Although information is still too sketchy to draw any comprehensive conclusions (other than that the Boston killings are not, as recently suggested, fall out from sequestration, the NRA, lack of gun control, climate change, right-wing tea-party zealots, etc.), there emerges a familiar profile to the suspects that we have seen before. In articles in 2002 and 2007, I touched on the dangers of isolated Islamic-driven terrorists without direct connections to organized terrorist networks, calling it a sort of “al-Qaedism.”
In other word, single and usually young American resident males, often originating from the Muslim world (and not always from the Arab Middle East), sometimes citizens, sometimes resident aliens, can at some point not square the circle of being attracted to American popular culture, often failing to assimilate or succeed in the United States, and ostensibly seeking to remain (or return to being) a devout Muslim that alone gives them moral redemption and guidance.
The result is a dead soul who kills the vulnerable and innocent, and who is a psychological and social mess: consumed by fury at the country that embraced him in extremis, coupled with romance toward the country he or his family fled (and no longer has to endure), and a reliance upon, and yet lack of respect for, the tolerant liberal culture that allows him a freedom of action impossible in the land of his birth.
Like some, I question the standard American conceit that ignorance of the U.S. explains anti-American behavior in the Islamic world. It often seems just as likely the very opposite case: The more Islamists are exposed to our affluence, popular culture, informality, self-critique, lack of hierarchy, sexual liberality, tolerance of homosexuality, parity between the sexes, and tolerance of all religious observance, and see that such American values may contribute to the world’s attraction to the United States, the more they end up hating it, not the least because of fears that America’s nature erodes one’s own zealotry.