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Careful portrait of terrorism suspect

The New York Times carried a profile today of NajibullahZazi, a 24-year-oldman suspected of a terrorism conspiracy.I admire the way Michael Wilson wrote the piece because itreflectsahumility often missing innews coverage: Although the piece is well-reported, it makes clearthatmuch about Zazi is not known, and that he has not been proven guilty of the charges against him.The article explores the way Islam played a role in Zazi's life, but avoids the trap of equating religious fervor with terrorism:

"Even if he is proven to be the aspiring terrorist the government asserts, how and why he became one may not be understood for months, if ever. The suspects who have been charged with terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks were fueled by a variety of motivations and influences, and often a mix of them: politics, family, economic deprivation, social alienation, the work of a terrorist recruiter. Religion sometimes provides a general framework and sense of identity, but other factors and events frequently drive the transformation."

The article is quite chilling, nonetheless. Zazi - suspected of a conspiracy to set off bombs on the New York City subway on the anniversary of the 9/11 attack - was a friendly vendor of coffee and doughnuts several blocks from the site of the World Trade Center.

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009).



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Shakespeare said: "Blow, blow, thou winter wind, Thou art not so unkind As man's ingratitude." And "Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly." There is a tremendous gap in human nature. We call it original sin. Which is capable of the most dastardly deeds and it is often surprising from whom it comes. Only God is good as Jesus said. Humanity is limping on its way home.What makes a seemingly kind man like this ponder such things. Fanaticism for sure. Once many of us thought the pope was virtually the voice of God and that all that he said was right. Causing much evil throughout the centuries. Humility and non violence are virtues that false prophets abandon.

If he is guilty of course, it is good we caught him, but for some reason (I cannot say exactly why), I almost hope he is not guilty; that just one time, we have the wrong fellow.Please do not misunderstand me; if he is guilty, I am glad our folks did a good job cathing him. It is just so depressing a tale; an average man (Muslim) who otherwise seems and acts normal, suddenly loses his mind and tries to destroy those around him, destroy those who have done nothing but been decent or at least civil toward him.Maybe I am just hoping for some plain and public demonstration of reasonable American Muslims. In fact I know (most Americans must realize this too) that most Muslims are decent folks who simply tend the business of their lives. I have several (not many, but several) Muslims friends and acquaintances and I understand not all Muslims are terrorists. However recently it has been obvious that most terrorist are Muslims. I think Muslims in general, at least in my area (North-central California) are better now at asserting themselves and presneting the quiet decency of their faith and culture than they were right after 9-11. Back then their silence quite frankly, was deafening.And so we shall see if this guy is what our authorities think he is. It wear me down though.I think that day of national prayer that Muslims held in Washington DC awhile back helps the matter, and I am grateful for Pope Benedicts effort at outreach toward Muslims. This is a group with whom we definitely need to come to some sort of reasonable understanding.As always, prayer (especially to the Holy Spirit) will help a lot.

And thank you Bill Mazella, for pointing out and linking to, that thoughtful story.

If you ever read an account of the IRA, who populated it and why people joined, the common thread is that, to reduce it to its essence, being a politically (or religiously) motivated terrorist is just so much more interesting and rewarding than being a milkman. Or a doughnut man. What is the secret ingredient that makes some people take the leap from drudgery to perceived super hero status and others not? I wish I knew.

Oops - I mean thank you Paul Moses, for linking to this interesting article.

I do not accept the equivalency between Muslim and IRA terrorists. Of course the IRA was not against Western civilization. Muslim terrorists hate Western civilization, not so much because we are materially rich, but because they think, we are morally decadent. Moreover the image of American pop culture we daily put forth via TV and movies actually bolsters these radical Muslims argument. OUr efforts via the UN to undermine the social mores of traditional patriarchial societies around the world do not help this situation either. Many foreigners routinely sigh and roll their eyes at our arrogance in telling others they should be more like us.In order then, to help reasonable, peace-loving Muslims stand up to the fanatics in their midst and beside us in this struggle, we need to give them reason to believe we are not the Godless decadent hedonists that radical Muslims say we are. I prefer Pope Benedict's approach of trying to engage reasonable Muslims and work to find common ground and some way to steer clear of violence.At least this article demonstrates that some in the American media are willing to grant that a Muslim can be not-guity of terrorism. Too often since 9-11, American news media jumped immediately and directly to the withering heights of hysteria regarding Muslims.

There is a strain in Islam that is against modern progress. That is not what drives terrorism despite views that it does. Since 1948 Arab terrorism has been driven by the fact that so many Arabs were made homeless and powerless by establishing the State of Israel. After all even the 9/11 crew were in a moders strip joint the night before their deed. Sad to say the Arabs learned terrorism from the Israelis who terrorized European nations which opposed the State of Israel. Especially France which consented when they could not tolerate Jewish terrorists. Is is a sad story of what goes around comes around.

I understand your argument Bill and have heard it elsewhere, but I dont think we can simply blame the Jews for this. It does not seem as straightforward as that.

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