By all outward appearances, said Niall Ferguson in the London Daily Telegraph, Shehzad Tanweer seemed like a perfectly respectable British subject. Born in Yorkshire in 1983, he was the son of a prosperous, Mercedes-driving Pakistani immigrant who ran a popular fishand-chips shop. Shehzad was an avid cricket player, a graduate from Leeds Metropolitan University, amiable and well-liked.He also was, his uncle says, "proud to be British." Yet two weeks ago, the 22-year-old boarded the London Underground with a rucksack full of explosives on his back, and "in the tunnel between Aldgate and Liverpool Street stations, detonated a bomb that killed himself and six other passengers."
The more we find out about Tanweer and his co-conspirators, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, the more baffling they are. These four "unremarkable young men," who murdered 54 people and wounded 700 in the London transit bombings, weren't the kind of raw material you'd normally associate with Islamic terrorism. They didn't grow up in Middle Eastern slums, raised on a diet of hatred against the West. Rather, they were "homegrown" fanatics; all were British citizens with middle- or working-class backgrounds. One of them, 30-year-old Mohammad Sidique Khan, taught disabled students and had a baby daughter and a pregnant wife. Somewhere along the way, "something changed these ordinary men. I'd sure like to know what that was."
The answer, said Hassan Fattah in The New York Times, is alienation. In Leeds--home to three of the bombers--and other Islamic communities all over Europe, the resentment toward the West is palpable. The young men in these enclaves are not truly assimilated. They often have jobs that require them to cater to white Europeans, who treat them grudgingly or with outright contempt. In newspapers every day, and on TV every night, they see Iraqis and other Middle Eastern Muslims being killed by Western and Israeli troops. On the streets of Leeds and Birmingham, many young Muslims say, "We don't condone terrorism, but why are there are only moments of silence for British victims and Americans victims? What about Iraqis and Afghanis and Palestinians? Is Muslim blood cheaper?"
What drives these young men into the hands of terrorist recruiters, said Thomas Friedman, also in the Times, is a powerful "inner conflict." They're raised to believethat Islamic religion and culture are superior, yet come to see that the Muslim world is centuries behind the West, mired in poverty and political impotence. At thesame time, these young men are tempted by the West s decadence, and ashamed of being tempted." For some, the resolution of the paradox is to lash out, and seek the "sick prestige" of martyrdom.Europe had better come to terms with this phenomenon--and soon, said The Boston Globe in an editorial. "There are more than 23 million Muslims in the European Union, about 5 percent of the total population." Their numbers are increasing; "the fertility rate of Europe's Muslims is three times that of the non-Muslim population." Intelligence officials estimate that
1 percent of the continent's Muslims actually sympathize with al Qaida. Do the math: That means Europe contains tens of thousands of ticking, human time bombs. It's considered impolite to ask, said Kathleen Parker in the Orlando Sentinel, but there's no longer any avoiding the question: What's wrong with Islam? In their painful political correctness, British and European leaders are insisting that most Muslims are moderates, and that Islam itself "isn't the problem." If that's truly the case, moderate Muslims will not merely condemn terrorist bombings by their religion's "bad actors"--they will "clean out the mosque, to rid Allah's kingdom of radicals."
We Muslims must first admit the truth, said author Irshad Manji in Time. "For too long, we have been sticking fingers in our ears and chanting, 'Islam means peace.'" But Islam is clearly not "an innocent bystander" to terrorism. The Sept. 11 hijackers, the fanatics who behead innocents in Iraq, and, undoubtedly, the four British bombers all firmly believed the Koran justified their strike against the infidels. Christianity had its holy wars, too, but then it had its Reformation. Now Islam must have its Reformation. We must begin to look inward, and examine what we're teaching disaffected young men in the mosques arid the madrasas. The time for explanations and excuses is over.