FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Affluent Terrorist

by CHARLES R. LARSON

In photographs, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab–the Nigerian who planned to blow up a Northwest airliner on Christmas–looks younger than his twenty-three years. Seventeen, eighteen, maybe—the face of innocence but also of bewilderment, a little like the emblematic deer-in-the-headlights—certainly not the face of the disaffected, the disenfranchised–though there’s also a wisp of sadness, the lost soul badly in need of someone to talk to.

Abdulmutallab’s numerous online postings, including on Facebook, belie a rudderless young man, conflicted about Islam, lonely and depressed, someone who wanted to get married. At eighteen, he realized that his affluent family had the money for him to be married but that an early marriage would not be acceptable, an insight about himself he shares with many disaffected Muslim youths. The excessive barriers against early marriage—let alone the possibility of young men and women mingling together—are obstacles that Muslim men articulate with such frequency that they’ve almost become a leitmotif in recent Islamic literature.

And then there’s Abdulmutallab’s go-going frustrations with education, beginning with the elite British prep school he attended in Togo. Though he was later a student at University College London (2005 to 2008), where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering, apparently his heart was set on American schools in California (Berkeley and Cal Tech), but his SAT scores were too low.

As an international student, he was not alone in being frustrated with American admissions policies. It’s impossible to say that if he’d been admitted to an American school that he wouldn’t have become a terrorist. But what can be said say is that the obstacles that international students (and particularly non-Western ones) encounter in seeking admission to American universities could easily result in a cause and effect situation, i.e., no admission; hence, retaliation.

We will learn much more about this naïve young Nigerian, who already appears to be co-operating with federal authorities. Plenty of people will want to talk to him, and he’ll probably provide valuable information. But the core of the issue is what we are chillingly learning about young Muslim men (from the poor and undereducated, to the middle class such as the men who blew up the buses in London, and now to the rich and the elite –Abdulmutallab’s banker father has a four million dollar house in London). The new face of terrorism knows no class.

And that’s the most unsettling element of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s brazen attempt to bring down a jet on Christmas. There are millions of young Muslim men frustrated about sexuality and marriage or the lack there of; millions of others who can’t get the most basic training that would prepare them for the twenty-first century. Education is only part of the solution, the rest is social. Islam’s restrictions on marriage and sexuality may have been appropriate centuries ago, but in the twenty-first century the biological clock of young men and women is ticking as fast as a time bomb.

CHARLES R. LARSON is Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C.

 

 

Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C. Email = clarson@american.edu. Twitter @LarsonChuck.

Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
Farzana Versey
Of Beyoncé, Trudeau and Culture Predators
Pete Dolack
Fanaticism and Fantasy Drive Purported TPP ‘Benefits’
Murray Dobbin
Canada and the TPP
Steve Horn
Army of Lobbyists Push LNG Exports, Methane Hydrates, Coal in Senate Energy Bill
Colin Todhunter
“Lies, Lies and More Lies” – GMOs, Poisoned Agriculture and Toxic Rants
Franklin Lamb
ISIS Erasing Our Cultural Heritage in Syria
David Mihalyfy
#realacademicbios Deserve Real Reform
Graham Peebles
Unjust and Dysfunctional: Asylum in the UK
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
Yves Engler
On Unions and Class Struggle
Alfredo Lopez
The ‘Bern’ and the Internet
Missy Comley Beattie
Super Propaganda
Ed Rampell
Great Caesar’s Ghost!: A Specter Haunts Hollywood in the Coen’s Anti-Anti-Commie Goofball Comedy
Cesar Chelala
The Public Health Impact of Domestic Violence
Ron Jacobs
Cold Weather Comforts of a Certain Sort
Charles Komanoff
On the Passing of the Jefferson Airplane
Charles R. Larson
Can One Survive the Holocaust?
David Yearsley
Reading Room Blues
February 04, 2016
Scott McLarty
Political Revolution and the Third-Party Imperative
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail