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Countercultural Higher Education’s Contribution to Jihadi Networks

For followers of Islamic terrorism’s fecund morphing, I give you an indispensable piece from Lorenzo Vidino at the Terrorism Monitor. A sample, from his important “panorama” of homegrown networks in Europe:

Europe today is witnessing the growth of a disturbing new subculture that mixes violent urban behaviors, nihilism and Islamic fundamentalism. Many young, often European-born Muslims feel a disturbingly intense sense of detachment from, if not sheer hatred for, their host societies and embrace various antagonistic messages. While some turn to Salafism, others adopt an indefinite blend of counter-cultures, ranging from hip hop to Islamic fundamentalism. Many youngsters from the Muslim-majority ghettoes of various European cities adopt several behaviors typical of Western street culture, such as dressing like rappers, smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, yet watching jihadi videos and having pictures of Osama bin Laden on the display of their cell phones [1]. Any individual who attacks mainstream society becomes a hero to these teens, be it Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or the late American rapper Tupac Shakur.

This hybrid street culture is particularly influenced by African-American gangster culture and music. Bands such as Fun-da-mental and Blakstone in the United Kingdom, Medine in France, and Zanka Flow (Moroccan-based, but hugely popular in the Netherlands) combine radical Islamic concepts with hip hop sounds, jargon and attitudes. An aspiring star in the jihadi rap underworld is Mohammed Kamel Mostafa, the son of former Finsbury Park imam Abu Hamza, who has recently formed a rap duo called Lionz of Da Dezert. Using the stage name of al-Ansary, Mostafa raps about jihad and killing infidels. “I was born to be a soldier,” read the lyrics of one of his songs. “Kalashnikov on my shoulder, peace to Hamas and Hezbollah, that’s the way of the lord Allah. We’re jihad. I defend my religion with the holy sword” (Agence France-Presse, March 1, 2006).

Higher education’s elevation of pop culture and transmission to youth of all things countercultural (hip hop and rap, nihilism, etc.) as serious “study” can only be fueling the growth of this cancerous subculture. Analysts of cross-cultural, cyberspace-influenced trends should focus more on the influence of Western higher education on worldwide jihadi networks.

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