stabling lions

You tie my hands
What am I gonna be?
What have I done so bad,
What is my destiny?

Lil’ Wayne

There are lots of ways to get a note to stay stuck somewhere. You might use a stapler, some glue, a few thumbtacks. Or if you want to be real sure the note won’t go anywhere you can screw it or bolt it into place. An eight-inch steak-knife plunged spine-deep also works. This last approach would also ensure your bulletin won’t be going anywhere, although it seems unlikely that Theo Van Gogh would have been able to make much farther on his way to work with almost two-dozen bullet holes peppering his frame, multiple stab wounds in his chest, and a slit-throat grinning his mortality.

But the steak knife wasn’t an unreasonable flourish, since Mohammad Bouyeri wanted to be real sure his five-page note wouldn’t flutter away on a brisk November breeze. The note pinned against Van Gogh’s spine was emblematic of the conflict stirring within Europe’s thick Muslim communities. And in a way Bouyeri’s murder of Theo Van Gogh, an un-award-winning director whose own film inspired his slaying, was Symbolic Terror in miniature.

Bouyeri was incensed not by Van Gogh’s person but by his body of work, his death was not meant as murder so much as bloodied graffiti. Bouyeri’s rage was a response to a film Van Gogh had directed which presented an unflattering representation of women’s place in Muslim societies. By pincushioning Van Gogh’s body with bullet and stab wounds Bouyeri both ensured that Van Gogh would produce no more art and created a canvass of his own.

A canvas on a carcass. And a canvass with a purpose.

Mutilating Van Gogh’s body and leaving it on a public boulevard in the middle of the afternoon created a spectacular vehicle to carry his message to the media. Like all thought-out Symbolic Terror, killing someone was meant to portray a message, to have meaning behind it. And here, unlike mass Symbolic Terror, the message wasn’t a broad ideology – something mercurial – but the five-page note impaled on Van Gogh’s mutilated person.

The Dutch seemed to implicitly recognize the nature of this violence, meant not only kill but to create spectacle that would draw attention to a message, as they began to refer to it as Holland’s 9/11. However there are two highly important differences between 9/11 and Theo Van Gogh’s murder, outside the obvious difference in scope. While 9/11 was carried out by men who were utterly unintegrated to their host society – some of them borderline illiterate in English – Bouyeri was born Dutch, raised Dutch, and penned his note in poetic Dutch. And, unlike the widespread outrage expressed by Islamic groups worldwide following the carnage of 9/11, after Van Gogh’s body was left to carry Bouyeri’s bloody message with a sickled smile there wasn’t even condemnation of the death by the majority of Islamic groups in Europe.1

In eerie foreshadowing of the mobs of outrage that violently protested across the continent in the spring of 2006 in response to caricatures of the prophet Mohammed published in European newspapers, Van Gogh’s murder hinted that Muslim and European mores may not exactly mix. But many countries house differing ethnic groups who themselves hold opposing cultural values. What exactly causes the mixture of Muslim and European to so easily turn volatile requires both an understanding of Muslims as a whole, and the appeal the man attempting to become their elder statesman is making.

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Before those immigrant Muslims who reside in Europe and elsewhere in the West can be examined, the core population of Muslims living within Arab states, the group bin Ladin draws his base of support from, should be examined. They posses the answers to why all Muslims, Arab or not, might be so predisposed to accepting bin Ladin’s broadcasts of violent revolutionary rhetoric. Humankind long ago proved that it can twist any sort of ideology to serve any sort of ends, with religion being a common and recurring candidate for manipulation. However, at any one historical moment it is possible to analyze the reality of how an ideology, a religion in particular, is being practiced.

As the Prophet Mohammed said, religion is how someone actually conducts themselves, not theoretically how one should act under its edicts. In the past Christianity was used to justify atrocities and violence, but a current analysis would quickly reveal that violence under the Christian banner has lessened over the last few centuries, though it has not disappeared entirely. For this to change, it was necessary for the infallibility of the religious authorities and the text itself to be challenged, which slowly occurred over generations during the Protestant Reformation.

With the Reformation came widespread belief in the idea of individual interpretation; no longer was the Church the sole source of religious interpretation or answers, each person became, albeit over a period of years, empowered to read the text themselves and form their own idea of what Christianity meant.

It took a religious revolution for Christians to break from the control of an authoritative Church, a process that hasn’t yet occurred in the most public and commonly practiced forms of Islam. Proving this requires establishing both that Muslims are inordinately involved in religious conflict, and then that the faith itself is cemented in a status that makes its believers easy prey for the manipulation of extremist and fundamentalist leaders.

Muslims are currently and have recently been involved in violent encounters with those outside of their faith, conflict which goes far beyond well-publicized terrorist attacks. The prevalence of conflict between Islam and other cultures is striking and indisputable. Violence occurring across ethnic fault lines “[has] not been evenly distributed among the world’s civilizations,” as “[t]he overwhelming majority of fault line conflicts… have taken place along the boundary looping across Eurasia and Africa that separates Muslims from non-Muslims.”

Some of these include Bosnian Muslims clashing with Orthodox Serbs, Albanian Muslims chafing under Serbian rule in Kosovo, Muslim Turks and Orthodox Greeks sharing animosity in Cyprus, conflicts in the Caucasus, the Volga Basin, and the now infamous Muslim Chechens fighting for independence from Russia.

On a larger scale, Muslims in Afghanistan fought off Russian invasion, Chinese Muslims in several provinces resist Sinification. On the Indian Subcontinent Muslims rebel against Hindu rule, and Buddhists in Bangladesh protest treatment by majority Muslims, vice-versa in Myanmar. Malaysia and Indonesia see Muslims there protesting against Chinese economic domination, Southern Thailand has Muslims forming an insurgency against a Buddhist government, in the Philippines Muslims look to separate from a Catholic government, and Indonesian Catholics are repressed by a majority Muslim government.

In the cradle of the Muslim faith, the Middle East, several bloody conflicts across the Horn of Africa, most notably what has evolved into a full-scale genocide by Muslims in Sudan. Nigeria, Chad, Kenya, and Tanzania have also had some sort of conflict between Muslims and other groups. Whether it be “Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Hindu, Chinese, Buddhist, Jewish,” one thing remains constant, “the relations between Muslims and peoples of other civilizations… have been generally antagonistic; most of these relations have been violent at some point in the past.”2

Followers of Islam are chronically in conflict with their neighbors. The boundaries between other civilizations have not been as violent, “Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world’s population but in the 1990s they have been far more involved in intergroup violence than the people of any other civilization.”3

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What seems to be anecdotally true about violence in the Muslim world based on modern terrorist attacks is supported by a swath of empirical data as well. That Muslims were involved in “three times as many intercivilizational conflicts… as there were conflicts between all non-Muslim civilizations” which were heavier in casualties than the others, that half of the conflicts the New York Times identified in 1993 had Muslims involved, and that three-quarters of the wars identified in a 1992 study by Ruth Leger Sivard were between Muslims and non-Muslims, however, do vividly suggest that something in the current practice of Islam lends itself to violence and conflict.

These statistics lay the groundwork for the idea that the current interpretation of Islam is somehow unique, which would lead to the widespread violence and conflict wherever it is practiced. In the form it is practiced now, Islam would seem to predispose its adherents to violence, making them much more susceptible to violent revolutionary rhetoric.

And if all of this empirical evidence isn’t enough, in September of 2006 after the Pope alluded to statements that were literally Byzantine, and that condemned Islam as a violent religion, Muslims responded – in maybe the modern world’s most clueless display of irony – by condemning the Pope to death and killing a Sudanese nun by shooting her in the back.

But explanations of Muslims’ tendency to violence that revolve around demographics, politics, or history would not apply to immigrant Muslim groups as they are detached from the nations to which the statistics are attached – although these are the groups most capable of striking directly at the West. For this reason bin Ladin’s appeals have been made explicitly to Muslims the world over, and he’s frequently addressed any Muslims who’ve come to live in one Western country or another.

He’s not simply aiming at spurring the Muslims who live under Muslim rule into revolution. Bin Ladin has very carefully reached out to Muslims in the West, and so understanding the state of that diaspora is as important as understanding the state of the native Arab population he’s trying to build his base of support and legitimacy upon.

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Bin Ladin has tailored his message to reach out to every Muslim in the world. So to understand that message, the situation of the world’s Muslims at the time of his appeals needs to be explained. And here, it’s important to point out, the Muslims of the world are less than ever the Arabs of the world, and more than ever members of Western nations.

Insight into how Islam affects immigrants in the West, and why exactly reform is needed, is best seen through the lens of an immigrant. Irshad Manji immigrated to British Columbia from Uganda as one of the several thousand Sub-Saharan African Muslims fleeing the dictatorship of General Idi Amin Dada. Dada was one of history’s more batshit-insane dictators, doing everything from holding a cabinet session while the decapitated bodies of his Cabinet sat in still repose at their seats, to threatening Queen Elizabeth with an invasion of Scotland.

As she was only four at the time, almost all Manji’s memories are those of the West, and of being raised as a Muslim in a Western society. This perspective has given her a unique objectivity, which she harnesses to identify issues within Islam itself that cut deeper than statistical or demographic explanations of violence and conflict, and that uniquely apply to Muslims who are members of immigrant communities in the West.

She identifies the characteristics of Islam that are in need of reform and, in their flawed state, contribute to the fundamentalism that has frequently led to terrorism by members of the Muslim diaspora in the West. The first point she raises is especially relevant for those raised outside of an Arabic-speaking nation: the majority of Muslims “have no clue what we’re saying when we’re reciting the Quran in Arabic.”4

The issue is manifold, but primarily centers on the idea that the meaning imbued in Quranic Arabic is extraordinarily complex and incorporates rarely used grammatical rules. The spoken dialects used by immigrant communities – as mentioned earlier there are distinct dialects for Moroccan-North African, Levantine, Egyptian, and Gulf Arabs – are very distant from the written Modern Standard Arabic used by the media and in literature, and even then the Quran has grammatical constructs which don’t appear there. Modern Standard Arabic is close to Quranic, but differs enough that most colleges offer one set of courses Modern Standard Arabic, and another set for Quranic Arabic.

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Another issue is the belief in Islam that the Quran was passed down to Mohammad by Gabriel in flawless and impossibly perfect Arabic – a perfection which serves as part of its divinity, so any translation is an intolerable corruption of the original divine message.

With only 13 percent of the world’s Muslims being Arab, the vast majority of Muslims must rely on the local imams to accurately interpret the Quran – a relationship similar to the one which existed between commoners and clergy in early Christendom. Fundamentalism springs as readily from this arrangement now as it did then; local imams are empowered to pass down whatever interpretation they feel serves their goals and ignore anything that may contradict their message. Other factors further contribute to this stagnation.

Besides the Quran, the hadiths serve as a second source of Islamic theology. Manji dryly notes that these supposedly authoritative reports of the Prophet Muhammad’s actions are meant to answer whatever question the Quran does not, but as they have been “gathered and catalogued by scholars of the highest repute.” However, they are not open to question or interpretation, and there is nothing like the open public debate and interpretations which accompany even the Talmud, leading her to observe that other religions “don’t operate on a herd mentality nearly as much as Muslims do,” and that “only in contemporary Islam is imitation mainstream.”5

This strict view is common to both primary sects of Islam. Manji points out that in a report by the Academy for Learning Islam it is noted that both major sects “believe in the absolute veracity and perfection of the Holy Quran. Both consider Muhammad as the last Messenger of God and struggle to imitate his sayings and practices.”6 This absolutism is inaccurate at best, and dangerous at worst, as Islamic texts are as full of the contradictions inherent in any manmade ideology, and as are found in any other religious text – be it about slavery, treatment of outsiders, the place of women, or violence.

However, the most striking lines that Manji highlights are not about contradiction, but about a clear statement that permits violence and “informs terrorism.” Despite protest by many contemporary Muslims following 9/11 that Osama’s jihad went unequivocally against Islam, and claims that their religion had been hijacked by the hijackers due to Allah’s declaration that “to kill an innocent being is like killing entire humanity.” Manji refutes this, and acknowledges that the entire passage reads “whoever killed a human being, except as punishment for murder or other villainy in the land, shall be regarded as having killed all mankind.”

This “except” creates a clause which terrorists have used to justify a jihad against the United States, especially in light of the half-million deaths UN economic sanctions were complicit in causing, sanctions championed by Washington against Iraq; the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia; and the funding of US citizens’ tax dollars to the Israel army, which went on to buy tanks responsible for killing Palestinian civilians.

Here there’s a clear waiver for all sorts of violence, acts of terrorism and warfare included, if the acts can be said to be fighting “villainy” in some lubricious form. Especially when it is considered how few immigrant Muslims would be able to refute such a blatant call to arms with a personal reading and interpretation of the Quran, the potential for and realization of Islamic terrorist violence becomes much less surprising. A veritable carte blanche is provided for aggression against those who threaten Muslims, as there is solid evidence that the West does.

But Manji is not satisfied with merely pointing this out; as she goes on to debunk the idea that “authentic” Islam is inarguably a religion of peace.

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Her argument states that Allah gave advice to Muhammad both in times of prosperity and war, and so the verses of the Quran slanted towards violence are merely those passed down in times of conflict and violence, when self-defense and aggression were warranted. Once Muhammad and his followers fled from Meccan persecution to Medina where they were still persecuted by Jewish tribes who “colluded with Mecca’s pagans to assassinate Muhammad and annihilate Islam’s converts.” Allah instructed Muhammad to strike against them to preserve his people.

Some claim that the necessity of violence in these times are where any vitriol in the Quran originates, that it was only a temporary allowance for self-preservation and not the true authentic spirit of the text. Again Manji debunks this excuse, since “it’s not clear which verses came to Muhammad when. The Quran appears to be organized by size of verse – from longer to shorter – and not by chronology of revelation. We have to own up to the fact that the Quran’s message is all over the bloody map. Compassion and contempt exist side by side.”7

And despite the fact that the majority of times jihad is cited in the Quran do pertain to an inner struggle against sin, that still does not gloss over the fact Muhammad was a brilliant and successful military leader. And the most poignant example of modern jihad is far and away the insurgency that Afghanistan’s muj carried out against their Soviet occupiers. A conflict that, much to his popular credit, Osama bin Ladin was intimately involved in. Any claim that the “authentic” message of Islam is one of peace is ultimately disputable and open to textual argument.

Manji’s forthrightness throughout offers partial explanation as to why Muslims the world over have been so involved in violent encounters in recent history. It emphasizes the high potential immigrant communities, not fluent in written Quranic Arabic – or possibly any form of written Arabic at all – have to be manipulated by their imams towards terrorism.

As most of modern Islam refuses to open itself up to reform and questioning of the primary texts, many Muslims follow a herd mentality of submission to the will of the majority without questioning or dissent. They refuse to come to terms with the passages in the Quran allowing violence, the violent veins found in the Quran are easily accessed by imams who guide those the least capable to mount a reformation – Muslims who have settled away from home in the West. It is the “intense indoctrination preached by sheikhists [that] reduces their flock’s capability for personal reasoning” and “making these followers easy prey for a clever jihadist preacher” in immigrant communities.8

Due to the factors discussed above, these communities are very unlikely to depart from the Arab-Islamic norm and foment reform, and very susceptible to be swayed to terrorism in the name of their religion.

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And swayed these immigrant communities are. Violence against Western societies by their own Muslim immigrants has been perpetrated by hostile immigrants with much higher frequency than by native Arabs. However bin Ladin’s appeal works not only because the Muslims he’s appealing to are primed to respond to it, but because of the strength of the method first discovered at the 1972 Olympic Games and since refined, expanded, and promulgated through every ounce of the mass that has become modern media.

On the basis of medieval Islamic jurisprudence bin Ladin has managed “to forge an ideology that loosens the shackles on jihad and justifies indiscriminate violence.” Because the authority of the traditional clerical establishment is crumbling, al-Qaeda’s precepts snowball in popularity. They face no authority which might discredit them and come from a leader with unrivaled popularity in the Muslim world.

The reaction to 9/11 paralleled the reaction to the African Embassy bombings, differing only in extent. At first there was widespread condemnation of killing civilians, but in time this was tempered with respect. And finally, abandoned in full. There are dozens of clerics at al-Azhar University, the world’s most ancient university and the headquarters of Islamic jurisprudence for millennia, who at first condemned the murder of civilians following 9/11 but later, fearful of seeing their dwindling influence disappear entirely, changed their minds.9

Bin Ladin’s arguments are not only historically founded and emotionally empowering – they resonate within the Muslim communities that are least equipped to form their own scholastic and theological opinions. Opinions which are getting less and less input from a formalized central Islamic authority. The immigrant communities, detached from their homelands and struggling to get by in a foreign culture, are as much if not more of bin Ladin’s target than the Arabs and Muslims still living on their ancestor’s lands.

And it is these communities that hold the threat for the deadliest and most terrifying violence, as once they have lived in a society long enough they begin to understand how best to attack it. How to best avoid its security apparatus, where its softest spots are, what psychological pressure points to press at what angle.

The thought of a foreign national infiltrating our borders with radioactive material or a plot to destroy our most densely-populated constructions may be terrifying, but even more unnerving is the thought that those who we consider our neighbors and our countrymen might feel compelled to turn against us. Something that’s already happened with an alarming frequency to our northern neighbor.

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Mohammed “Sammy” Jabrah is sitting somewhere within New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. It’s a seat he should be getting used to, as it’ll be where he spends the better part of the rest of his life.

Jabrah was born a citizen of Kuwait, a nation whose name translates directly as “Little Port,” where he left after the first Gulf War for Ontario when he was a small child, towed away by an understandably nervous mother and father. His parents were seeking to raise their four sons in a more stable environment than their native Middle Eastern sheikdom could offer, and so like so many other Muslim immigrants they boarded a plane destined for the West. They settled in St. Catherines, a small city in Ontario that had just constructed its first mosque, the Masjid al-Noor, the year the Jabrahs arrived.

Once in St. Catherines the Jabrahs adjusted well, and each of their four sons was able to excel in the classroom, seeming to mesh seamlessly with the fabric of their adoptive society. They even joined a local soccer team, coached by their father Mansour. All four sons were unobtrusive students in the local school that had the largest English as a Second Language program, which happened to be a Catholic school, and in no way seemed to be at all in conflict with their new place in Western society.

But, as so often the case, things aren’t always as they seem.

Even though he fled his native land, Mansour was in no way fleeing his cultural identity. And he was determined to keep his children steeped in a sense of who they were, and where they were from. To this end he countered whatever foreign influence being enrolled in a Western Catholic school might’ve had by making sure his family went to the mosque every Friday, where they were taught not to chase girls, not to smoke, not to drink, and not to party. These particular points were emphasized in part because the clerics and scholars speaking and presenting at the Masjid al-Noor were Saudi Arabian and so taught Wahabi Islam, a sect whose importance will be explained in full shortly.

The Jabrahs were particularly devout attendants of the St. Catherines mosque, not only praying there but volunteering to keep the grounds groomed and tidy, organizing open houses for the community, and even hosting a traditional roast sheep feast for the local Member of Parliament.10 Each night around the dinner table the family discussed the plight of Muslims around the world, and Mansour made sure each of his sons was faithful in his prayers. Mansour also took steps to keep his sons literally in touch with their homeland, sending all the boys back home to Kuwait for a visit once a year. These visits proved to be about much more than visiting old friends and the old neighborhood.

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Back in Kuwait, Sammy Jabrah, only fourteen-years-old, had experienced his first encounter with Islamic fundamentalism, showings of Osama bin Ladin’s propaganda tapes. These tapes called for the Muslims of the world to unite in a struggle against the Americans, the Jews, and all who stood with them in an epic battle for the very soul of Islam.

It was 1996, five years before 9/11, but for a fourteen-year-old boy the images of grizzled holy warriors fighting for justice in Chechnya and Afghanistan were enough. These images, and the cry of “the jihad and the rifle alone,” spoke to the romantic hero that’s hiding in every fourteen-year-old boy, and Sammy returned to St. Catherines determined to become a soldier of God.11

Back within the confines of the Masjid Al-Noor the rotation of Wahabi clerics coming to teach kept Sammy’s desires stoked and further isolated him from the Westerners around him by emphasizing that Muslims were always bound first by the laws of Islam and second by the laws of their host state, and deploring any contact with Westerners unless it was part of an effort of conversion. The seed that’d been planted in Sammy Jabrah would germinate for four years, feeding off the rich discourse of hatred and aversion flowing out of the Masjid al-Noor.

Although Sammy did represent the threat of homegrown terrorism in Canada in that he was “very familiar with Canadian customs and mores and had no difficulty fitting into Western society” and was one of the immigrants who had “excellent English-language skills and can pass as average Canadians, thus evading more rigid scrutiny by security officials.”12 Nowhere was this more evident than on the US-Canada border, where an alert border patrol officer stopped a car driven by Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian man with a story that was nearly parallel to Sammy’s. He had successfully burrowed into Canada and over the course of several weeks constructed a massive bomb meant to kill thousands at the Los Angeles International Airport on New Years Day. But the real twist in Ahmed Ressam’s story isn’t that he was caught, it’s that he was only pulled over because the officer on duty saw that he was nervous and figured he was not a terrorist – but a drug smuggler.

You’ve probably never heard of Mohammed “Sammy” Jabrah before, which is because he never actually managed to kill himself any infidels or really ever get all that close. But his life traced out the extent to which fundamentalist Islam has spread across the globe – as he was raised in Canada, visited the Middle East and identified with his heritage there, was recruited by men who’d fought in Chechnya, and then traveled to Southeast Asia where he crossed paths with groups connected to the men who carried out the 2002 al-Qaeda linked bombing of a nightclub in Bali that killed 191 civilians. His story is important not because of what it realized, but because of the potential it represents.

More accurately, its part in a larger possibility.

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In 1733, the Sultan of Morocco presented the American consul in Tangier with two Arabian stallions and a lion, to cement America’s first treaty with a foreign nation. After being advised by George Washington to send the horses to a zoo in America, but get rid of the lion, the consul decided against disposing of the creature – as it would most certainly offend the gracious Sultan. The lion was kept for over a year in the legation’s stable, with the consul spending a large portion of his own money to support its needs.13 During its year with the consul there’s not an exact count of how many American staffers the lion consumed.

At the end of that year the lion was somehow, the details are lost to history, removed from the premises.

This series of events serves as a suitable allegory for the present relationship between the West and Arab-Islamic civilization: the latter is still supplying the horsepower on which the West is vitally dependant on, while some of their most dangerous lions lay in the stables of Western societies.

The caricature of an Arab terrorist – swarthy, sandy turban, clutching an AK-47, and possibly ululating on camelback riding to slay the infidel – proved both terrifyingly salient and dramatically inaccurate in the 1990’s and early 21st century. Those behind the most lethal terrorist attacks of this era were not the simple, maniacal characters portrayed by American media in blockbusters such as True Lies or any number of Tom Clancy’s thrillers; they were Arabs very aware of their Bedouin heritage and determined to impact Western political machinations through violence.

While many saw 9/11 as the proof in Samuel Huntington’s most recent pedagogical pudding, this is only because luck and the media finally created an event notable enough to capture the public’s nightmares – it was not the opening round, but a blow horribly lucky enough to finally catch the world’s attention.

Few recognized it for what is was: an inevitable escalation of an animosity that had existed since America began tightening relations with Middle Eastern nations to secure their oil supplies, a hold Osama bin Ladin and those who follow him see as strangling their faith and culture. It took nearly half a century, but as the end of cheap oil is finally approaching, the tension between Muslims who populate the land above oil and Westerners dependent on it has been sparking terrorist attacks, one of which was finally grand enough to captivate Muslim and Christian alike. And this animosity will not be going anywhere – unlike that fateful lion.

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Several factors will contribute to conflict, all of which feed off each other and provide a self-reinforcing lattice of support that’s unlikely to break. The impetus is the state of modern Islam, a culture increasingly in need of the reform and questioning necessary to mold it into a form that would truly be compatible to coexistence with the West. It is the reality of a religion that has not yet opened itself up to widespread change, and that is easily and commonly used to justify violence and oppression.

Furthering conflict is the lack of an Arab Core State to mediate for Arabs or set a valid international example, and the failure of mid-century pan-Arabism. This has opened up the door for Osama Bin Ladin to make his pitch as an Arab-Islamic patriarch, worthy of fealty. However, it is not only within Arab nations that the animosity will manifest itself as terrorism. A reform is desperately needed, but it is – at best – only in its most nascent stages.

In only four years, invoking the morning of September 11th has become cliché. The Bush administration’s carting of 9/11 into the political arena has lessened its potency on the American psyche; it seems more a political gimmick than a portent of what’s to come.

But the terrorist attack a year and a half later in Madrid proved to be much more than a gimmick when it worked, and seemingly caused the election to sway in favor of Zapatero and al-Qaeda’s demands for Spanish troops to be pulled out of Iraq. March 11th and September 11th were, as it’s begun to be argued here, in fact orchestrated by very different terrorist groups. One intimately understood the society it was operating in, its host nation, as nearly every member of the group had lived in Spain for several years. The other viewed its host nation with resentment and kept as much distance from it as possible.

However in both of these instances the terrorist groups were composed of immigrants who had been in-country at most a few years in the case of 3/11, or in the case of 9/11 just a handful of months. And there exists in both sections of the West, Europe and the United States, established groups of Muslim immigrants who have resided there for decades, if not generations. Because these groups are so intimately tied to their host country they would be best-equipped to turn against it and foment violence from within.

The better an immigrant group is assimilated, the less likely history has proven it will be to turn against the majority. And in terms of assimilating immigrants, Europe and America can hardly be put into the same pot.

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