Terrorists with boom boxes not bombs: Harvard terrorism lecturer Jessica Stern "Jihad - A global fad - like gangsta rap'
August 13, 2006
MIM: And we thought Jihad was about killing people and blowing up airplanes. Luckily there are Harvard experts like Jessica Stern who have gotten funding to travel into the Pakistani 'hood' and talked to the brothers about this latest Islamist craze. According to her Harvard biography Stern was "responsible for national security policy toward Russia and the former Soviet States and for policies to reduce the threat of nuclear smuggling and terrorism ".Stern's view that Jihad is a global fad, and an acting out of gansta rap lyrics, leads one to seriously question the effectiveness of our current national security policy, and wonder if Harvard's accepting millions in Saudi and UAE money, including funding from the Bin Laden family, might have anything to do with Stern's take on Jihad as a cultural phenomenon. Stern's is so eager to convey her conclusion that she wrote two articles about her view that jihad is a global fad, which in essence dismisses the idea of Jihad as being a serious threat to people's survival. A research paper called 'Precaution Against Terrorism' leads one to wonder if her solution is to hand out rap CD's to potential terrorists so they could have the blast them from boom boxes in place of blasting people to pieces.
"...The only way to understand how this phenomenon works is to hang out with Muslim youths and talk to them. I have done quite a bit of that in various parts of the world in Western cities, in Palestinian slums, and in Pakistani madrassas. And what I've learned is this: Jihad has become a global fad, rather like gangsta rap..." JESSICA STERN
Jihad -- a global fad
By Jessica Stern | August 1, 2006
THE IMAGES coming out of Qana, Lebanon -- where dozens of women and children were crushed in an Israeli raid during the weekend -- are heart-shattering. Exposed to those images, many of us have difficulty getting back to our workaday lives. We look at our own children with new awe and realize how lucky they -- and we -- are.
Nonetheless, we are plagued by new fears. This summer we are learning, yet again, a lesson that human beings seem doomed perpetually to forget: Violence, once unleashed, seems to create its own evil momentum. Those who attack others, even in self-defense, must be prepared for the collateral damage that inevitably ensues. That damage is measured, not just in childrens' lives, but also in damaged souls, on all sides of the conflict. But today, we must calculate a new form of collateral damage, which is the way that cynical terrorists capitalize on military mistakes. And whatever we learn about what really happened at Qana or at Haditha or at Abu Ghraib, there is little doubt that the terrorists will benefit.
Terrorists often start out as "true believers" who are seduced and sometimes victimized by a bad idea. The images coming out of Qana are a gift to the terrorists who aim to spread the false idea that the West is deliberately aiming to destroy the Islamic world, deliberately striving to harm and humiliate Muslims.
The only way to understand how this phenomenon works is to hang out with Muslim youths and talk to them. I have done quite a bit of that in various parts of the world in Western cities, in Palestinian slums, and in Pakistani madrassas. And what I've learned is this: Jihad has become a global fad, rather like gangsta rap. It is a fad that feeds on images of dead children.
Most of the youth attracted to the jihadi idea would never become terrorists, just as few of the youths who listen to gangsta rap would commit the kinds of lurid crimes the lyrics would seem to promote. But among many Muslim youths, especially in Europe, jihad is a cool way of expressing dissatisfaction with a power elite whether that elite is real or imagined; whether power is held by totalitarian monarchs or by liberal parliamentarians. And we should not assume jihad is a Middle Eastern or European problem. The idea is spreading here in America as well.
Jihad has become a millenarian movement with mass appeal, similar, in many ways, to earlier global movements such as the anarchists of the 19th century or even the peace movement of the 1960s and '70s. But today's radical youth are expressing their dissatisfaction with the status quo by making war, not love. They are seduced by Thanatos rather than Eros. Newly-wed pro-jihadi youths spend their wedding nights watching today's ghoulish pornography: the beheadings of foreigners held hostage in Iraq. Children film themselves reenacting these beheadings, seduced by a familiar drama of the good guys killing the bad guys in order to save the world.
There is an appeal to an identity of victimhood: If I am a victim of someone else's bad actions, I have an excuse for not meeting expectations -- my own or others'. There is an appeal to righteous indignation. There is an appeal to avenging wrongs visited on the weak by the strong. The narrative will be more seductive if moral questions seem to have easy answers, if good and evil can be easily distinguished, if perpetrators and victims stand out in stark relief, and if they never trade places, as they often do in the real world.
And the West sometimes plays right into the hands of terrorist ideologues, whose success depends not only on the appeal of the narrative they weave, but also their ability to illustrate it with facts, or at least pictures that appear to be facts. Iraq, alas, is producing many of the pictures the terrorists need. Qana is an added boon.
To win this war, we need to understand that we are fighting an idea, not a state. Military action minimally visible and carefully planned and implemented may be necessary to win today's battles. But the tools required in the long run to win the war are neither bombs nor torture chambers. They are ideas and stories that counter the terrorist narrative -- and draw potential recruits away from the lure of jihad.
Jessica Stern, a lecturer on terrorism at Harvard University, is author of "Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill."