Mohamad Mohamud, the Portland bomber, was the subject of the December 3 post to this blog. The remaining three:
1. Antonio Martinez: Yung Brotha.
"I'm just a yung brotha from the wrong side of the tracks who embraced Islam," Antonio Martinez declared on Facebook: "We were born in order to die."
Besides being a Muslim, the yung brotha is a three-time loser. In 2006, at the age of 16, he was found guilty of armed robbery. Handgun charges were made against him but, as a juvenile, that record is sealed. In 2008, he was arrested for grabbing $160 from a cash register in a Safeway store. He got a 90 day suspended sentence and six-months of supervised probation. Weeks later, he was arrested for car theft; the charges were dropped when he failed to appear in court. He has been to prison briefly.
Did I say three times? Make that four: less than a week ago, Martinez was arrested again, this time in an FBI sting operation for attempting to blow up a military recruiting station in Maryland. According to co-workers, his conversion to the Muslim faith followed on the heels of his conversion to Christianity. We have seen this pattern before: many Marxists are Marxists before they read a page of Marx. The object of the conversion can be anything: a straight line will do.
Martinez worked in construction and sold children's clothes at a mall. Sometimes working, sometimes stealing, he is a vintage "lumpen proletariat": pimps, pickpockets, purse snatchers, drug dealers, carjackers.
Martinez is also the kind of guy that middle class rebels worship and encourage. The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion examines the case of David Horowitz, former radical "Ramparts" editor and patron saint of the Black Panthers, who subsequently became a fire-breathing spokesman for the far right (www.frontpagemag.com). The lingering problem is, as Horowitz's former co-worker Richard Parker noted, Horowitz has never "come clean" of his past.
And that is the same problem with
2. Yousef al-Khattab (born Joseph Cohen).
Former resident of Israel, pedicab operator, cab driver, and restaurant manager, he founded Revolution Muslim, a New York-based website that encouraged domestic extremists. His family origin is unclear.
In 2009, al-Khattab declared, "I love bin Laden more than I love myself." But an extreme is always accompanied by its equal and opposite extreme. That is how, like Martinez and Horowitz, al-Khattab suddenly flipped. He announced on December 9, "It was an idiotic thing, looking back on things now." He wants to be regarded as sort of a born-again, non-Christian Christian. But if you watch the CNN interview, you'll see he never really, clearly, definitely admits he was wrong. Watch out: to be "born again" means to acknowledge fully one's past errors; the previous life must be gone, finished -- dead.
Al-Khattab described his conversion from Judaism to the Muslim faith:
During our stay in Netivot I met a Muslim from UAEm, and we had conversations for about two years where he would ask me questions about Jewish Aqeedah or Jewish creed, and then compare it to Tawheed al Elohiya a part of Islamic Monotheism. I would then go and ask major Rabbis questions about the Jewish creed and always got 60000 different answers. The Jews can’t even tell you where their God is based on text; rather they say God is everywhere! (authubilah) One day I decided to go to the Arab souk and buy a translation of the meaning of the Holy Quran in the English language. Subhanallah!!!!! I could not put it down!! Every problem I had with Jews and Judaism was being addressed by Allah the Most High, in the 1st three chapters of the Quran Allah answered most of my doubts about Judaism. The Quran is firm with the Jews and invites them to a just truth (Islam) to save them from the hellfire their ancestors are currently in.
A quest for relief from ambivalence is the corner stone in the foundaton of terrorism. That quest reverberates in al-Khattab's narrative: unlike Judaism and its "60000 different answers," the Quran is "firm."
Both Martinez and al-Khattab are acutely marginal people, hence middle class in the broader meaning of the term, i.e., in a marginal, intermediate, and/or transitional condition or situation.
Middle class in its narrower sense, i.e., the socio-economic class, is applicable to
3. Stockholm bomber Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly.
Taimour Abdulwahab, 28, was born in Iraq. He became a Swedish citizen, but resided in England. What sort of family he grew up in has not yet been reported. He described himself on Muslim.com as "economically am OK. I cant say ahm rich but [praise god] not poor." Perhaps he can be categorized as a middle class declassé: despite his university degree, he reportedly worked on the street, carrying a sign advertising a fish and chip restaurant.
He studied sports therapy in Britain, graduating in 2004 from the University of Bedfordshire in Luton. He died when his bomb went off prematurely on the Stockholm side street where he displayed his sign. His father-in-law, Ali Thawny, an architect, unequivocally denounced "Taimour the terrorist."
A double ex-pat, a married man with three children but looking for another wife, severely underemployed: the accumulation of intermediate/transitional/marginal conditions fits the pattern of the middle class rebel who metamorphosizes into a terrorist.
Bin Laden once singled out Sweden as a model for Western nations that wanted to be free of terrorist attacks. Still learning the ropes, he spoke too soon. As I noted elsewhere, one of the defining characteristics of terrorism is that violence must be total, that everybody, even the terrorist himself, is a potential target. That explains why, in the distorted window through which the terrorist views the world, Stockholm's downtown streets, a military recruiting center in Maryland, and a Christmas tree lighting celebration in Portland are all equal and only a button away.