Kamala, who raised important (and still unanswered) questions in his superb review of Sumbul Ali-Karamali’s The Muslim Next Door: The Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil thing, now examines Reza Aslan‘s How to Win a Cosmic War.
Here is Kamala’s take on Aslan’s most egregious (and melodramatic) falsehood — that a one day trip to Israel turned Mohammad Siddique Khan into a terrorist. This is particularly timely since Waheed Ali was just convicted of going to terrorist training camp with Khan almost 2 years before that.
No self-respecting Islamic apologist can leave out the Israeli/Palestinian dispute as one of the “legitimate grievances” that must be addressed to stem the influence of the global Jihadists; Aslan readily obliges. He even shows off his creative writing chops by weaving the narrative of Israeli oppression into the frightening growth of Jihadist influence in Europe as well. To pull this story off, the only casualty is the truth:
Mohammad Siddique Khan was the ringleader of the 7/7 subway and bus suicide attacks in Britain that left more than fifty dead and injured more than 700. Khan was of Pakistani descent but born and raised in England. In the Aslan fantasy, he was a “soft-spoken,” “well-adjusted, well-integrated, well-educated youth worker,” and a dedicated “husband and father,” up until one “decisive moment.” On his way back from completing “the Hajj pilgrimage with his wife and a couple of close friends,” Khan made a “last minute detour” to Israel, where Khan “witnessed with his own eyes the unbearable weight of degradation carried by a people in no control of their own lives, in no control even of their movements.”
As Khan passed through a crossing into Palestinian territory, he
saw an old Palestinian man, a native of this dry patch of land, being manhandled by a nervous young soldier… A second soldier, sweating and timorous and just as young as the first, held a rifle barrel against the old man’s chest… The old man lowered his head. He was used to this. He did not speak as the soldier rummaged through his belongings. Khan stood by, also saying nothing. But the old man’s shame burned hot in his cheeks… in that fateful moment, [Khan’s] identify was altered. He was no longer British. He was no longer Pakistani. His sense of self could not be contained by either nationalist designation. He was simply a Muslim… On his way back to Beeston, the mild-mannered youth worker shocked his companions by suddenly proclaiming his new identity and, with it, his murderous intention. (p. 52)
As Aslan writes, “there can be little doubt” that Khan’s short trip Israel was the “pivot in his journey” that took him from being the well-adjusted/well-integrated/well-educated/soft-spoken/mild-mannered/dedicated-husband-and-father to the “radical Jihadist bent on mass murder.”
If this tale sounds far-fetched–that taking a single trip to Israel and witnessing one old man get “humiliated” would turn a perfectly sane European family man into a nut-job terrorist committed to killing his fellow citizens and himself–well, that’s because it is.
Khan visited Israel for one day in February, 2003. Almost two years earlier, in the summer of 2001, a British Muslim named Waheed Ali says he flew to Pakistan with Khan, where they were driven to a Taliban camp on the border with Kashmir, where they learned to shoot rifles. Khan and Ali wanted to go fight on the frontline in Bagram, where the Taliban was fighting the Northern Alliance, but they were deemed too inexperienced to participate. (Ali was just sentenced to prison for conspiracy to attend a terrorist camp.)
As one would expect, Khan’s turn to radical Islam came even earlier. According to an article based on an interview with Khan’s brother, Khan became interested in Wahhabism in the mid-90s, and “in 1999, it seems that Siddique began to consider the step from Wahhabi fundamentalism to a form of jihadism actively committed to violence.”
So much for the “Palestinian Humiliation Theory.”
Be sure to read it all.