A Few Thoughts On The Marathon Bombing-From Foreign Policy: ‘Portrait Of A Chechen Jihadist’

Full piece here.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is now in custody.

R.I.P. Martin Richard, 8, Krystle Campbell, 29. Lingzi Lu, the third casualty in her early twenties and Sean Collier, 26.  Thoughts and prayers to all victims and the more than 183 injured, including police officers.


Hopefully, this is what blogs are for, to get ideas out in the open where they can walk, or crawl their way along:

Interestingly, one of the few policy issues Washington and Moscow agree upon is terror.  Moscow has been cracking down hard, and the Chechen uprising has been striking back.  Many Russians are all too familiar with this bloody conflict.

Addition:  Well, of course Putin’s going to exploit this for his own ends, but on balance, there’s very little else on which we find agreement with Russia.  Musharraf played us too, and paid the price in Pakistan.


This blog would like to focus on two issues surrounding the bombing:  The limits of secular humanism, multiculturalism, diversity and their political and ideological interests regarding the Marathon bombing, and a suggestion for how reasonable people could think about Muslim immigration to the U.S (a bit differently than other immigrants).

1.  Clearly, from the facts being gathered, the elder Tsarnaev, Tamerlan, was increasingly embracing his Muslim faith, refraining from alcohol, converting his wife, and seeking to live an increasingly Muslim life.  This increasingly isolated him from much of life in America.  A good Muslim man expects his wife to act accordingly, and I’ve had experiences with two other Muslim men in the U.S. estranged from their wives, and charged with assault against them (both minor assaults, not beheadings).

Muslim societies place high emphasis on male honor and duty, both in the home and in the public square where the mosque dominates.  Men meet with shame in the ‘community’ if a wife, children or other members of the family stray too far from the faith.  There are a series of social norms and traditions stemming from the faith.  It’s not up for debate if your wife wants to drive, get a job, or leave the house uncovered.  It’s law in many countries.  That law comes from God.

Men call most of the shots and enforce this law, and expect a certain amount of submission.  Beyond this, it’s also not up to any of them whether or not they will have sex outside of marriage, drink, smoke or go to strip-clubs, especially amongst the hard-liners (of course, people still do, but can be punished severely, especially if the hard-liners make and enforce the law).  This is law from God, also.  It begins in submission.  There is an Islamist resurgence going on in much of the Muslim world.

Living in Western societies makes it very difficult indeed to maintain the faith, customs, norms and traditions for many Muslim men, especially those traveling back and forth.  Something often gives.  They have to stay flexible.

I see Islam as a platform from which further radicalization can occur in a small percentage of Muslim men.  In the Tsarnaev case, I speculate that his being Chechen, and the Chechen role in places like Syria and joining the Islamic resurgence played heavily into the Marathon bombing.  It wasn’t just Islam, but it was Islam combined with his ethnic identity, his homeland and his cause.

Radical Islam was a further avenue to be explored in his case.   Al Qaeda (everywhere and nowhere) is more like a franchise, and the siren call of those radical videos echoes in certain ears.  There are thousands of others who hear this song and activate at some point, joining the front lines, ready to murder.  They can be well-educated, intelligent, and quite familiar with the West.  Al Qaeda provides them with practical training, videos, equipment and sends them off to their deaths.


Now, in a multiculturalist society aiming for secular human ideals, simply expecting Islam to fit neatly on the shelf next to Christianity and Judaism and other religions isn’t satisfactory, as this event highlights, especially in a globalized world.

You’d think we would learn from Great Britain’s example.


I see ‘tolerance’ and ‘diversity’ as bounded concepts, which function like ideologies in our public square, creating political and cultural identities and allegiances.  In turn, adherents demand loyalty against common enemies beneath ideas presumed to be universal.

As someone who routinely stands up against collectivist principles which I believe have troubled relationships with the individual and with liberty, it’s become a common theme on this blog to highlight such folks (many on the Right have authoritarian impulses and can degenerate into wanting to control everyone else through mostly bad laws too, and like the Weather Underground and animal rights nuts can resort to terrorism and violence as well, but that’s for another discussion).

Islam itself is a religious and political project based on tribal and sometimes even nomadic life.  Many Muslims identify most strongly with other Muslims, and there’s fellow-feeling in the Muslim world for the cause of other Muslims.   We should keep in mind that Islam hasn’t undergone an Enlightenment nor a Reformation.  There’s a lot of tribalism out there.  There’s no central authority like Rome.  Apostates aren’t tolerated.  Some Muslims shift like the sands to new fronts, defending the faithful, taking up arms amongst outnumbered locals.  Al Qaeda is sometimes the most organized, well-trained group among them.  Some places like Somalia, Yemen, Mali, Afghanistan, the FATA region of Pakistan, harbor these terrorists who plan attacks on our soil.  That’s why we are essentially at war, using our military, security and intelligence agencies and violent force, if necessary.

We’ve got to make deals with the most stable Muslim countries out there.

Sure, there are ‘moderate’ Muslims, with families, who want jobs, who have daily lives, who are generous and hospitable.  Sure, they can be worth knowing and befriending.  Sure their religion has deep wisdom and traditions worthy of respect.  Sure, they have a long history, and legitimate grievances.  Sure there are injustices and perceived injustices to rail against.

Eventually though, there is conflict between their faith and the modern world and the West.  They resolve this conflict in many ways, and I believe the context of a multicultural society is obviously insufficient for these resolutions to occur without glossing over the violence.  We want to still maximize and maintain our freedoms and defend ourselves first.

This connects to point number two:

2.  I think the American right and the American Left get a lot wrong about this state of affairs.  This is by no means a call for any sort of incitement against Muslims in America, as most of them are assimilating fairly well, which I credit to having a more open and dynamic economy and a Constitutional Republic which has no specific religious test for office, among other things.  I also credit Muslims adopting the principles and ideals of America and the daily sacrifices we all make for each other, living alongside one another.  There’s never a shortage of ignorance.

That said, only a fool would ignore the threat to our public square which a few Muslims are posing, and which a steady stream of radicalized and radicalizing Muslims will likely continue to pose.  We are at war with a small, but active portion of the Muslim world who take their fight to our streets.  This needs to be fought against as effectively as possible (a task at which we often fail, and will likely fail again).  This threat can come from within our society, or at least from those quite familiar with it, living among us.  It can come from far away.

I’m not sure what the best way forward is, but I’m pretty sure I know how some people will react, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be sufficient.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Addition:  An interesting post here utilizing Bayesian statistics. A very small percentage of Muslims radicalize.  In the wake of a terror attack, and more generally, we want as many people as possible against terrorism, including Muslims, especially those living in America:

‘People, being more suspicious of Muslims in the many, many situations when they don’t need to be, are also more suspicious in the few situations where they actually do need to be. If only we could keep those appropriate suspicions, lose the inappropriate ones, and somehow figure out how to flag white supremacists as well, we’d be in business.’

Of course, there is a rational defense of a position which has political implications.  Yet, the people most likely to know if a Muslim is radicalizing are other Muslims around him, after all.

The point I wanted not to lose in the multicultural fog is that there is a path for Muslims to radicalize, and their faith plays an important part.  Some may call it a bastardized version of Islam, but even Islam itself has not created a separation of church and state, free speech, and a broad platform of individual liberties.   It’s not called ‘radical Islam’ for nothing.  The actual numbers, however, may not warrant blanket suspicion.

Do you disagree?

Another Addition:  Thanks to a reader from the National Review: ‘Moderate Muslims Must Oppose Islamism

See Also On This SiteFrom YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism…From The Middle East Quarterly Via A & L Daily: Europe’s Shifting Immigration Dynamic

Najat Fawzy Alsaeid At The Center For Islamic Pluralism: ‘The War Of Ideologies In The Arab World’

Samuel Huntington worked against modernization theory, always going against the grain, and argued that a chasm between the West and Islam will be a primary source of post Cold-war conflict: Clash of Civilizations:  From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

His student, Francis Fukuyama and once neo-conservative (likely before working with the locals against Russians in Afghanistan and sometime after we invaded Iraq) charted his own course in The End Of History.   From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington…he’s now taken that model of Hegelian statecraft home:  Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest-’The Two Europes’

So, it wasn’t an Arab Spring, but there has been an erosion of the old rituals and control of the public square….more individualization that has affected the man on the Street, according to an Olivier Roy: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie

Theodore Dalrymple argues that France has the potential to handle Muslim immigration better because of its ideological rigidity, which can better meet the ideological rigidity of its Muslim immigrants…Theodore Dalrymple Still Attacking Multi-Culturalism In Britain

How do you reasonably deal with relativism anyways?: From Virtual Philosophy: A Brief Interview With Simon Blackburn

080405_046 by *chiwai*.

A long time ago, and not so long ago.  *chiwai*’s photostream here.  Excellent photo.

2 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts On The Marathon Bombing-From Foreign Policy: ‘Portrait Of A Chechen Jihadist’

  1. Chris: Excellent observations and research. The openess and freedoms in this country will make it extremely difficult to stop these random attacks. Think of all the venues which we participate in that could be attacked in this manner.I, like you, do not answers to prevention and possibly our only methods may lie in detection prior to the incident. Already there are calls for more “cameras” in public spaces and public drones will shortly be canvassing our skies here in our homeland. Our overseas intelligence gathering must be heightened measureably and infiltration of ‘sleeper cells” must become a priority. But at what cost our personal freedoms which are unique to America and all of its citizens. Do I look for more of these attacks – yes. Do I pray that there will be none – yes!

  2. Bernie, well said. Freedom and security are in constant tension, and we the people will decide what kind of leadership we get, whom to trust and when to handle this threat.

    We’re going to have to live with the knowledge that going to big public venues will involve more risk than it probably did in the past.

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