This is Theodore Dalrymple I'm talking about, not our old friend William (of White Mughals fame), in a piece written in the New York City Journal last Autumn which Marcus at Harry's Place noticed yesterday and decided to blog. The Suicide Bombers Among Us makes a few sweeping generalisations about the young Muslims in this country, which are in my opinion unjustifed. In particular, it offers no evidence that the four young men who were involved in the 7 July attacks in London were connected with this criminal sub-culture - the most likely reason being that they quite simply were not. (More: Fightin' with Grabes.)
Dalrymple claims that "those who died in the London bombings were sacrificial victims to the need of four young men to resolve a conflict deep within themselves (and within many young Muslims), and they imagined they could do so only by the most extreme possible interpretation of their ancestral religion". Dalrymple is aware that one of the four was of Carribean origin, which reduces the relevance of his observations still further. Although there are other Muslims in his family, all evidence suggests that they did not approve of his action; this includes his widow, who had no advance knowledge of what he was doing.
Militant Islamists are well-known not to draw their suicide bombers from the criminal underworld, even if the converts who join them had previously been involved in it. Evidence suggests that militants feign irreligiosity in order to fool outsiders that they are secularised, not the sort of religious fanatics who should attract the attention of the security forces, but if these same forces were doing their job, they should notice who among the criminal classes is who. (The phenomenon of "Salafi burn-out" has been noted by some observers, in which people tire of the life of the militant "Salafi" and lose interest and become irreligious; this may be what the militants imitate.)
Dalrymple goes on at length about what seems to be the general scumminess of young Muslim men in the UK:
Young Muslim men in Britain—as in France and elsewhere in the West—have a problem of personal, cultural, and national identity. They are deeply secularized, with little religious faith, even if most will admit to a belief in God. Their interest in Islam is slight. They do not pray or keep Ramadan (except if it brings them some practical advantage, such as the postponement of a court appearance). Their tastes are for the most part those of non-Muslim lower-class young men. They dress indistinguishably from their white and black contemporaries, and affect the same hairstyles and mannerisms, including the vulpine lope of the slums. Gold chains, the heavier the better, and gold front teeth, without dental justification, are symbols of their success in the streets, which is to say of illicit enrichment.
But what differentiates them from other lower-class young men is their "residual" Islam. They do not mix, he says, with white men, and would be horrified if their sisters joined them. They themselves satisfy their lusts with prostitutes and women they call "white sluts", and he tells us that his female patients (he is a psychiatrist) complain of being called this in the streets by Asian men, but should one of their womenfolk attempt to choose her own boyfriend or try and have a social life of her own, she is "likely to suffer a beating, followed by surveillance of Stasi-like thoroughness". These same men are provided, via forced marriage, with a means of continuing these adventures after marriage as well as a lawful means of satisfying his lusts at home.
His basic premise in this essay is that Islam, however residual, provides its adherents (or inheritors) with a sense of moral superiority over everyone else and a kind of get-out in dealing with their (our) social problems. Thus, Muslims' failure to thrive in education and employment can only be attributed to discrimination, and not, for example, to their (our) "refusal to educate females to their full capacity", "a terrible handicap in a society in which, perhaps regrettably, prosperity requires two household incomes". As ever, the BBC is attacked, this time for repeating the same line since 1997 that Muslims "continue to face discrimination", on the grounds that Muslims are three times as likely to be unemployed long-term as West Indians. He observes that a quarter of all medical students are of Indian subcontinental origin; indeed, I know two qualified doctors who are Muslims of Pakistani origin (one of them a GP and the other a GP in training). I can confirm that there are Muslim female doctors in this country, and when I underwent dental treatment at Guy's several years ago, the students in attendance included at least one in hijab. I can also assure anyone that plenty of female students in hijab or otherwise of Muslim appearance are to be found at any London university, whether a former Polytechnic like London Metropolitan or a prestigious "red brick" like King's College. The practice of refusing to educate girls and the practice of sending them abroad may be facts, but they are not the whole story, by any means. (What may well be true, however, is that girls are told to choose a college nearby, rather than travel to a distant town. If "nearby" means London, that still offers plenty of choice.)
Dalrymple also contends that the extremists cannot free themselves mentally from "the West", and are thus "engaged in a losing and impossible inner jihad, or struggle, to expunge everything that is not Muslim from their breasts". As examples he offers Jermaine Lindsey, who had been into rap music, which he calls "full of inchoate rage, hatred, and intemperance", before he accepted Islam. (Again, this is a huge generalisation.) Osama bin Laden is, he says, "utterly dependent upon the West for his weaponry, his communications, his travel, and his funds", whether by his use of western technology or by his use of money which can ultimately be traced to western purchase of Saudi oil. And there is the fact that all these people do not really want to rid themselves of "the appurtenances of Western life" such as its technologies and conveniences:
They therefore have at least a nagging intimation that their chosen utopia is not really a utopia at all: that deep within themselves there exists something that makes it unachievable and even undesirable. How to persuade themselves and others that their lack of faith, their vacillation, is really the strongest possible faith? What more convincing evidence of faith could there be than to die for its sake? How can a person be really attached or attracted to rap music and cricket and Mercedes cars if he is prepared to blow himself up as a means of destroying the society that produces them? Death will be the end of the illicit attachment that he cannot entirely eliminate from his heart.
I find this to be an extremely shallow conclusion; in my experience, Muslims of all hues are perfectly happy to use western inventions to further their cause, whether it be the use of western printing methods to print jihadist literature or the use of TrueType fonts and publishing software to beautify mainstream Islamic textbooks. Political Islamists, are not, in general, anti-technological. They are against non-Islamic methods of ruling and judging, a significant difference.
Dalrymple also does converts to Islam a huge injustice in this piece. Most converts do not end up as suicide bombers within a few years; rather, they end up in a variety of different groups and movements. Some are more religious than others. In the case of Afro-Carribean converts especially, jihadists are very much a minority - in South London, there are very substantial communities of pro-Saudi and "Suroorist" Salafis. In both South and West London, there are also black converts who are members of Sufi orders. Without any reference whatsoever, he offers a percentage of female converts as 17%, and of these, he would "bet that the 17 percent of converts who were women converted in the course of a love affair" rather than because they were convinced. By contrast, what I read of female converts' actual writings suggests otherwise.
Dalrymple accepts elsewhere that western culture does indeed let women down; in a piece on Muslim girls' lack of education published in the Spectator in October 2001, he says this about what western education actually does for girls (you can read the whole piece at Free Republic):
I concede that the white girls who remain in the schools from which the Muslim parents illegally withdraw their daughters learn little after a certain age except how to be a lumpen slut, of the kind with which this country is so exceedingly well endowed: but the law is the law, and the subsequent fate of so many Muslim daughters is far from enviable.
I should add that if the girls are removed from the country, and travel without being forced to, there is really nothing illegal about it. For a British family to relocate, in whole or in part, is perfectly lawful whether the destination is Karachi or the Costa del Sol. But the fact remains that Dalrymple censures the criminal, residually-Muslim youth for calling young working-class white women "white sluts", while doing similarly himself in a magazine anyone can buy at Smith's! What hypocrisy this is; almost as much as censuring young Muslim men for their sense of moral superiority while displaying a similar attitude to his patients whose secrets he divulges in his own books and articles, for which he is admired by a lot of people and, no doubt, paid handsomely.