When the British security with a mixture of luck and good police work foiled a series of terrorist actions in England and Scotland, the jaw-dropping media wondered perplexingly as to how seemingly decent, well-educated, and successful people turned to terrorism. The shock that many experienced when it became known that at least one of the men was a successful surgeon only helped to confuse people more. The other six men were all engaged in the medical industry at varying levels.
The question the mainstream media failed to ask as it enveloped its coverage in the successes of the war on terror and the quick-footedness of the security forces is: what drives a seemingly intelligent, well educated and successful person to embrace the senseless murder of innocent women, men and children?
Yes, only luck and chance prevented what would most certainly have been a senseless loss of lives. One of the men involved, Bilal Talal Samad Abdullah is a doctor. Another, Kafeel Ahmed is a 27-year old from India who is a highly qualified aeronautical engineer with a PhD. And while the layman finds this profile of a terrorist unusual it is because of the role the media plays in characterizing and profiling terrorists simply as mad, ignorant men who simply want to kill innocent people.
President Bush consistently, and rightly so, keeps referring to terrorists as killer and murders but the thing is that the vast majority of people are shocked and surprised when a murderer turns out to be a highly educated person. Mentally, people have this picture of a murderer or killer as being a crude, uneducated, violent person. They are generally seen as ignorant and immature, as coming from poor communities, broken families, possessing little by way of skills and responsibilities.
And that is patently wrong. For example, top terrorist Osama bin Laden came from one of Saudi Arabia’s wealthy families, is well educated and a qualified engineer. There are many doctors in Al-Qaeda and in any terrorist organization it is the intelligent, highly educated that is utilized to plan and carry out nefarious activities. Abdullah Azzam, the original mentor of Osama bin Laden, was a Palestinian medical doctor. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the spiritual leader of Al Qaeda, comes from an Egyptian family of doctors and medical experts.
But the crucial thing is that the new face of terror must be very alarming for law enforcement and terrorism experts because it reveals that even the most educated layers of society are identifying with the ideology of Islamic fundamentalism, supporting and activity participating in its causes. Perhaps we can find part of the answer in the words of Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the July 7, 2005 terror attacks in London who left this on a suicide video.
“I and thousands like me have forsaken everything for what we believe.... Your democratically elected governments continually perpetrate atrocities against my people all over the world. Your support makes you directly responsible. We are at war and I am a soldier.”
This also debunks President Bush’s often repeated mantra that it was important to fight the terrorist “there” before they can get “here” and that by winning the war in Iraq the world is safer. As a matter of fact as this note says the growth of international terrorism around the world can be directly attributed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the behavior of the American armed forces in that part of the world. And the background of the newest British terrorist also is revealing about how educated people become terrorists.
From all reports Abdullah had been a devout Muslim for many years. He was born in England and moved back to Iraq when he was very little. His father is also a doctor and made a great life for his family by running his medical practice in Iraq. Abdullah went to the University of Baghdad and graduated in 2004 – around the same time as the US invasion. The invasion was to have a terrible impact in him.
By 2004 he became rabidly radical saying to his professors at the university that “we should not learn medicine. We should learn how to fight the occupation.” The war and occupation had a devastating personal impact on Abdullah. His father was one of Iraq’s top orthopedic surgeons and had a private clinic in Baghdad. This was reportedly destroyed. The Daily Mirror reports that, in 2005, Talal was forced to flee Baghdad to northern Iraq after being threatened by the Shiite Mahdi Army.
Abdullah left Iraq to study at the University of Cambridge after he graduated - a bitterly angry, profoundly anti-Western and very possibly sympathetic to Al Qaeda. He had developed a personal hatred for Iraq’s Shia majority because one of his friends was killed by a Shia militiaman.
So here was a young man, talented, bright and well-educated but nursing a ticking time bomb triggered by the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, the murder of perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis at the hands of US and British troops, the incarceration and torture of thousands more, and the civil war between Sunni and Shia sparked by the destruction of the country and fuelled by the policies of the US-led occupation forces.