08 January 2016
A one-man jihad
Here's a perfect storm: a West Philadelphia policeman has been wounded in an ambush attack by a man who professed allegiance to the so-called Islamic State after he was taken into custody. Lest anyone blame the Black Lives Matter movement for this crime, the suspect reportedly said he did it because his target, as a policeman, enforced laws contrary to Islam. The suspect's family acknowledges that he's been a devout Muslim for some time, but adds that he seemed to be going crazy lately, a change they attributed to sports injuries. If you haven't done so already, you can add Islam to the lengthy list of things that motivate people to go violently crazy. This guy is right up there with the devout Christians who drown their babies or cook them in ovens because they're convinced the kids have the devil in them. While there's a growing temptation now to treat Islam-inspired attacks as a separate category, Islam is probably at most a superficial detail distinguishing nuts like this one and the other nuts who go shooting crazy. There isn't much more to say when we don't have solid facts about this shooter's mental state, but it can't be denied that there is something increasingly suggestive in the global rhetoric of jihad, and that Muslims around the world seem increasingly responsive to it after a couple of centuries of quiescence. It may simply be their special way of saying they're not going to take the crap life serves them anymore -- as people or as Muslims -- a feeling that finds many different cultural expressions among different subcultures and seeks many different justifications or rationalizations for murder. The problem for Muslims is that, unlike otherwise similar murderers or mass shooters, they're assumed to be for something rather than merely against everything like the average white nihilist. That makes them more threatening to many people, and it can't help implicating non-violent co-religionists in the threat, since they must be for the same thing.It's hard not to make the assumption when idiots like this one tell you why they're shooting cops, but when you have a lone wolf like this running around my guess is that he's more against than for anything, since he's not exactly going to build anything running around by himself with a gun. Nevertheless, every such incident will increase the pressure on American Muslims to clarify what they're for and against. Already some Muslims resent the pressure. The irony there is that Muslims probably are no more truly American than when they take a "screw you" attitude and refuse to apologize or be held accountable for what others like them do. Unfortunately for them, we seem to be in a period right now when Americans are demanding personal accountability from each other with increasing vehemence, whether it's the increasingly strident political correctness of the left or the increasingly strident opposition to political correctness from the right, which asserts a right to judge those who supposedly refuse to be judged. We're in an uncomfortably democratic moment right now because democracy puts everyone in judgment on everyone else, without always making the liberal distinction between groups and individuals. If Muslims don't like this growing demand for a reckoning, the most I can say is that they won't be the only ones -- especially when judgment comes, for them or for others, in the form of angry or crazy men with guns.