Channeling the energy of young men: CBC/Frontline Documentary on Toronto Terror Cell

It took me a couple of months, but I finally got around to digging up and watching Neil Docherty & Linden MacIntyre’s January 2007 Fifth Estate documentary “Among the Believers: Cracking Toronto’s Terror Cell” (aired in a slightly modified and shortened version on PBS’ Frontline under the name “The Cell Next Door”). It features extensive interviews with Mubin Shaikh, a man who spent quite a bit of time on this very blog last month (check out his rhetorical skills in the comments section of “Jihad against Moderate Islam in Canada”). If you have 40 spare minutes, I highly recommend clicking on the Google video below and watching the presentation, which most of us missed on its initial airing January 17 and 19 on CBC and CBC Newsworld (note: there’s a specious five-minute portion starting around the 15 minute mark about Uzbekistan that was wisely left on the cutting room floor for the Frontline version that aired January 31 on most PBS stations in the US):

There’s a ton to talk about here, including spectacularly honest appearances by Syed Riaz Ahmed (father of Syed Haris Ahmed, one of the two Atlanta men involved in the Toronto plot) and the father of Jason Walters, a member of Hollands notorious Hofstad Group, of which Theo Van Gogh’s murderer Mohammed Bouyeri was a member. Through the words of these men, as well as Shaikh himself, the obvious becomes apparent: the worldwide threat of violent Islamic radicals is largely a problem of impressionable, testosterone-fuelled young men who find a tempting outlet for both their eternal human longing for meaning in life, and endless appetite for excitement and adrenaline rushes.

Young men cannot be changed – they are what they are, and they will look for outlets – violent or peaceful – that satisfy their natural instincts. The problem is that Islam’s combination of male dominance, eternal salvation, constant war, special privleges for believers, and the “72 virgins” sexual fantasy promised to martyrs, is a powerful draw to this demographic of restless, strong, energetic seekers.

Unfortunately, the problem is found in the core of Islam itself. As an illustration, let’s examine a list of the major philosophies, ideologies, and activities that young men immerse themselves in during their teens and twenties, and we’ll see how many have led to the planned or successful mass murder of innocents around the world over the past decade:

  • Christianity
  • Judaism
  • Buddhism
  • Competitive sports
  • Careerism (focused pursuit of medicine, science, law, business, etc.)
  • Hedonism
  • Left-Wing Activism
  • Do-Gooder-ism (the NGO foot soldiers)
  • Politics
  • Urban Gangsterism
  • Race-based Supremacism (Neo-Nazis, Black Panthers, etc.)
  • Islam/”Radical Islam”/Islamism

Aside from the odd hedonist who ends up killing for thrills, the urban gangsters whose victims are overwhelmingly other gangsters, and race-based supremacists who only very rarely turn their violent words into action, all but the final entry on the list have turned out to be primarily benign. Or, put another way, the vast majority of ideologically-inspired violence against innocents in the past decade has come from one item on the list: the last one.

Obviously, not all young men who turn to Islam become violent. And, obviously, not all young men who become violent do so because of Islam. However, the evidence is clear: radical Islamists exploit the nature of young men to further their fantastical political goal of world domination (a goal that happens to be a centerpiece of the Koran). Mubin Shaikh says so himself!

The solution cannot be a pie-in-the-sky expectation that young men can be educated into passivity, or kept busy and fulfilled through community basketball programs. The solution has to be three-fold: dealing harsh and swift justice to those who engage in violent behavior; strongly promoting the fulfilling and thrilling aspects of the less violence-prone activities; and having Islam itself reform itself to reject violence and cast out the promoters of Jihad who recruit and encourage impressionable young men around the globe.

Personally, where do I want my own son to turn when he reaches those volatile years? A combination of Judaism and Careerism would suit me just fine. (And if that career somehow turns out to be “All-Star Shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays”…come on, let a guy dream.)

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