Monday, March 08, 2010

The Mind of a Jihadi

An old article, but I just got around to reading Renouncing Islamism by Johann Hari. It's a profile on British Muslims who were once radical jihadis, then renounced the Islamist movement and are trying to build a liberal counter-movement within Islam. Fascinating reading. I was particularly intrigued by this bit on identity crises:

As children and teenagers, the ex-jihadis felt Britain was a valueless vacuum, where they were floating free of any identity.

Ed Husain, a former leader of HT, says: "On a basic level, we didn't know who we were. People need a sense of feeling part of a group – but who was our group?" They were lost in liberalism, beached between two unreachable identities – their parents', and their country's. They knew nothing of Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or the other places they were constantly told to "go home" to by racists.

Yet they felt equally shut out of British or democratic identity. From the right, there was the brutal nativist cry of "Go back where you came from!" But from the left, there was its mirror-image: a gooey multicultural sense that immigrants didn't want liberal democratic values and should be exempted from them. Again and again, they described how at school they were treated as "the funny foreign child", and told to "explain their customs" to the class. It patronised them into alienation....

Without an identity, they created their own. It was fierce and pure and violent, and it admitted no doubt.


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