Why would Ms. Tashfeen Malik, who was born in Pakistan but lived most of her life in Saudi Arabia, want to come to the United States?
She obviously hated the United States and its values, at least enough to help stockpile an arsenal and to kill 14 people and wound another 21 in San Bernardino.
Or for that matter, why did her husband and co-mass-murderer Syed Rizwan Farook, if he was unhappy with his native America, not return to his parents’ Pakistan, where he might, in greater peace, have practiced Sharia law, memorizing his Koranic verses without the temptations of crass and uncouth American culture?
Or why did not family members or friends notice the couple’s assembling of a veritable arsenal of assault in their townhouse? And if they did notice, why did they not help to protect their adopted country?
And why did a spokesman for the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), Hussam Ayloush, as if suffering from a politically correct tic, almost immediately tie terrorism in the U.S. with American foreign policy? “Let’s not forget that some of our own foreign policy, as Americans, as the West, has fueled that extremism,” he said. “ . . . We are partly responsible. Terrorism is a global problem, not a Muslim problem.” Was that pop exegesis designed to show Americans how CAIR abhors Islamic-inspired terrorism inside the U.S.?
As part of the “Other,” the San Bernardino terrorist tandem did not seem to direct their furies against the so-called dominant white culture or white privilege, given that their innocent victims were of all races and both sexes and representative of multiracial America, a country both far more diverse and far more tolerant of diversity than, say, Pakistan.
Surely the Tsarnaev brothers were unhappy in Boston — despite (or was it because of?) generous public assistance and attention. Could not Major Nidal Hasan have returned to his parents’ native Palestine to better practice jihad than murdering 13 and wounding more than 30 of his fellow Fort Hood soldiers? Why stay in the U.S. instead of heading to the West Bank?
What exactly about UC Merced’s oppressive atmosphere set off Faisal Mohammad’s stabbing of four fellow students? If, in his youthful angst, he wished to romanticize about ISIS and his own identity, could he too not have left the hated United States and found a more congenial environment in the Islamic world, where there are no supposed losers deserving of death like those at UC Merced?
Surely there was no need for more than two dozen Somalis to immigrate to Minnesota, only to return home to sign up for jihad with al-Shabab? Was Minnesota colder than they had unexpected, too stingy in its public assistance, or known for its endemic racism?
For that matter, what exactly has driven Muslim immigrants or their children to attack non-Muslims in America in nearly 50 instances since 9/11? Islamic spokespeople talk of hate crimes, but not of the fact that Muslims as a group commit more hate crimes than they suffer, or that the greatest target of hate crimes in America is the Jewish, not the Muslim, community. How many Muslims by virtue of being Muslims have been killed by non-Muslims since 9/11 in the United States? And how many Muslims have killed non-Muslims by virtue of their being non-Muslims? Is there such a word as unIslamophobia?
Who is in more danger in the West: a Western native who draws a cartoon caricaturing all three major religions, thus including Islam, or an immigrant who threatens him?
One can argue statistically that the number of Islamist attackers is small compared with the pool of Muslim immigrants. It is, of course, also true that mass shooters come in all races and religions, from the cases of Columbine and Sandy Hook to those at the Oregon community college, Virginia Tech, and Miami.
But no other common tie — no particular religion, no political identification, no singular subset of mental illness — binds so many mass shooters as do professions of Islamist radicalism, both among first-generation arrivals and among their offspring.
Ostensibly, people leave the Middle East for the West, in particular Europe and the United States, because it is an oasis, not the hellhole many of them came from. We take for granted clean water, uncontaminated food, competent medical treatment, religious tolerance, economic opportunity, meritocratic hiring, political freedom, and respect for the individual regardless of birth, class, and status. But that bundle is non-existent even in the elite Gulf enclaves. Those Western characteristics are apparently universal human wants, and they drive even Middle Eastern Muslims to seek out otherwise entirely foreign landscapes of quite different cultures and attitudes.
For many Muslims, to have strep throat treated promptly, to be accorded equality and respect while in a government office, and to be free to say whatever one wishes are all worth putting up with watching men kiss in public or women wear braless tank tops on planes, or seeing Christian crosses everywhere, or watching commercials for Viagra and Tampax in the middle of the evening news, or seeing so many apparently happy, content, and satisfied people of so many races who do not have Islam in their lives.
Why, then, is radical Islamism, so antithetical to Western values, still preached in American and European mosques? Do radical Muslims in the U.S. and Europe realize that if they had had their way, they would not have wished to emigrate to the U.S., given that it would resemble the homelands they abandoned? The worldview of Tashfeen Malik, if enacted, would eventually have turned San Bernardino into Islamabad; would Ms. Malik then have left it for Portland?
Why is ISIS apparently attractive to hundreds, if not thousands, of Western Muslim youth? Why is the FBI supposedly busy tracking down radical Muslims residing in America, who presumably came here of their own free will? Is it because the FBI is Islamophobic?
One obvious reason for these anomalies is a sort of paradox. The more a Muslim youth enjoys casual sexual hook-ups, easy access to liquor and drugs, and unapologetic secular indulgence, all the more the voluptuary feels he has betrayed his culture, religion, and very identity — and the more his eventual return to Islamic purity is likely to become extreme. No one forced Mohamed Atta and his band of killers to become Western sybarites. What made them slaves to their appetites was their very Islamic Puritanism, which turned what was commonly available into forbidden obsessions: the more taboo, all the more to be indulged in, and all the more to be regretted post facto and the indulgence blamed on others when passions are drained and probity returns.
Second, in many cases, the immigrant immediately asks upon arrival, “Why do they have so much here, while we have so little back home?” Do not expect him to cite everything from religious tolerance to consensual government to freedom and market capitalism — not when there is an accessible American dictionary of victimization, ranging from colonialism and imperialism to oil and Israel. The new arrival from the Middle East need not turn on Al Jazeera to be spoon-fed grievances, when he can listen to President Obama’s apology tours or Cairo speech or breakfast sermons about high-horse Christians and their millennium-old Crusades.
Third, we in America ask almost nothing of immigrants any more. We do not care whether they come legally and will obey the law once they’re here. We have no concern whether they can support themselves, or whether they will become wards of the state. One need only review the careers of Obama’s own immigrant aunt and uncle. We have no worries about whether they learn English. They can hate or love America, as is their wont. If an immigrant commits a crime against his hosts, we feel that we would commit a greater crime by sending our ungracious guest home. Is that why ICE released 36,000 alien lawbreakers in 2013 alone, preempting their deportation hearings, or why 347,000 criminal aliens are believed to be at large in the United States?
Citizenship as a cherished privilege has utterly vanished. So has any idea of gratitude. A hallowed notion of legality, of being more law-abiding even than native-born Americans, has disappeared among immigrants. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez — the five-times-deported illegal alien and seven times repeat felon who shot Kate Steinle to death in San Francisco — was only the most extreme example of what is possible under current immigration law and practice.
At no time did Lopez-Sanchez thank the United States for offering him a better chance than Mexico had — at least if repeatedly committing felonies can be see as a form of not offering thanks. We deduce that he believed things were better here than in Mexico or he would not have reentered the country illegally so many times. Lopez-Sanchez, like the Tsarnaevs, knew that the U.S. leaves immigrants alone, or perhaps, better yet, romanticizes their difference, and provides, if not a legal amnesty for their crimes, a psychosocial one.
Fourth, immigrants sense an identity-obsessed culture, where diversity, not unity, brings career dividends. A teen can cross illegally from the oppression of Oaxaca and almost instantly qualify for victim status and affirmative action on the bizarre theory that American oppressions have earned him compensation and reparations, as if he were psychologically damaged by America while he was in Oaxaca or will be in America if he was not in Oaxaca.
Hyphenation, not conformity, is preferred — and wisely so. Poor George Zimmerman’s “white Hispanic” troubles arose from his Americanizing his mixed-race identity rather than emphasizing a constructed otherness by calling himself the more authentic-sounding Jorge Mesa. A fight between Trayvon Martin and Jorge Mesa does not reach the White House, because it furthers no particular agenda; it’s analogous to the weekend toll in Chicago rather than a Ferguson teachable moment. Apparently, Zimmerman did not learn the lesson that an upper-middle-class prep-schooler named Barry Dunham, whose conniving African father had abandoned him, would have been a mere statistic. But as Barack Hussein Obama he became a unique example of diversity, with all its resonance.
At best, if a Muslim immigrant fully assimilates, to the point where, as is true of most Americans, he cannot easily be identified by his religion, or if his religion becomes incidental rather than essential to his public persona, then he is rendered just an ordinary American. Perhaps he even is in some danger of joining the unattractive majority not subject to special dispensation. At worst, he can become a sellout in the eyes of his local mosque and immigrant enclave. Emphasizing identity to its logical extreme wins rewards in today’s America. We saw to what insane lengths this has gone in the cases of the fabulists Rachel Dolezal, Elizabeth Warren, Shaun King, and Ward Churchill.
Finally, the Muslim shooter understands that so many of his hosts are naïve, ashamed of their own culture, unsure of their heritage, and prone to apologize rather than criticize. They would likely not call the authorities even if they spied preparations for terrorist activities — believing that being called a racist is worse than possibly allowing violence to ensue against the innocent. Note that Ms. Malik never thought that she might have to tone down her suspicious activities, because her neighbors quite magnanimously did not call the police.
Appeasement is a psychological disorder that affects both the appeaser and the appeased. The more exemptions are granted the offender, the more the grantor feels good about himself, and the more the offender loses respect for someone seen as weak rather than magnanimous.
The United States government is too often seen as wavering, concerned with political correctness, unsure of its values, easily swayed by supposed victimization and refugee status, and terrified of charges of racism and xenophobia. For the immigrant, there is everything to gain by clinging to a foreign identity, showing disdain for the culture of his adopted country, and romanticizing his abandoned homeland, and nothing of immediate advantage in integrating, showing gratitude, and being critical of what drove him out.
Add up all the above, and it is a miracle that we do not have even angrier young immigrants and children of immigrants from the Middle East.
San Bernardino is not the last we will see of the strange nexus between radical Muslim immigrants hating the Middle East enough to abandon it and then romanticizing it from a safe distance enough to kill their generous hosts.