Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Muslim Terrorist as Eternal Victim

Up until the winter of 09, Muzzammil Hassan was known as the founder of Bridges TV, one of those ubiquitous ventures meant to normalize Islam in the American context. There was all the usual talk about promoting moderate Islam, even though Bridges TV broadcast "Current Issues" which focused on building bridges to such average Americans as David Duke and assorted other Neo-Nazis and shock collar wearing types. Then in a shocking turn of events, Muzzammil Hassan beheaded his director of programming and wife at the TV station after she had received an order of protection against him.
Muzzammil Hassan
Now almost two years later, Hassan will finally get his day in court. And his defense will be that he was a battered spouse, who was abused by his diminutive wife, until after years of physical abuse, he snapped and was forced to kill her. And behead her. Never mind that his previous two wives each filed for divorce on the grounds of domestic abuse, and that the family of his second wife actually sacrificed two goats in thankfulness that she escaped the marriage alive. Or that the murder happened less than a week after Hassan was served with divorce papers. In his own mind, Hassan is still the victim. And while this murder is only one case, it provides a narrow window into a mindset in which the perpetrator is always the victim.
Hardly a terrorist plot against Americans is unravelled, before cries of Islamophobia go up. A visitor from another planet, hearing all the shouts of Islamophobia would assume that there were constant attacks on Muslims all across the United States. Except there are hardly any. In New York City there were eleven incidents, none of them fatal. Compare that to Egypt, a Muslim country with less than a third of America's population, where numerous Christian Copts have been murdered in just the last several months. (And Egypt is one of the more "moderate" countries in the Muslim world, moderate because we spend billions of dollars a year to back a dictator and his secret police in order to keep it that way.) Every few months, we turn up a Muslim plot to mass murder Americans, and for all the effort and energy invested in searching for domestic extremists, we haven't found any cells of Americans preparing to car bomb Muslims.

Muzzammil's Late Wife
 Then of course there's Israel. After conquering the land and spending nearly a thousand years subjugating and persecuting the native Jewish population-- the Arab ruling class realized that Jewish nationalism hadn't perished after all. Not all the degrading laws or the abusive treatment had suppressed the Jewish desire to reclaim their own country. Which they began to do after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the end of Muslim supremacy over the region. Naturally the Arab Muslim world responded with all the tolerance and reasonableness you would expect from people who were so insecure about their sense of superiority that they needed to pass special laws forbidding synagogues and churches from being taller than mosques. There were riots, massacres and bombings. Then when the British left, seven Arab Muslim armies, backed by assorted militias and bandits tried to destroy Israel. After only managing to take half of Jerusalem, along with Judea, Samaria and Gaza-- they tried it again nearly twenty years later, and lost them as well. And then they became the victims.

Prisoners at Guantanamo
 Here we come to the Muslim world's definition of victim as someone who tries, but fails to kill you. Guantanamo Bay has a cargo load of "victims" whose victimization consists of being captured by the American soldiers whom they failed to kill. At home, their treatment of enemy prisoners consisted of a hole and a hand grenade in the best case scenario, and dismemberment and torture in the worst. But when they were forced to stand in the presence of infidel women and had interrogators berate them about their body odor, suddenly they became victims. And this point of equivalence would not even register with them. In their minds, the people they killed were non-Muslims or not "true Muslims" and therefore subhuman. If they had been able to empathize with their victims, they would not have done what they did. But as for themselves, they are members of a superior people who may not be mistreated this way.

Empathy is a weakness of the Western world, but it is a non-starter in the Muslim world. While we have been taught to extend our empathy circle as widely as possible, circumstances in the Muslim world make that seem both irrational and dangerous to them. Secularization and denationalization have made identification on the basis of a common humanity commonplace in the West. But such ubiquitous ideas are alien to the tribalism of the Muslim world, whose great revolution was a limited identification on the basis of a common religion, that was usually eclipsed in day to day dealings by familial connections. It is only possible to identify with a person from another culture, religion or race by seeing him as an individual. And individualism is a scarce commodity in the Muslim world, where identification is tribal and religious. Where the group is always more important than the individual.

Contrary to the visions of 19th century Utopians, a society that disdains the individual is not selfless, but supremely selfish. The Soviet economy had levels of theft and mercenary greed that made America on its worst day seem positively altruistic. The rapid transition of China to a frighteningly ruthless capitalist oligarchy shows that it too fits the pattern. As does the desert culture that gave birth to Islam. While we might think that members of such a society would think of themselves as non-persons, that is not how it works. Most human beings will remain in touch with their egos, their needs and desires, regardless of what society they live in. The big difference is in how they treat others. A society where the individual is a non-person, is a society where everyone treats everyone else like non-persons.

Honor Killing
Think of Muslim mothers who carry out honor killings against their own daughters. The tribal system has made their familial identification stronger than their maternal instinct. But it is not because they think of themselves as non-persons, rather because they think of their daughters as non-persons, sources of weakness and shame that degrade their own identity. So to Muslim men view their wives as sources of weakness and shame-- an element of tribal culture that Mohammed embedded within the Koran. Rather than drawing strength from a marital bond, they draw it from the tribal-religious identification with Mohammed and the invisible power structure of the Caliphate instead.

Now let's go back to Hassan, who abused his way through three wives and still remains a victim in his own mind. And a Muslim world which refuses to hold itself accountable for any crime, but always finds a way to invert the moral scales, so that it is always either the winner or the victim-- but never actually wrong. What is missing here is context. And situational context requires the ability to see beyond yourself, past your own desires and feelings, at the world as it is. To do that you must be more than your identity. You must be a human being. And a human being is a moral individual.

Islam thrives on honor, rather than morality. Like honor, Islam is an illusion. A shadow cast by those who adhere to it. And like honor, it is less a religion than an attempt to save face for lack of a religion. Honor replaces inner morality with outer worth. Perception negates reality. The myth becomes its own legend. And the legend becomes an obsession as it fights to incorporate and subsume reality within the construct of its own fantasy universe. The outer perception of honor requires not the reality, but the myth. The central figure is always right. When he is wrong, it is not his own fault, but because he is a victim. He does not need to change, only restore honor by punishing those who undermined him. And so the cycle of violence begins.

Hassan might have changed after his first or second marriages went bad in the same way. And the Arab world might have quit after the first or second war. But instead they remained trapped in a cycle of their own making. And when confronted with failure, they lash out in violence and then claim to be the victims.

Restore Thy Honor
As a public figure in the Muslim community, Hassan had become too prominent to accept another failure. He could have easily imported a younger girl from Pakistan to replace his wife, but it was not about the wife anymore, it was about his failure to control. And the failure to control in an honor-shame culture translates as shame. Rather than accept shame for a third time, Hassan restored his honor by beheading his wife instead. And to be properly honorable, he will seal the deal with a narrative in which he was the victim lashing out at an oppressor. Just as Muslim terrorists are victims lashing out at the evil infidel oppressors who won't let them take over their country.

"Who is the master, who is the slave? Who (is) the terrorist, who is the hostage? Who is the dictator, who is the prisoner? Who is the captor, who is the POW?" Hassan wrote in a letter to the AP. This is a common theme in the Muslim justification of their own atrocities. Muslim clerics condemn terrorism and then ask, "Who are the real terrorists?" And the answer turns out the people they have been terrorizing.

Such shifts of meaning are typical hallmarks of relativistic belief systems. And Islam is surprisingly relativistic. The common theme of the Koran is that no matter what Mohammed did, he turned out to be right and not his foes. No matter if his conduct violated every norm of human behavior and the treaties he signed and even the laws he conveyed from Allah. He was always right. The relativistic belief system accommodates the need for that perpetual sense of rightness. While modern secular relativism does this by questioning laws, Islam does it by treating laws as means to an end, with itself as the end. By subsuming himself within Islam, the Muslim can rise as far above the law as he is willing to sacrifice himself. The devout Jihadist who goes to a strip club on the night before ramming a plane into a building is not being hypocritical, but rising above the laws of mortal men on a mission for Islam.
The Muslim worldview is thus built on sand. It is unmoving, yet constantly shifting. The secret of it is that the worldview moves, but the Muslim does not. One day he may be a righteous warrior. The next day an innocent victim. He has not changed, but he moves the world around him to better suit his new context. He is still telling the story and he is still right, and the world had better adapt itself to his rightness. Or more bombings will follow by more innocent victims who were righteous warriors fighting to avenge what happened to the last righteous warrior/innocent victim. And so the game is played.

Hassan is guilty of killing his wife, but absolutely innocent because she was the aggressor. Muslims are terrorists, but only because they are the victims. Israel and America are oppressors because they successfully defended themselves against Muslim violence. And that is doubtlessly the same reason why Hassan saw his wife as the oppressor. By successfully filing for divorce and a restraining order, she had successfully defended herself against him. And that meant she had oppressed him and had to die.

"Who is the terrorist and who is the hostage?" Hassan asks. But Hassan, like the Muslim world, was a hostage of his own ego, his own need for control. The Muslim world suffers from that same pathology, the need to validate itself by killing and subjugating others. And that same inability to recognize those actions for what they are. Attempts at control by weak people unable to face up to their own failures of character and culture.

Hassan is a pathetic caricature of what every Muslim terrorist is, a bully and a thug, who beats the weak and then runs to hide when justice comes his way. Who are a furious warrior when his victim is weak, and a snivelling coward whining about oppression when he's finally held to account. 

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