Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Terror Problem. What Questions Should we Ask?

October 22, 2014 has indelibly imprinted itself on my mind. From the first tweet that a gunman was loose on Parliament Hill, I was glued to my computer, constantly searching for news and answers to try to understand the scope of that horrific event.

Once all was over and the details emerged, we learn that the scene of terror that engulfed our capital city was all due to a loan crazed individual armed with a rifle. In our post 9-11 world, an attack that ended in gunfire in our halls of government reverberates with the unique intensity and urgency we have assumed into our collect conscience since the war on terror was declared.

And it is through the "war on terror" lens that this event is being viewed. Whether by those that blame radical Islam for our troubles, or those that blame our imperial aggression in Muslim countries, the debate about the cause and effect exist solely within the post 9-11 terror narrative.

But in our search for answers, I don't think we ask ourselves the right questions. Why would Michael Zehaf-Bibeau (and Martin Rouleau) choose to assault and murder members of our military? What caused these troubled individuals to embrace radical Islam?

And more importantly, what would they have chosen if "radical Islam" was not a readily available option?

I think it's very critical that we pause and reflect on that question. The underlying assumption about the "radicalization of our youth" problem we are grappling with is the unsaid narrative that without the radical Islam influence, these individuals would not choose to terrorize society.

I believe that to be a serious error in judgement. For as I pondered that question, it occurred to me that these individuals wanted to hate somebody. They needed something to latch on to that would validate and allow them to express that hate. If not radical Islam, I believe they would have picked more "traditional" targets. Whether it be women, Jews or gays or any other group.

It is important to understand that many of these recent converts to radical Islam are looking for an answer to whatever internal angst they are dealing with. It isn't an easy choice, nor is it a simple or logical one. This is entirely an irrational response. But they have a need that needs filling, and perhaps like a desperate addict in search of a fix they will latch onto whatever cause that provides relief, clarity, a purpose, a target to focus on.

Someone to blame. 

We must consider in our response, are we trying to prevent the next Zehaf-Bibeau or the next Marc L├ępine? And is there really any difference between them? What problem are we trying to solve?

If the answer we choose is simply "Islamic terrorism" then I believe we will not solve anything, and those that seek to terrorize will just choose another outlet.


Ken Breadner said...

You have outdone yourself with this one. This should be submitted to the Globe and Post. If one of them doesn't publish it, there's something very wrong with *their* judgment.

karen said...

I disagree with you. I don't think "radicalized" youth are looking for someone to hate. I think they are looking for somewhere to belong. I do think that ill health, whether it be physical (im talking here about poor nutrion, for example) or mental and poor thinking skills can lead people to think all kinds of bad ideas are good ones. And I think there are people who like the power of influencing the behaviour of others, even to do violence.