UK Politics

Terrorism: Bourgeoisie to Blame

It is still – regrettably – a commonplace argument on some parts of the left that terrorism is an understandable phenomenon caused by poverty and poor social conditions.

Harry’s Place has long taken issue with this fashionable nonsense dressed up in radical clothing. The facts, as they come in, are bearing our analysis out.

Here’s Andrew Pierce with exhibit A:

The roots of last week’s attempted terrorist attacks in Britain lie not in poverty but in the thwarted aspirations of middle-class Muslims

The two doctors Bilal Abdulla, 27, and Kafeel Ahmed, 27, who allegedly were in the Jeep Cherokee loaded with a deadly cocktail of incendiary material into the frontage of Glasgow Airport, would make a classic textbook study for psychological profilers. They were trained in Baghdad where medicine is one of the most sought-after professions of the wealthy middle classes.

Ed Hussain – who certainly knows what he’s talking about – doesn’t demur from the view of terrorism as essentially a pastime indulged in by frustrated and unstable elements of the bourgeoisie:

Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 bombers, was university educated. So was Omar Sheikh who masterminded the filmed beheading of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist who was captured in Iraq. Omar Khyam, a cell ringleader who was convicted this year of a 2004 plot to blow up a London nightclub and shopping mall with fertiliser bombs, was a computer sciences student. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned 9/11 and other attacks had a degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University. Osama bin Laden was an engineer.

“Al-Qa’eda is filled with people who are graduates from medical and engineering colleges,” Husain says. “They regard scripture like a textbook, manual or medical handbook. In their minds, there is no room for any humanity based nuance or even alternative arguments. They have the arrogance of their advanced education, consider themselves to be above the rest, and to be absolutely right.”

So where does the idea that attemting to incinerate hundreds of working class Glaswegians off on their holidays is the understandable reaction to poor social conditions and inequality in the Arab world?

You can’t do much better than Exhibit B – an article by Seumas Milne who used to be comments editor of the Guardian – printed in that newspaper on 13 September 2001. He’s talking about the twin towers not Glasgow airport but the assumed linkage between “inequality”, “social conditions” and premiditated acts of mass murder designed to kill large numbers of people in the West is clear:

Already, the Bush administration is assembling an international coalition for an Israeli-style war against terrorism, as if such counter-productive acts of outrage had an existence separate from the social conditions out of which they arise. But for every “terror network” that is rooted out, another will emerge – until the injustices and inequalities that produce them are addressed.

While one shouldn’t hold anyone’s class background against them it is instructive to bear in mind that those who attempt to argue that Islamist terrorism is an authentic voice of the downtrodden and oppressed – and who airily dismiss overwhelming evidence to the contrary – may do so from a background which, while admirably contrarian, can’t really be said to have suffered much in the way of real injustice and inequality.

The fact of the matter is that working class attitudes to terrorism – as demonstrated by those who tackled the frustrated firestarters in Glasgow – are light years away from those who presume to pontificate on the ‘root causes’ of attempted and actual mass murder.

It is only “the arrogance of their advanced education” which prevents certain people from seeing things as they actually are: that terrorism – from Baader Meinhoff to Bin Laden – is an overwhelmingly middle-class phenomenon which has nothing to do with any real or meaningful radicalism; that it actually prevents social progress in any society in which it is allowed to flourish; that it is a political dead end romanticised by those who really should know better – and that people who understand these facts should not fail to challenge every utterance of those who argue otherwise until their verbiage is seen for what it actually is – confused, cockeyed, and massively counterproductive to the political progress of those in the world who need it most.