This story demonstrates several trends in Muslim communities in Britain and elsewhere, especially in western Europe. First, there is both the lack of assimilation, and the complete lack of any intentions to assimilate, ever — a problem enabled by lack of due diligence in accepting “refugees,” and social welfare benefits extended without the firm expectation that the recipient becomes a productive part of society at some point. That combination is all but “Miracle-Gro” for a closed, parallel society with a sense of entitlement.
Another is the infusion of jihadist teachings into Muslim youth culture, which constitutes another large-scale “misunderstanding” of Islam’s vaunted peaceful and tolerant teachings. Funny how that keeps happening. Moreover, note the widespread acceptance of sympathy in the broader community for Britain’s would-be Taliban — “Britaliban,” if you will.
Lastly, in that vein, the article writer seems eager to emphasize the non-operational nature of the “youths” in this article. No, not every kid in the neighborhood with a football makes the NFL or even the college team. And not every kid in the neighborhood watching jihadist videos online will board a London train with visions of Islamic paradise dancing in his head. But it doesn’t take many to create untold damage made all the more tragic by the missed opportunities to engage the ideology behind the attack.
“Jihad chic comes to London,” by Sami Yousafzai for Newsweek, March 14:
I still don’t know who wanted me dead. I was sitting in my car one day last november, not far from my house in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar, when a group of strangers walked up. One of them pointed a pistol through my window. I remember he wore a turban and shalwar kameez””the tunic and baggy pants common in the area””and he had a long beard, dyed red with henna. He shot me in the chest, hand and arm, and then fled with his friends. Miraculously, none of the bullets hit any arteries or vital organs, and as soon as a doctor patched me up and I was strong enough to travel, I booked a flight to London. I planned to lie low for a while, to rest and seek further medical help for a bullet that was lodged in my arm. But more than that, I just wanted to be somewhere calm and safe, far from AK-toting gunmen, suicide bombers and the daily, random violence of Pakistan’s borderlands.
London was a revelation””cold, clean and orderly””but my sense of relief didn’t last long. In one of the city’s many South Asian neighborhoods, I saw a tall young Afghan who reminded me of my would-be assassin, striding down the street like a bad dream. He too wore a shalwar kameez, and a big turban of white silk was wrapped loosely around his head. His beard was long, and his hair was shoulder length. Anyone dressed like that in Islamabad would be immediately picked up for questioning by the police. I had flown halfway across the world to get away from killers who resembled this young Londoner. I stared after him until he was gone from view.
But as days passed I spotted him again and again. He stood out even in a neighborhood full of Asians dressed in traditional garb””shalwar kameez, saris, abayas. Locals had a nickname for him: Talib Jan. It’s a friendly Afghan slang term for a Taliban member, something like GI Joe for Americans. The area’s crowded, rundown row houses had become home to hundreds of Afghans who first arrived in England as fugitives from the Taliban’s intolerance and brutality. Nevertheless, most of Jan’s neighbors spoke of him tolerantly or even approvingly.
In fact, during my three-month stay in England I met a surprising number of Muslims who shared Jan’s fascination with the Taliban. The older generation, urbane and relatively well educated, had little love for the extremists. But among some younger men, frustrated and marginalized in British society, I discovered a fury that was depressingly familiar. I met many immigrants who were blatant, vocal and unquestioning in their support for what they imagined to be “jihad.” Few seemed troubled by the brutality that characterized Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar’s reign, or by his banning of music or girls’ education. Indeed, many looked back on Omar’s rule as a kind of Islamic utopia, and they eagerly snapped up the Islamist leaflets handed out after Friday prayers at various mosques around town.
I first introduced myself to Jan at one of those mosques. I complimented his taste in clothes: that’s how people dress back home in Afghanistan, I said. (I was born in northern Afghanistan; my family fled to Pakistan in 1979 to escape the Soviet invasion.) His fierce appearance to the contrary, Jan turned out to be friendly and outgoing. He listened with interest to my story, but mostly he talked about himself, his Islamist views, his fierce support for the Taliban and his contempt for the Brits and Americans fighting them.
His vehemence surprised me. Twenty-three years old, Jan had been born in eastern Afghanistan and attended a madrassa in Pakistan. The Taliban still ruled Afghanistan when his parents paid a people smuggler to sneak Jan to England at 14. There he applied for and was granted political asylum, claiming that the Taliban had persecuted him and his family. Now he’s a legal resident, yet openly cheers for his supposed oppressors to defeat troops from his adopted homeland in Afghanistan. The irony seems lost on him. […]
Jan is a terror to his neighbors. He prowls the streets as a one-man, self-appointed morality patrol. He castigates young Muslim couples he sees holding hands in public, and he badgers acquaintances for shaping their beards into what he disapprovingly calls a “French cut” that frames the mouth. His diatribes can be frightening. Several young men told me they were afraid Jan had friends who could create problems for them or their relatives in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Some feared they might be disowned if Jan got word to their families about their “immoral” living in London.
Jan, too, is always glad to pull out his Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone and share streaming videos of Taliban training camps and Coalition convoys hitting IEDs. He even has Taliban ring tones””fire-and-brimstone sermons and Qur’anic recitals from jihadist mullahs. If you want copies, he’ll transfer them to your phone or point you to the right Web site. “I’m winning converts to a holy cause every day,” he says. As for the cops, Jan says he’s careful to break no laws and claims he’s never had problems with the police. They seem to regard him as a deeply religious man, he says, or at least as a harmless eccentric.
A curious detail:
In fact, Jan embodies a powerful need among many young Muslims in Britain to preserve a sense of identity in a strange land. One 50-year-old engineer told me he worries constantly about his four children, especially his two sons, ages 19 and 20. He says they seem addicted to Internet porn, but what scares him even more is the amount of time they spend on jihadist Web sites. He worries as well about extremist operatives who hang out at local mosques trying to recruit young people to the Taliban cause. […]
Of course, a common thread there is the promise of virgins in paradise for “martyrs.”
Most of these young men, even Jan, would probably never give up their lives in Britain to join the jihad in Afghanistan. But something of that far-off fight, some tinge of blood and chaos and hatred, has certainly seeped into London’s streets. Alokozai, 27, arrived in London a year ago after an arduous trip via the Afghans’ underground railway. He used to be an interpreter/fixer for British troops in Kandahar. The pay was excellent by Afghan standards””some $1,600 a month””but then the death threats began. His family’s life would be worthless unless he left his job, the anonymous letters warned. He quit as he was told; in Britain he applied for political asylum, thinking he had finally escaped the Taliban’s wrath.
Then the phone woke him one night at 3 a.m. “Death angels will soon clutch at your throat,” an Afghan voice warned. “Remember, we have Islamic brothers in the U.K. Your family should not rest easy in Kandahar either.” He says he could only listen to the voice, too scared to say anything.
Alokozai worries all the time now. Too many Afghans in London sympathize with the Taliban, he says. He thinks many recent asylum seekers, especially from southern Afghanistan, have ties to the Taliban and remain under the sway of extremist ideas. “They will create trouble for Britain in the near future,” he predicts. But equally disturbing to him are the thoroughly assimilated Muslims who also treat him like a traitor to his religion. When they find out he worked for British forces in Afghanistan, they ask him, “How many houses did you bomb?” and “How many innocents did you kill?” “These people are as narrow-minded and have as much hate in their eyes as the Taliban do in Afghanistan,” he says. “I cannot understand how these Afghans and Pakistanis can wear Western clothes, dance and drink, and then condemn me and see the Taliban as their heroes.”…