In the years since 9/11 there have been lethal acts of Islamist terrorism, notably in Britain and Spain, but many more have been detected in time and thwarted. Security forces are becoming more proficient. Still, Islamist terrorists are certain to search for ways to succeed. No amount of interpretation or argument is going to stop those who are ready to kill and to die for the sake of religious ideology. These acts and their perpetrators have to be seen for what they are.
The moment Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were identified, everyone with a voice started asking what their motivation was. This is the archetypal Western misunderstanding of the archetypal Islamist attack. Surely they must have had some grudge, some insult to be revenged. Or it was “workplace violence,” in the absurd apologia for Major Nidal Hasan, the Islamist killer of Fort Hood. People came forward to say how amazed they were that two such nice boys who knew America and Americans could be big-time criminals. But the two had studied how to turn pressure-cookers into bombs, and they went out wearing suicide vests. Nice boys and religious ideology, alas, can be compatible.
During the crisis, Memri, the invaluable agency translating the Arab media, showed an interview with one of the multitude of intransigent Muslim clerics who are keepers of the religious ideology. Justification for bombings of non-Muslims depends on men like him and he promised more of them. The brothers were mujahideen (jihadists, that is), he said, and Muslims have the duty imposed on them by their faith to go on jihad. That’s all the motivation they need. The elder brother is quoted saying that he didn’t understand Americans. No more did Sayyid Qutb, the philosopher of Islamism who has influenced this generation of Muslims to believe that if only they go on jihad their values must one day rule the world. Men of the kind can’t understand Americans; their ideology precludes it.
It is of course right to make sure not to pin collective guilt onto Muslims. The uncle of the two brothers repudiated in noble language what they had done, saying they had shamed their own Chechen people. From the days of the czars down to Yeltsin and Putin, Chechens have mobilized by means of Islam. Extremists from Saudi Arabia have been radicalizing them further, and many are to be found fighting wherever the clerics are promoting jihad. A freelance fraternity, a sort of New Model International Brigade, are already stretching our physical and intellectual resources. Think what it will be like when Iran hands over to them a nuclear bomb.