daring acts.
As the nation commemorates the sixth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks this week, I took some time to consider why a terrorist is attracted to a lifestyle of death and destruction. Over the years many people have tried to justify these dastardly acts of terrorists as being no different from those of serial killers. While there are many similarities between terrorists and serial killers, especially from the standpoint of the victims, there are vast differences in terms of why and how the acts are committed.
Both terrorists and serial killers generally come from a childhood in which much is lacking, but the radical Islamic terrorist is encouraged in the activities he will later commit whereas the serial killer is often rebelling against something. The radical Islamic terrorist is supported by his social and shared network, whereas the serial killer is usually working alone and in many cases would admit that what he did was criminal. The results from a serial killer and a terrorist may be similar in terms of number of casualties, but the reason why terrorists so greatly outnumber serial killers is because they are supported by a moral framework.
Simply put yourself in the shoes of a young child growing up in a terrorist camp or community. The young children see their mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters training to kill, learning to destroy, and preparing to one day cause chaos. The children are raised from a young age to hate the West and to believe that Allah not only supports the terrorist actions, but demands it. Imagine growing up in a place like this! The odds are that these children will see their loved ones behavior and hope to someday emulate it. They, like the child warriors we’ve seen in Africa, are itching to get involved. When your heroes, counselors, idols, and supporters (basically your entire network of friends and family) are terrorists, it becomes very difficult to choose another path. Obviously I am not condoning the choice to become a terrorist, but you can see how easy it is for so many – especially the poor, weak, and misguided – to get in line. This is especially true for youth living in war torn countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Paul Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense at the Pentagon, noted recently that Iraqis suffer from a 50 percent unemployment rate and the prospects for the 26 million children under the age of 15 are especially grim. If economic opportunities don't improve, the children of Iraq represent "a potential pool of recruits for terrorism," Brinkley warned.
In thinking of radical Islamic terrorists we must remember that they wholeheartedly believe they are doing Allah's work, whereas serial killers are often simply lashing out at a society that mistreated them. Suicide-bombing terrorists are more akin to the kamikaze bombers of World War Two than serial killers, because they are willing to die to further the cause of something they believe to be noble and greater than themselves. In the case of the kamikazes it was the Japanese empire – not necessarily a deity - that encouraged them to crash their plane, once out of ammo, into a United State’s seafaring vessel or other enemy structure.
We have to ask ourselves, “Has America changed since September 11?” Yes, it has changed. You see it every time you visit our airports and see that the terminal has become the stage for long lines, the removal of shoes, passengers being scanned and bags searched sometimes causing you to miss your flights because of tight security measures. This is to a point where many have stopped flying altogether. It has caused many Americans to change from urban living to a more rural way of life. Because Americans are unaccustomed to big catastrophes such as 9-11 we find ourselves scrambling here and there trying to avoid the next terrorist attack. We must stop and reexamine our faith which should be strong – but it shouldn’t make us crazy. If we remember the basic principle, “we should treat our fellow man as we wish to be treated,” America will have the courage to deal with any untrustworthy risk.
Radical Islamic terrorists believe that one way or another, Allah is being offended and it is their duty to set things straight. Sadly, the faith of many of these terrorists is stronger than that of many Americans; misguided, though it may be, it is powerful. How many Americans are willing to lose their lives over what they believe? While their methods are despicable, these terrorists’ faith is respectable. We can use this example as a standard for our own religious convictions, to truly examine our faith and belief systems to make sure they are sensible and worthy of devotion. That being said, religious radicals could obviously learn a thing or two from us as well.