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The Devil Made Me Do It

In homicide trials I’ve always been slightly suspicious of the “I was abused as a child so I had to murder my girlfriend” courtroom defense.  Or “I was high on meth at the time and…”  Or, “I couldn’t find a job and shot the cop…”  Or, “I have too low an IQ to understand the consequences when the AK47 in my hand got a life of its own …”

The latest version of “Yes I killed my parents so please don’t punish me because I’m an orphan” is the current excuse for young Sunni Muslims on jihadi rampage in Brussels, Ankara and Istanbul (where most victims are Muslims), London  and San Bernardino.  The key words are “disaffected”,  “alienated”, “excluded” or “embittered European youth”.

You live in a slum suburb like Molenbeek or an inhumanly colossal concrete Corbusier-designed Paris banlieue  where exclusion, discrimination and poverty drive you to petty crime and prison where you convert to mass murder  of innocent Muslims and us.

Please.  Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabian middle class.  A college graduate, “quiet, polite” Chicago-born Syed Farook who masterminded the San Bernardino massacre, was religiously devout and had a good job  as an “environmental health specialist”.  Many killer jihadists are college educated especially in technical fields like engineering.

A few days ago, back in my old West London neighborhood, around Notting Hill, two middle class guys in their early 20s, Tarik Hassane and Suhaib Majeed, faced lengthy jail terms for plotting to gun down soldiers and police officers in an ISIS-inspired attack.  They used my jogging space, Regents Park, to send encrypted messages to their handler;  reconnoitered army barracks and police stations; got hold of weapons; and carefully planned a drive-by bloodbath before London counter-intel squads raided their homes.

Soccer-playing Arsenal-fan medical student Hassan, a maths geek and prize winning poet, is the son of a Saudi diplomat and used to tool around Ladbroke Grove in a multi-thousand dollar Range Rover.  Suhaib Majeed was a physics  student at prestigious Kings College and chairman of the Islamic Society.

As the Duke of Wellington is supposed to have said after the battle of Waterloo, “It was a damn close run thing.”

OK, some European jihadists are poor kids trapped in a downward spiral.  But some are like Hassan, Majeed and Syed Farook, economically comfortable but bent on revenge for western sins that range from drone-imperialism to bad sex habits contrary to sharia.

Obama like George W. Bush avoided a term like “radical Islamic terrorism”.  Good for them for not over-reacting. What other words can we use to satisfy our liberalism that also describes what’s happening?

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Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Black Sunset

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