The New York Times on April 21, 2013, in seeking to explain the terrorist attacks by the Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, suggested that the brothers, like several other Muslim-Americans who resorted to terrorism within the U.S. borders, were perhaps torn by the friction between their American lives and their identities as Muslims.
The article quotes Akbar Ahmed, chairman of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, who notes that they [those like the Tsarnaev brothers] "don't really know the old country but they don't fit in to the new country. As a result, he states, "They are furious. They're out to cause pain."
It's not so much, however, that they don't fit in in the sense of adopting into American polyglot culture. It's mainly that they are outraged by what they see as the U.S. and West's war on the Islamic World.
While Tamerlan has been quoted as saying that he had not a single American friend, his younger brother Dzhokhar described himself as being into "money and career," was sociable, a leader, and fit into his friends and their social activities seamlessly. One and all of his friends, acquaintances, and relatives have expressed profound shock when they learned of his involvement in the Boston Marathon bombings.
Cited at the end of the Times article, are the words of Faisal Shahzad during his trial who unsuccessfully attempted to bomb Times Square. Denouncing the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the drone attacks upon Pakistan and Yemen, he said of the drones that they "kill women, children, they kill everybody" It's a war, and in war, they kill people. They're killing all Muslims."
Similarly, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood psychiatrist, in November 2009, faces charges for opening fire on a crowd of soldiers and civilians, killing 13. Before doing this, Hasan agonized over the Muslims in Afghanistan being killed by American soldiers. The Times article also cites others, including Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-American who spent five years as a "popular coffee vendor in Manhattan" with a "God Bless America" sticker on his cart, who apparently plotted to blow up the New York subway system and 9/11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who earned an engineering degree in North Carolina.
A Boston Globe columnist named Kevin Cullen wrote on April 19, 2013, in the headline of his article: "It doesn't matter why they hate us, they just do." This is one step below, if that is possible, George W. Bush's logic, "They hate us for our freedoms." As nonsensical as Bush's reasoning, Cullen's is deliberately know-nothingism, which is saying something when it can be contrasted negatively at all with Bush's stance.
Of course it matters why somebody resorts to terrorism. If you don't understand and refuse to understand the reasons why someone does something terrible, then you can't possibly do anything that will help to prevent such things from happening again.
In this week's episode of the HBO series, Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher had on as a guest the Director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism, Brian Levin. When Levin began by stating that there are all kinds of religious bigots, Maher interrupted him and declared that there is only one religion that resorts to violence, Islam. Levin begged to differ and they went back and forth for a few excruciating minutes. Levin did not say what should have been said in the course of this, which is that Islam has no monopoly in the contemporary world for faith-based violence against one's putative enemies. Muslims who think that the West is out to destroy them have more than enough empirical grounds to think so. See, for example, this passage from Mark Crispin Miller's contribution to my book that I co-edited with Peter Phillips, Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney. Miller's chapter is entitled: "Bush and Cheney's War on the Enlightenment."
"Before they joined in the destruction of Fallujah, a company of leathernecks cavorted and hallooed in pious ecstasy as chaplains supervised their prayers and Christian rock blared over them. 'You are the sovereign. Your name is holy. You are the pure spotless lamb,' a female voice cried out on the loudspeakers as the Marines clapped their hands and closed their eyes, reflecting on what lay ahead for them.' The scene was reported by Agence France-Presse on Nov. 6, 2004.
"Between the service's electric guitar religious tunes, marines stepped up on the chapel's small stage and recited a verse of scripture, meant to fortify them for war.
"One spoke of their Old Testament hero, a shepherd who would become Israel's king, battling the Philistines some 3,000 years ago.
"'Thus David prevailed over the Philistines,' the marine said, reading from scripture, and the marines shouted back 'Hoorah, King David,' using their signature grunt of approval.
"The marines then lined up and their chaplain blessed them with holy oil to protect them.
"'God's people would be anointed with oil,' the chaplain said, as he lightly dabbed oil on the marines' foreheads.
"The crowd then followed him outside their small auditorium for a baptism of about a half-dozen marines who had just found Christ.