SEPTEMBER 13, 2012 – FIFTH POST – INSIDE THE ISLAMIST TERRORIST’S MIND; SYRPER GOES TO BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES
Your editor has met three jihadists in his life. In 1975, while a graduate student at the University of
Michigan in Ann Arbor (Department of Near Eastern Studies), I chanced upon a Sudanese who had completed a law degree in Egypt but who had come to Ann Arbor to continue with African Studies. I met him at a Friday afternoon meeting of the Organization of Arab Students. I was the vice president and my roommate, Dr. Rajai Lasheen was the president. My conversation with him was in Arabic which he projected in as Cairene a manner as possible. He was interesting to me because I had just finished a dialogue with Professor Richard Mitchell whose Ph.D. thesis and subsequent book about the Muslim Brotherhood reverberated everywhere Middle Eastern Studies were discussed. Prof. Mitchell was a visionary, even in the Sixtties, when he first posited to skeptical audiences that Islamism would become the major political force in the entire Islamic World. He was right. But did he know about the rise of “jihadism”, “takfirism” and “salafism”?
In the 1950’s when I was born, I came to understand Islam through the prism of Palestinian struggle. The only role model for us was the “fida’i” or “fedayeen” (corrupt plural). In Arabic, fida’i was one who “sacrificed himself for another”. In a way, Sidney Carton, in A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, willingly went to his death in the place of another peron – by any standard a “fida’i” in the French Revolution. The fida’i sacrificed his life in a military operation to liberate Palestine. For us, Christian or Muslim, he was bravery incarnate. He would enter battle with the evil Zionists never knowing if he would return. He did not fear torture, his body nothing more than an ordinary vessel in the service of a Holy Mother, Palestine herself. He was depicted in posters as one wrapped in the regal colors of his kuffiyyeh – a saint delivering the tip of his lance into the body a serpent writhing under his steed. He was Khodr, St. George.