David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.

Privileged Terror


You often hear the usual suspects on the Left pontificate that Islamism and jihadi violence is the revenge of the poor on the rich. That view contains two very nasty assumptions: that the rich act in ways always harmful to everyone else, and that the poor respond to everything mindlessly and brutally. Besides, the evidence is otherwise. Look at Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be Detroit bomber. His father, Umaru Mutallab, is one of the richest men in Nigeria, a banker and a former cabinet minister.    

Those who drive Islamism are almost all like Umar Mutallab, or Osama bin Laden, sons of men who have allowed them to grow up with unearned privilege. That, no doubt, is the main factor conditioning them to set in motion the blind murder of those they hold in contempt. This seems to explain what I can only call the playboy element in what they do. The planning of suicide bombing – and to a lesser extent, its performance – has attracted a disproportionate number of qualified professionals, doctors, engineers, town planners and of course men who claim to be trained scholars of religion. 

For at least a hundred years now, the best and brightest Muslims have been coming to London, Paris, Berlin or other Western cities, to pursue their careers. There they find themselves without friends, lonely, in a culture that is not theirs. Dissatisfaction comes naturally. What then happens is more or less standard. Someone picks them up, a professor with Trotskyite views, a do-gooder intoxicated by the virtue of the Third World, an embittered politician or intellectual riven by self-doubt and guilt. Such unrepresentative Westerners have been steadily feeding the fantasies of young Muslims with whom they come into contact, inspiring dreams of revolution and power and the supremacy that they are led to believe is their due. When such Muslims turn to jihad and suicide bombing they are only repaying with interest what they have learnt in lecture halls and Left-wing circles about the decadence and corruption of the West.

Umar al-Mutallab lived in the most expensive part of London, in an apartment worth millions of pounds bought by his indulgent father. He studied engineering at University College London, which is about as excellent as it gets, and should have prepared him for a worthwhile life. The chances are that at some point his path crossed that of some typical English self-hater who persuaded him that even playboys like him could serve the purpose of stopping in its tracks the malevolence of the West. That’s what makes killers out of the likes of young Umar.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review