Many were shocked this week when Jihadi John, a British man who beheaded many on behalf of ISIS, was revealed to be Mohammed Emwazi – an ordinary dude who attended school in England. It was especially surprising given that it was just months after John Kerry declared that poverty was the “root cause of terrorism.”
And so we have a huge common interest in dealing with this issue of poverty, which in many cases is the root cause of terrorism or even the root cause of the disenfranchisement of millions of people on this planet.
The statement was farcical at the time given what we knew about terrorists. Anwar al-Awlaki was the son of an American Ph.D and was heavily educated himself. The Bin Laden family has made billions as the owner of the largest construction firm in the world. The Boston marathon bombing suspects both attended college, with Dzhokhar majoring in marine biology. If anything screams of lack of poverty, it’s deciding to major in marine biology. People who grow up on the streets don’t waste an education on studying whale noises.
But yet people were still shocked to realize that Jihadi John was not some homeless, faceless immigrant, but a well-off man who attended school and was part of the community. He was a “lovely” boy. He was on the football team. He was shy. He was apparently a great employee:
He was the best employee we ever had. He was very good with people. Calm and decent. He came to our door and gave us his CV.
His job was at a Kuwaiti IT company. That’s correct – before he joined ISIS, carried around a sword, and started beheading people – Jihadi John was an IT guy probably wearing khakis with a lanyard around his neck and a cell phone clip on his belt. He was Dilbert. He was the shy nerd who never talked to the girl. He wasn’t uneducated, poor, or excluded – he was just invisible. His life was dull.
Similarly, Dhzokhar had aspirations of being a dentist. Being a dentist is a sweet gig – you get a steady pay check for low hours. But what young man wants to resign himself to a life of sticking his finger in people’s mouths and nagging them to floss more?
That’s why we need to stop looking at ISIS and Islamic terrorism as this body that “saves” the Muslims the west has disenfranchised. They’re not the Mighty Ducks – making a team out of the misfits the rest of the world has cast aside. It’s not our fault that these people want to kill us. Instead, ISIS’s pitch is not that its recruits are outcasts, its that they belong. It’s the Matrix red pill, blue pill question.
They’re telling Muslims that the modern world is not real. It’s unnatural, boring, and without dreams. More importantly, they can be the one to save the world. They’re “the one.” It’s up to them to wage jihad, to conquer the infidels, to be different. They can be a martyr. They can fight the holy war. They can get the 72 virgins.
Let those fight in the cause of Allah Who sell the life of this world for the hereafter. To him who fighteth in the cause of Allah,- whether he is slain or gets victory – Soon shall We give him a reward of great (value).
Being rich or poor has nothing to do with it. It’s about fame and it’s about purpose. That’s why terrorism has grown more prevalent even as the Muslim world moves forward.
Between 1980 and 2012, Iran’s life expectancy at birth increased by 22.1 years, mean years of schooling increased by 5.7 years, and expected years of schooling increased by 5.7 years. The gross national income per capita also increased by about 48 percent between 1980 and 2012.
Because it’s about glory not money. It’s a great feat life expectancy across the world has increased. It’s incredibly exciting that we can communicate instantly with people across the globe, share movies, and access more information than any library could ever hold.
But none of that makes a boring IT guy feel like he’s important. If your day consists of sitting at a desk all day waiting for Candy Crush lives to replenish between telling people to restart their internet browsers, then it’s easy to lose sight of how exciting the modern world is. That’s why with every app, every vaccine, every air bag, we’re making the planet a better, safer place. But we’re also killing part of the adventure.
And that may increase the number of Muslim terrorists. Because you can’t sell everyone on how amazing we have it just because we have six different flavors of Greek yogurt at the grocery store. And as we try to educate the youth on the dangers of choosing financial products in your individual retirement account with high fees, some of those same kids are going to the mosque each week and reading a 1300 year old book about a prophet who gathered an army of 10,000 to capture Mecca from the infidels. It talks about the glory of being a martyr and waging jihad. Then they turn on the news and see a similar fight is happening right now.
And then suddenly eating blueberry yogurt and being a dentist just seems so…ordinary.