Sunday, October 7, 2007

SJS - Sudden Jihad Syndrome

In George Lucas' finally-filmed installment in the Star Wars saga, Revenge of the Sith, on a special command ('66'), the clone army, heretofore obedient and helpful, suddenly turn their weapons on the Jedi, destroying nearly all of them. Out of the blue, unforeseen, unprovoked, this sudden attack is devastatingly destructive to the Jedi; devastatingly excellent for the Sith and Emperor Palpatine.

Daniel Pipes has thematized what I think is a similar and insidious phenomenon: Sudden Jihad Syndrome. [HT: What's Wrong w/the World]
Individual Islamists may appear law-abiding and reasonable, but they are part of a totalitarian movement, and as such, all must be considered potential killers.” I wrote those words days after 9/11 and have been criticized for them ever since. But an incident on March 3 at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill suggests I did not go far enough.

That was when a just-graduated student named Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, 22, and an Iranian immigrant, drove a sport utility vehicle into a crowded pedestrian zone. He struck nine people but, fortunately, none were severely injured ...

In fact, no one who knew him said a bad word about him, which is important, for it signals that he is not some low-life, not homicidal, not psychotic, but a conscientious student and amiable person. Which raises the obvious question: why would a regular person try to kill a random assortment of students? Taheri-azar’s post-arrest remarks offer some clues.

He told the 911 dispatcher that he wanted to “punish the government of the United States for their actions around the world.”
I am thankful to Pipes for giving this phenomenon a name, "Sudden Jihad Syndrome" (Don't wait up for the American Psychological Association to put it in the DSM-V along with, say, homosexuality which they removed from the DSM-IV for political not scientific reasons. That’s another story.) Let me be clear, however: unlike the "clones in Star Wars, it is NOT a "command" that compels the attacker and overrides the will.

It is more like the wisdom of the late Fr Raymund Schwager: "Sins, especially serious and conscious ones, begin in the depths of the heart and they often have a long prehistory, in which many people bear different amounts of responsibility and in which it often depends on accidental circumstances as to whether things get as far as an outward, punishable deed and who commits it." In other words, one puts into actions what one has spent a great deal of time thinking about, fantasizing about. After a while, the step from fantasizing to acting-out is like slipping down a greased pole. The old word for it was possession.

But why, for pity's sake, would a Muslim spend time thinking about acting violently toward infidel (kafir) with whom he has no personal quarrel? Because, simply put, (1) the Koran praises such action in the realm of war (Dār al-Harb), and, as Erwun Caner points out, (2) the soteriology of Islam has to do with scales -- how much evil is in my life? how much righteousness? If 51% of my accrued action is "evil", I go straight to perdition when I die (in Islam). What can "erase" all the evil in my life as a man? Martyrdom in killing kafir "erases" all the evil in my life. For Muslim women, childbirth has the same effect. Does that tell you something about the "demographic wars?" Too, does it tell you something about the nature of the deity of Islam? Cf. The Hubris of Alchemical Gnosticism - Or, How I Learned to Love Dionysus.

So. Why would a young law-abiding college student like Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar suddenly go berserk? Go figure. It seems likely that in the near-future we shall have all the opportunities we want or don't want to practice the virtue of Christian men that needs dusting-off and cleaning: chivalry.

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